How I Went From Red Power Ranger Stand-in to Venture Firm Founder
When there's a fork in the road, I'd encourage you take both routes rather than choosing one over the other.
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There are a few moments in a career when one realizes who they really are: for me, it happened when I found myself putting on a Red Power Ranger suit one day at a Fox Kids event. When the real actor was a no-show, I found myself in uncomfortable tights as the stand-in and soon, infamously featured in a TV ad we created for Fox Kids Television. Then I was acting the part of the Ranger as he enjoyed his day off – riding the tube, reading the newspaper, cooking breakfast.
A career in media was always my dream job, and nothing would stand in my way of making that happen. On that day, like many since, I quickly adapted, because I had to and because it was the right thing to do for the team. There I was pulling up the spandex suit, becoming a superhero. Who knew 20+ years later that this particular moment would draw incredible parallels in my career today.
Most entrepreneurs can relate to days like that: there is rarely a "typical" day in the life of founders. Mistakes happen, unexpected challenges arise, and often, new opportunities present themselves out of the blue. As a board director at Liverpool Football Club, I was building a media business in an ever-changing and challenging daily environment impacted by the up and down cycles of social media and broadcast media rights, as well as the results on and off the pitch. Similarly, while SVP at MGM, I was tasked with growing a channel business with new players and platforms presenting nearly every day. The business we imagine we are building often turns on a dime and morphs into something entirely different. It's not only our ability to adapt to the so-called non-linear path, but I would argue it's our willingness to fully embrace it – and to do so with optimism, drive and curiosity -- that often determines the difference between success and failure.
Related: Why "Messy" Leaders are the Future
The traditional career path is long gone, from my perspective. The example set by many of our parents has been undone by rapidly changing technologies, the globalization of markets, and cultural and economic shifts. Rather than defining success by a typical sense of security, many of us set our sights on a professional and personal life much riskier but more fulfilling, and potentially much more lucrative. Our passions don't necessarily drive us, however, it's a rare person born with a singular all-consuming passion. I've come to believe that just as we create our opportunities, we create our passions, sometimes haphazardly, sometimes by accident, but we create them, nonetheless.
Let me explain. When my partner and I founded Stellwagen Ventures, a global venture firm focusing on music, sport and investment, we were motivated by a shared interest in combining our talents and experiences in the media, sport, music and entertainment industries. We truly leveraged our collective networks and imagined a business that would soon provide invaluable services to our world-class clients across the private equity and entertainment industries. Our non-linear career paths have set us on a journey where we can't imagine anything different. We are enthusiastic about the road ahead – despite, it not always being a straight one. Over the last eight months, we negotiated the type of equity deals we thought might take years and in couple of weeks, we'll launch Tokns.com – our foray into the NFT and blockchain space. We are entering a space we never, ever expected.
Related: What is an NFT?
Like nearly everyone else on the planet Earth, neither of us had ever heard of an NFT six months ago. In fact, I wasn't entirely sure what the word "fungible" even meant. We'd long recognized that fan communities were being left of NFTs due to the incredibly high barrier of entry. This whole new market was relatable while also being utterly baffling. Rather than ignoring the arena or shrugging it off, we jumped in headfirst. As our curiosity guides us down the exciting NFT rabbit hole, the future looks promising and we're thrilled to have a list of world-class partners in music and sport. It's not quite the same as squeezing into a Power Ranger suit, but it's not entirely different either.
Related: The NFT Gold Rush
I knew I was never destined to be a Power Ranger permanently (and thankfully), though it created a happy accident that led to a brief side-step into the world of children's television presenting (a story for another day). The experience continues to remind me of the value of nimbleness when it comes to our entrepreneurial experiences, and that more often than not, we can create new passions if we're open and flexible. Did I know decades ago that my career would lead to this moment, boldly building a business that grew to include an NFT platform trading in cryptocurrencies on the blockchain with a U.S.-based partner? No way, not in a million years. I have and fully embrace the zigs and zags in my professional life; the shifts keep me curious and intrigued and allow me to constantly learn. That's what keeps me ever-motivated and enables us to support our clients with the same kind of enthusiasm. No superhero suit needed – at least not today.
Matthew Baxter is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Stellwagen Ventures, a strategic global venture firm working across music, sport, media, investments and entertainment. Our ethos is to promote a win/win model that supports a shared success thesis around everything we do. Whether it be the artist, the buyer, the seller, the brand, the franchise, the broker, we are about winning – winning together.