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The Next Generation of Cultural Influencers in Tech - Bobby Wagner + Chris Lyons

Bobby Wagner
Linebacker, Investor at Seattle Seahawks
+ 1 speaker
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2020 Startup Grind Global Conference
February 11, 2020, Redwood City, CA, USA
2020 Startup Grind Global Conference
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The Next Generation of Cultural Influencers in Tech - Bobby Wagner + Chris Lyons
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About speakers

Bobby Wagner
Linebacker, Investor at Seattle Seahawks
Chris Lyons
Lead of Cultural Leadership Fund at Andreessen Horowitz

Chris Lyons is currently leading the Cultural Leadership Fund (CLF) at Andreessen Horowitz. The goals of the CLF are to connect the great cultural leaders to the best new technology companies, and also enable more African Americans to enter the technology industry.

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About the talk

A Fireside chat with Bobby Wagner, Linebacker and Investor + Chris Lyons, Partner at Cultural Leadership Fund about the Next Generation of Cultural Influencers in Tech.


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How's everybody doing today? All right, if we got any Seattle love or Nah, hahaha. a16z, love How is not the same out today? And I definitely we got a lot to talk about so it's just hop right into it. So Super Bowls Pro bowls everything but now you're here today and we're we're talking about starters for talking about investing we're talking about business. Why is this something that is is of interest to you? And how did you even get into this and into the space just start off with you know, I think it started in college, you know, I graduated with a business

degree and from the moment. I got into the league. I feel like everybody was telling me that NFL stands for not for long and so I was just trying to figure out like you know what my passion was what something that I wanted to do once you get into and then I read a staff and it said about eighty percent of NFL players go broke divorced and knowledge of the stuff after 2 years after playing league and I'm like Master crazy stat. Like it's really like Ballers on TV, right big ass up a little bit. But when I read that I was like,

you know, I started paying attention to the room and I would kind of see different teams different organizations and you know, I start to figure out who were the 20% people like what were they doing? And so I try to start doing that a lot of those guys are just you know, using a TimeWise me. So that's kind of what I did. I started to look into Investments look into a different things. I can get evolved in and just trying to find a way to be different and and I think that's kind of how I stumbled into this. Concerta like really thinking about rather than you

spending your money. How can you start to make your money work for you? I think like from a player standpoint. I feel like a lot of the players come from nothing and so they get this money. I think they have to spend it right away or do something with it right away instead of taking the time to learn cuz we have like this little thing, you know, you signing agent a wealth manager or whatever and you you know, you go from not making money making money and he just give it to someone else to figure out vs. Figure it out yourself, cuz that was a really tough day to go from no taxes to the

highest tax bracket. That was not fun. The first time. I saw that it didn't take the tax on my bed. I thought somebody stole from the guy went right up to see. How is Nigeria and I miss you a lot of money and so a lot but not me. I really just wanted to to learn and put myself in a different environment. We playing a sport where you know, you play some August to February if you lucky and address that time you have to learn it and figure stuff out and so it's just about using your time wisely and in figuring out what you want to do with your life

before you got to leave and so I mean, but you took that to the extreme not only where you interested in understanding the game, but you also took that into understanding how you could negotiate your own contract as well. And so like you're the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL and and and and he negotiated his own deal as well. So I mean that's that's how did you get? How did you even decide you're like I can I can do this better myself and then like what was what was some of the

process around that? Well, I had a lot of Agents list stated that I fired a couple and I kind of just wanted to do something different and I wanted to take control of my life and can take control of my my finances and you know business was something that I want to get into career. And you know I said if I wasn't willing to take a chance on my contractor chance myself that I would never be able to take a chance out there football. So I took a chance and I did a lot of

studying, you know, it wasn't like something I just woke up one day wanted to do like you knows it was years in the making and years of studying and really just reaching out to the connections that I made over that time and and try to figure out you know, what I need to do to be prepared for this moment, and then wanted to be in a situation where when I walk into the negotiation room. I was being you know, they took me seriously just like a player just coming in here trying to If you get a lot of money, I wanted to know that like, you know, this is not just you know, the deal with the

Dynamics the terms and they were kind of like going over, you know, kind of what the steps were in Abraham to finding things. I kind of Let It Go Neil kind of finish and then they were probably like maybe they had like six more things laughing. I started defining the last six. Yep, and you can just tell like I caught him off-guard like they ain't like we actually got to be ready for him cuz he know what he's doing for man. I just you know, it's very tough. It was it was a difficult process. But like I said if you

got other players now asking your can you represent me now? Yeah, but I own I want to be a lot of emotions and in personalities ain't trying to do is absolutely So I guess now it's like, you know how to negotiate your own contracts. But now like you're starting also get into investing sense into the private side to so, how do you negotiate when you're working with startups when you working with Founders? Like what is it something that you look for when you're trying to make an investment or somewhere process is it it's a real similar process. Honestly, man. It's kind of the same way

with you know, trying to figure out a good team or is your team a good team. You don't mean because you looking to see what's the culture and what's the energy was survived? And and and who is they do you believe in the person that is can control your father cuz it's a lot of good priced out there, but it's not the leaders lead him into the ground but it's not so great products that a good leader can turn to amazing things. And so that's kind of what I look for is, you know, do I believe in the cultures? Do I believe in the person that's building the product and is it somebody? I want

to take a chance on Jarvis got it. What what are some of the if you have one maybe one or two examples of a company that really struck you as at head. This might be the next billion-dollar business or this is a Founder that I believe is going to be able to go to the struggle and make it all the way through. You know before I said a good one last I see the bad one first. Okay. I had invested in the company onstage name for a vest in the company and you know they were doing really well they had a lot they were backed by a lot of amazing people and something

happened where it basically, you know challenge the company and the leader and in that moment. I kind of felt like he folded and pressure pressure. I feel like when it comes to like investing in things that nature you going to have challenges. It's the people that can withstand those challenges are the people that you know, come on stop. And so that's the type of people that you look for someone that is level-headed when things are bad and good and so, you know another fun that I'm excited to be a part of is

your fun, you know, coach leadership fund I met crisp. I believe what 2013-14 and you know, when I heard about the space that he was in Amelia treat me because I didn't really see too many people like him that was in that space. So I was immediately just you know, drawn to him and wanted to see like how he got into that space and how he was able to you know, transgender transgender to the 15 years now, so maybe you can talk about that little bit talk about the fun and talk about you know, how did you get

your start? What was your process now is everybody believes that his way is so many different roads. So if you can tell me about your old one of the things that at our friend we really believe in is just you have to have an urn secret write in order weather. That's you starting a business as the weather lets you creating a product or you do for me. It was like I did not originally come from technology in the shower. I was a music producer and engineer and so that was the culture that was embedded into My spirit but then had an idea for a startup and taught myself out of code ended up moving

out here actually attended startup grind number of time. So it's like kind of fun just to be on the other side is cool to see you. But but the big thing was that I saw this Transcendence of really was like when Twitter and Instagram really started to come out and you saw that it was cultural influences that were really starting to help Drive these businesses and like when puff did the first to 1 million followers with Ashton Kutcher and then you saw like with DJ Khaled and how he took snapping basically help transition to whole business and I was like, well who's managing

these networks out here in Silicon. And who's the person that's going to help represent the weather? It's Talent or whether it's no strategic investors because these rounds are always that you know, the second they open their right there and closed and so By being inside the room gave me that ability to say. All right, like let's leverage it and work with a different type of investor what which will be kind of considered a cultural leader and bicultural leader. It really means that you have a special genius and you know something about moving culture like if you think about just

in specifically like cuz it cultural leadership fund 100% of our fund is made and consists of African-American LPS. So that's the first time in the history of Silicon Valley that's ever happened before he's on top of that 100% of the proceeds that we made from our fun goes to a select number of nonprofits that help Advance more African-Americans in a technology. So that way we're helping put more diverse backgrounds on to the cat Stables helping partner with our portfolio companies for what we call Shear genius. So you're a genius

in your aspect, you know something about very unique set. Cultures like the same thing would like someone like a Quincy Jones where they might look at him and say, hey we want you to tweet our next product but they don't understand that Quincy Jones also knows 22 languages, right? And so when you think about having culture and communication for a consumer-facing company not just having him tweet but sitting and listening to him in a while and him to understand ways to kind of connect the dots and share some of his share genius with the share Genius of the portfolio of the of the founder

really create something special in what we believe can really help accelerate companies across all different levels. And so, you know, that was an idea that we came from just who I was and and also trying to say, how could I bring the world of Silicon Valley bring more diverse backgrounds in a technology and at the same time, but you don't have a good time doing it and why is that important? Important reason is that I got came from right outside of Atlanta Georgia. And you know, I thought that like, you know, the people I looked up to

where TI and Jeezy and like like they're making money like I need to be in that industry Jermaine Dupri. Like that's why you say answering for me. Then I came out here and I saw, you know, everybody walk around with bees on their chest with the billions and I was like we had the next generation of wealth is is happening with in Silicon Valley and of African Americans do not have a seat at that table then like we need to fix that as soon as possible and not just from the investment side, but also like how

do we help get more African-American in Diversified when I mean after American, I mean after American, I mean the first time I mean women, I mean Latino everybody who feels like there in an uphill battle like we're all in that same thing together and so with weekend, Open up the doors and build relationships with our portfolio companies or you know strategics within the Silicon Valley ecosystem and vouch for the people that look like us because that's the biggest thing in the the biggest challenge that we're facing with in Silicon Valley is that people just can't see the

talent, you know, like I know I looked at you and I don't look at you as a as an athlete, Can you as an entrepreneur? Do you know I know who you are as a person. I know who you are as a genius and your ability to want to expand outside and not just put you in a box and say you're an athlete inside. That's the same thing when you're thinking about talent and people trying to get into these industries. And so if we can kind of connect the dots between the two ultimately we can make the world a better place we can help increase the overall level of inclusion within Silicon Valley and you know

it inspire people who like myself never thought that being in your technology or Venture Capital was even a pathway How do you go about finding at 10? Yeah. Well, I mean, I have a team of a great people through with within the cultural leadership Van Wyck. We have to really be intentional about this. You know, we have to I mean all within Silicon Valley like I have some time I got a ton of friends in here today. Like we I see black people everyday I talk to black people everyday like that's not the same for everybody. Right? So you have to be out and reach the network,

right? And then you have to figure out what they're doing figure out people's interests are and be very proactive about that, you know in like saying, okay, like you're interested in design you're interested in business development. You think that like just because you were working at Salesforce like that's the only option for you but like you can take that exact same skill go work at a private Company B, you know, three or four stage earlier and now develop equity and then at hopefully with a great company that can eventually change your family's life. And then now you're giving a different

level of understanding building a whole new network and you know it Not like we need to be intentional about about I was just trying to make make this ecosystem in a better place together. So but yeah, I mean that's like for you like as you as you think about the evolution of your career and and like how how do you how are you evolving? You know, what are you have start-up she have your personal businesses. You got your family. Like what? What's the what's the Bobby Wagner Enterprise,

you know the future really look like light Magic Johnson Starbucks and things on the field and after they did amazing things to feel that kind of just kind of went away and and you know how to hard time kind of transitioning into you know, another life and I was watching it when I was watching Marshal talk. You know, I heard him say this probably couple months ago, but he was talking about how in our profession you know, we spend so much time focusing on our career that we don't really take the time to master something else. So by the time we get done with our career, we're already behind

because always being from the moment. We touch the football basketball baseball, whatever all we've been doing is focusing on that Sport and being good at that Sport and and so we have to find a way to not only Master what were and currently but think ahead and think of other things you can Master why your master something else because I do believe that you can multi-task that you could do other things and just what people say that you're good at in the moment exactly. So that was one of the things that inspired me to to do

Contracts because I knew I had enough time to study. I knew I had enough time to to get the hold of it and understand what it was it I needed to do to be successful. And so I'm just trying to build on that you see how far I could take you to see how far I can go with being in business and and hopefully, you know, I'm up here, you know talking to you guys again about a business that I started this down the street or something so that I appreciate the evolution of influencers are athletes are

any one. It's it's not just the Gatorade pay me 200,000 and you know say this tastes good like now equities is is is is starting to become and having that conversation with in the locker room. Like we first got to leave you just that's all you saw you saw guys on with the Nike deals and in the Gatorade commercials and body armor commercials and all these different things and you wanted to do that and you got that money, but The money was temporary. It wasn't something that you can last and I don't think we understood it at work. You know what I was saying? Like, you know, Michael

Jordan really pushed Nike, you know turning into a whole different thing. I saw imagine if they just cut him a check versus him at Equity because him as a brand him as a person help move the needle and so I felt like seeing that understanding that players start to get smarter and understand that, you know, we have a big advantage and we help companies move the needle just as much as the people within the business and sometimes they do is just knowing your worth and understanding that, you know, you got to take the time to do the work and just like on field, you know, if you do the work, you

know good team everything will come back why I guess for the audiences like for people who want to work with you and are looking at you know, whether they're raising their next rounds and want to be able to include, you know, someone like yourself in a deal or it Thinking about doing Partnerships with Talent. Like how should they negotiate or you know just really think about bringing you or having that you be as a part of their business not just from a post stamp point but like really integrating so that you know together everybody can win. I think you

just have to look at who the town it is or who the person is and look at your company in your brain and see if it matches his outfit matches and it makes sense then, you know try to find a deal that can make everybody win and you know, a lot of times you give Equity it gives if the person that gets the equity more, you know want to see the the business grow and it any day helps everybody helps, you know, the company that helps to the influencer talent and at the end of day if everybody when's everybody's have to decide on me, so I think that's kind of how you look at it. This is is

it is that person to fit for this brand sub do they fit the culture? Can they make the coach of better? Can they really? Push us to the to the next step and if they believe that something they believe in the person take a chance on the person just like you want the people in the consumers take a chance on the brand. I was really interested in going to Seattle to open up their space and they had no dad no connection. It was like, you know, we should introduce them to you and it's not like you're going to be

the face of line riding on the scooter. But like you had you can help get them into the business, right and then you can actually help move, you know, open up the doors and kind of help facilitate that relationship and then you're a trusted resource in like that adds way more value than you doing a 30-second commercial like, you know, right on the scooters only go so far man, you know, she killed does a really good job. I'm not setting foot tall. For longevity has of my life is in the cultural leadership. And I think that that's really the thing that we really care. Most about is like are

those shared values like, you know, you have to deeply understand with what it is that your company stands for and then figure out like who also is moving in that same direction and so act like we're so with that company can help your business. Like for example, we did this deal with called hipcamp All right, we laid their series B and one of the questions I asked the founders. I was like, you know, it was a very genuine question. I was like, hey, do you have a lot of black people like using your your service right because you don't fit Camp if you guys don't know it's like Airbnb for

camping and if you also don't know if there's not a lot of black people. Apparently that dude, perfect. But exactly exactly so I started going into the stats and doing some research and realizing that like actually African-American and diverse backgrounds were going to wear on trends of be the the number one of your people who are looking to go Outdoors, right? And so we were all right. We'll hell who is it that we can work with that can actually add, you know, not such a cultural relevance but really help you know, what are Community you know that hey like

this is actually a cool thing. And this is a company that you can actually work within so that's when you know, we brought on Jay-Z and Will Smith a strategic investors then once we made that announcement, like you had Complex magazine talking about going camping you had double XL talking about camping like I don't even think he's camping was even in there like in their section, you know, and now which would ultimately helps push the culture forward which is you know with what we're doing with in technology. And if you believe that technology going to be at the center of every business and

it gives Opportunity to bring other people involved allow them to have a little bit of equity in the game and then also have their creative influence as they're helping build the company for work. Nice. Have you ever had a ghost? I have you ever had like you start somebody's going to be good with the brand and you partner with them and then they didn't necessarily do good that did the brand. I just asked you know, I think I'm pretty good at it. I saw you like because the thing is is that these deals they take so long and there's in there so hard to do in like at

the end of the day. This is why I think that you have to understand the talent is because at the great investor regardless, if you're you know in the Venture fund or your you know investor, they understand that there has to be a commonality in there has to be those shared values. And so there's been times when we tried to put things together and then as we're like in the middle of the negotiation realizing that like it didn't make sense and you know, everybody's okay with not doing that deal because you don't want to force you don't want to put you know,

something like someone who's vegan to do, you know a chicken company, so I think and also when you're dealing with Investment advisory shares Partnerships, like what does it look like from a marketing standpoint and you have to really find those connections and so, you know the ones that don't work you never see but when they do come together, it really becomes something special in the portfolio companies and you know, ultimately allows the talent to get a glimpse into the world of venture capital into the world of startup investing you no understanding how you

know companies are running and building their businesses. And that's what just do that to me. That's the best of both worlds. Yeah, I guess my last question to you is what is the best advice you've gotten in this journey of today? Oh, man. The bet there's there's a having so many I think the biggest one is that there's always a move think that that that's that's one that really sticks to me. Like, you know, we were talking in the back like this. This has been a giant for all of us right in like with with a journey. You always are hitting obstacles.

You're always like coming across adversity. You're always coming into into situations where you do you think that it's done and you hit the road like in a y raises fund like it was 100% individuals, right? And so no family offices do fund-of-funds nothing and so for me was extremely challenging. I'm like, I don't know if I can do this like you but then I always remembered that there's always a move and now there's always a step and you have to take that time whether you meditate whether you go on a run whether you work out whether you hang out with you play get yourself that

Clarity in that mental space so that you can see the bigger picture and then figure out one way in order to make it happen because Nobody would ever know you quit cuz you'll never see you, you know, and so, you know, you got you got it. You got it. You got to figure out a way in order to make it happen. Absolutely about that. So especially if it was Super Bowl pro bowl so, you know and just also just now that we're here today. So some good times and bad times San Francisco. Unfortunately has some bad times but

in San Francisco and then take one shot at you guys why it wouldn't be fair. So absolutely so but we appreciate everybody's time today. Yo by appreciate you rolling out absolutely Marathon continue so there

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