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How 3 Entrepreneurs Convinced an NBA Star to Invest

Appeal to interests and common ground.
How 3 Entrepreneurs Convinced an NBA Star to Invest
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison
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This story appears in the January 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Shane Battier retired from basketball in 2014 with two championship rings, and is now a philanthropist and an investor working with seven tech companies. Like many part-time investors, he’s driven primarily by ideas that excite him. “Outside of obviously trying to make some money,” he says, “what’s the point if you can’t enjoy the journey and the people you’re with?” Here’s how three entrepreneurs got Battier to sign on:

Related: How Do You Bring Investors Into Your Business? Very Carefully.

Rhone

The approach: Give before taking

In 2015, Battier and other local celebrities signed up for the South Beach Triathlon to raise money for charity. When Rhone cofounder Nate Checketts learned of this, he immediately offered to sponsor Battier’s foundation and outfit him for the race. Rhone makes athleisure wear for men, and Checketts thought Battier, who has a reputation as a nice and thoughtful guy, would be a perfect brand representative. It was an insightful move: Battier is highly involved in his charity, the Take Charge Foundation, and the sponsorship made an impact on him. He liked the clothing, too -- which is key, because Battier says he’ll only invest in products he’d buy himself. “I said, ‘I’d like to learn more about your company and see how I can help,’ ” Battier recalls telling Checketts. About a month after the event, Battier suggested the two have breakfast. He spent the meal peppering Checketts with questions about Rhone -- and, impressed with Checketts’ experience and execution up to that point, he agreed to invest.

Related: How to Entice Investors to Fund Your Startup

LeagueApps

The approach: Talk the investor’s language

In February 2015, Battier attended a dinner for sports-tech companies, hosted by the professional development company Gerson Lehrman Group. He especially loved meeting Jeremy Goldberg, the president of LeagueApps, which makes tools to manage youth sports leagues. The two bonded over how poorly run those leagues are -- Battier has two kids, so he knows -- and they kept in touch after. 

Two things impressed Battier from there: Goldberg talked in detail about building LeagueApps’ company culture, and the inspirations he drew from great coaches and sports teams. Then Goldberg invited Battier to talk to his team about winning cultures. 

“That really spoke to me, that these guys are trying to bring a championship mentality to business,” he says, and so he used the trip as an opportunity to do some reconnaissance: “I think it’s important to visit the offices and see who’s on the ground and if there’s a spirit and a belief in what they do,” he says. Battier invested a few weeks later.

Related: 7 Ways to Build Rock-Solid Relationships With Your Investors

Mars Reel

The approach: Embrace your scrappiness

Like many investors, Battier works mostly with experienced founders. But he was also itching for a challenge: “I wanted to take on a project where I felt I could make an impact on the ground level,” he says. So in June 2015, his friend Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings, connected him with 25-year-old twins Bradley and Brandon Deyo. Their company, Mars Reel, produces highlight reels from high school and college basketball games. The Deyos were up front about their inexperience: Raised by their single mom, they dropped out of college to pursue Mars Reel. They had pieced together only $15,000 in funding by the time they met Battier. He was hooked by the underdog tale -- but, he says, “the story only gets you in the door. What you’re made of gets you on the dance floor.” So they walked Battier through what they could do with real investment, and how they’d attracted, at the time, 700,000 monthly video views despite no marketing budget. I believe in these guys, Battier decided. Mars Reel is now up to 10.5 million monthly views.

Edition: May 2017

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