Creating Baller Syndicate
After all the love and feedback we received, we will be sharing our open and honest story on how we are building europe’s first elite athlete angel syndicate. For now it has been late nights, long weekends, a lot of positivity as well as a lot of hurdles. And headache… But hey, we are entrepreneurs first and are used to rollercoaster experience. In this blog we’ll primarily share our experience on what it is like to build a educational and investor community. So here we go and love to get your inspiration in return :)
What is Baller Syndicate and why did we start it?
Baller Syndicate is an exclusive community of elite athletes that are looking to get into entrepreneurship and investing.
Our reasons for doing this are super clear: having evaluated hundreds of startups and worked with dozens- specifically sports, health, and entertainment tech- startups, we really felt their pain… The access they have towards angels that can truly accelerate their journey is way too limited. Secondly, we saw the athlete investment trend explode in the USA. Superstars like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Serena Williams are building their own family offices, venture funds, becoming LP’s, and doing direct-, or syndicated angel investments. So we asked ourselves the question- why is this not happening at the same scale in Europe?
Ok, so can you simply explain what you do then?
Our vision is to unlock athletes' capabilities as accelerators for startups’ growth. When we started meeting active and retired athletes on their post-career activities or plans, we truly learned a lot. Simply mentioning the term investment to an athlete in Europe, instantly made their alarm bells go off… “Is this guy trying to take my money? What does he want from me?”
The interesting thing there was when we took the conversations a layer deeper, we learned athletes are getting approached for investment opportunities, but always ‘through a guy’. If athletes don’t totally understand the concept, the default is to rely on someone they trust… So we really found out that the knowledge gap is being filled by their trust in a person they know well. Our goal is not to focus on building relationships and earn their trust, our goal is to focus on decreasing that knowledge gap through understandable content. Education is liberation and that’s what we focus on.
So, tell us about the educational part then- how does that work?
Sure. I’ll break that question into three pieces and here’s why:
There is so much good content out there, that the amount of content is tough to navigate and overwhelming. We focus on aggregating the most relevant content and translate that into a language athletes understand. We don’t see ourselves as professors but as translators
- Our first approach is to make an online course with actionable and engaging videos. This is the theory part.
- Secondly, we interview athletes that are active in entrepreneurship or investing to provide valuable case studies for athletes that are new to it. Everything is online, so the athletes determine when and where they want to learn. Of course, we dream of a big live event where we connect the worlds of startups and athlete investors, but that’s not happening in a world governed by a pandemic.
- The last point is that we are lean startup evangelists at our core. We start our educational program with selected athletes and truly learn if our translations resonate with them. Starting with a small group and learning where we need to improve so we can move forward.
How do you make a buck out of this?
Right now, we don’t… We invest our time and money to make Baller Syndicate into something valuable for athletes and startups. The sportstech ecosystem really needs to grow, and we believe we need to give first, and hopefully reap some of the benefits later. This is our way of contributing to building the sportstech ecosystem.
Our educational platform is set up as a foundation, in which the athletes are required to pay a small fee as a yearly contribution. Secondly, we are attracting corporate sponsors that have a similar vision as we do, to pitch in a bit.
For athletes that have learned they want to start with tech investments, we operate as a typical angel syndicate. Our business model is based on carried interest, which means we only make a buck when our athletes are making profits. But we have some strict “rules” for our members to start with tech investments.
Oh, why- what does that mean?
We only have their interest at heart. If the athletes don’t know how to activate an investment, there is just waste. The investment doesn’t return as anticipated and the startup does not get the non-financial boost they hoped for. Result: an unhappy athlete, unhappy startups, and no carry for us. So we only consider tech investments through our platform:
- When we are convinced the startup really has something special, that is aligned with the profile of our athletes. Only then we showcase the opportunity to the athletes. We serve as their filter.
- When there are multiple athletes on board for an investment opportunity
- When it is clear how we add value beyond money (and the obvious Twitter post)
- When there is a clear lead investor for larger rounds
- The athletes know they need to create a balanced portfolio of startups, and not ‘bet’ on just 1 or 2 companies.
Of course, there are a ton of other factors to consider, but these are key questions we ask to help elite athletes de-risk their startup investments.
Our goal for 2020 is simple too. We are building our educational content and test it with a selected group of 10 athletes. Primarily footballers, but also a tennis-, and golf player.
Building this syndicate is as tough as it gets, but we are up for the challenge. Motivated to the core on the big vision we have: unlocking athlete potential as accelerators for startups’ growth.