As pro athletes gain power, many tap their inner entrepreneurs

Pro athletes from Serena Williams to Andre Iguodala are scoring big deals off the court as investors and business founders.

October 15, 2019

For decades, athletes have taken the (approximate stadiums full of) money they’ve earned — and invested in businesses of their own. But a new generation of athletes is choosing to take much more active roles in entrepreneurship off the court. And we’re not just talking about Shaquille O’Neal’s burgeoning career as a DJ

We’re talking Serena, Steph, and more

Tennis star Serena Williams recently launched her own VC firm to invest in early-stage companies run by women and people of color. Basketball great Steph Curry has embraced the Silicon Valley life, starting his own investment company. And the NBA’s Andre Iguodala wants literally everyone he knows to invest in startups

The focus on tech is a departure from the old route of sometimes controversial endorsements and branded apparel deals. And here’s the thing: These athletes’ businesses are taking off. Big time.  

Take TraceMe, for example

That’s the multimillion-dollar app platform founded and executive-chaired by Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. It was first built to let fans engage with celebrities and athletes online and has grown into a general fan engagement platform. Sports gear giant and prominent athlete endorser Nike recently bought the site. 

The move tells us a couple of things. One, that the traditionally commerce-focused Nike might be exploring a foray into a more experiential business model (as is the trend). And two, that athletes like Wilson are no longer waiting until they hang up their cleats to seriously explore passion projects

Athletes are driving the ball forward

In a digital ecosystem where influencers are increasingly important, athletes have more power than ever. They’re able to throw elbows and effect change on causes they care about — like equal pay and police brutality — and now, they’re using their sway to move markets, too. 

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