Social capital brings value to an investment, says SeventySix Capital Managing Partner Wayne Kimmel.
“One of the big things that we believe here at SeventySix Capital is that there’s a lot of noise out there in the market and it’s very hard to get your story out there,” Kimmel says.
“Using an athlete, a celebrity, someone that can help you and your company get above the noise — because the media is interested in writing about celebrities — it can be helpful. It can help your startup get above the noise.”
The venture capitalist has drafted big-name players to form SeventySix Capital’s Athlete Venture Group: former NFL running backs DeMarco Murray and Brian Westbrook; NBA hall-of-famer Ralph Sampson; and former MLB first baseman Ryan Howard, who is also a partner at the firm. They bring two forms of capital to a deal: financial and social.
“One of the big things that we can do is from the marketing side of things,” Kimmel says. “We can attach a professional athlete to your business if that’s helpful to you.”
Kimmel discussed with Smart Business Dealmakers how celebrity can help investors and startups stand out in a noisy media landscape to create opportunities for all parties involved.
How do you define “noise”?
There are more news outlets and media networks than ever. There are more newsletters than ever. There are more websites than ever. There are more social networks — there wasn’t even such a thing as a social network before about 15 years ago. Then you just have people’s attention. In the past people would pick up newspaper and have their cup of coffee and kick back and read the paper. Today they watch Snapchat stories. They flip through their Instagram feed. You tweet something and it’s gone. It’s a very hard world to get your message out. And the way that news moves and how fast the news cycles are today you’ve got to figure out a way to get above all this noise.
How does getting above the noise translate to one of your portfolio companies?
One of the most important things for all of our companies is to reach new customers, communicate who and what they are and what they do to potential partners, to attract high-level employees, to recruit employees, and to be one of those stories that does rise above the noise, that does get covered on ESPN or CNN, or that gets a story on the front page of The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.
Getting that type of coverage of your startup business not only helps propel the business forward, but it also gives you the credibility that a well-respected news outlet took the time to write a story or cover your company, and that legitimizes businesses in a lot of people’s minds. Part of what we do at SeventySix Capital is we have a media and communications team that works with our companies to help craft the message, to help them position their message and their company to get above the noise.
Is marketing an overlooked aspect of dealmaking?
I absolutely think it’s extremely important. I’m not so sure that it’s overlooked, but at the same time everyone has different skillsets. It’s one of the reasons why in many cases when we make investments in companies we’ll partner with other investment firms. They may not have the strength that we have from a communications perspective, but they may be stronger in technology, so they’re coming in as investor with their money plus their technology knowledge. Everyone brings something different to the table.
One of the big things that we can do is from the marketing side of things. We can attach a professional athlete to your business, if that’s helpful to you, especially because of the sports-tech nature of the companies that we invest in. So if it’s a baseball company, to have Ryan Howard be attached to our company is a good thing. To have a Ralph Sampson, who’s a basketball hall of famer, attached to our basketball technology company is a very helpful.
How does social capital impact your deal flow?
Getting access to deal flow and opportunities is everything in our business, so the more places that we appear the better. To have Ryan Howard, who’s my partner, being one of ESPN’s baseball analysts and being the only venture capitalist who works for ESPN is a pretty big deal. It’s incredible to have a partner like that because he’s smart, he’s nice, he wants to build really big companies, he wants to help our companies and open up his Rolodex and open up doors for our companies. Those are the types of things that really set us apart from a lot of the other venture capital firms that are out there today.