By Tim Katt and Jay Kapoor
This week’s episode of The Game Plan features former NFL safety Will Allen, who is now co-founder and partner at Magarac Venture Partners.
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After winning a national championship and being a consensus first-team All-America selection at Ohio State, Will Allen was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004 and went on to play in the NFL for 12 years, most notably with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Off the field, Allen has been driven by two things: his desire to help others and to keep learning. In 2008, he established the Will Allen Foundation to provide resources for underprivileged youth around academics and education. Allen has led by example, taking on a number of internships and continuing ed programs at both Harvard and Northwestern.
In 2008, Allen made his first investment in a real estate opportunity. Despite the financial crisis, the investment paid off and kicked off Allen’s career in investing. Today, Allen is a partner at the newly formed Magarac Venture Partners, a fund focused on backing historically overlooked founders, such as those in the Midwest and women and minority entrepreneurs.
In this episode you’ll find . . .
- Allen on the perspective he gained from veterans when he joined the league: “You know, I was 21 when I got drafted and I had veterans tell me, ‘Hey, you take care of your body, your body takes care of you. It's your best asset. You take care of your money, your money will take care of you. And then when you retire, you could do whatever you want.”
- Allen on why he pulled back from investing in order to learn more, despite his first real estate deal going so well: “I think that I didn't know what I didn't know. I think that's a big part of it and I'm not risk-averse at all, I'm super optimistic. I think I can do everything because I play sports. I think I can accomplish everything until you tell me there's absolutely no possible way... And so it dawned on me, like I am building a real estate development. Like I'm an LP in this deal. And I was like, What's going on with this project? It kind of hit me when I saw the realities, that I was living in a bubble and the rest of the world was really feeling this pain.”
- Allen on how the access and insight of being a professional athlete led him down a path of venture capital: “Being in sports you get access to a lot of people. You get access to a lot of deals. You get access to rooms that you really shouldn't be in. People [are] just attracted to you. I was able to sit down with ownerships of different teams, executives from different industries—and as I started to spend more time, one of my buddies, he has a great fund of funds and he also has relationships. He would take us on these venture tours in L.A. and San Francisco. And this was like 2013, 2014. And I was just amazed with the amount of energy. And the amount of intelligence; just the concentration of it all in just these two cities.”
- Allen on implementing the “Rooney Rule” as a way to find better deals and back more diverse founders: “We support our entrepreneurs in hiring because that’s the key. Let's get the best. Don't say the talent doesn't exist. Let's aggregate the talent for you. So you can really see between women, people with different sexual orientation, black and brown; it doesn't matter because of the business case… we all know this, that the more diverse the team, the board, the better their performance.”
- Allen on the advice he’d give his younger self: “Start earlier.”
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About The Game Plan
The Game Plan is a weekly SportTechie podcast hosted by venture capitalists Jay Kapoor and Tim Katt. The show features professional athletes and their business interests beyond sports.
You can follow us on Twitter (@thegameplanshow) and Instagram (@gameplanshow) for show news and updates, to recommend guests, and for bonus content! Follow co-hosts Jay Kapoor (@JayKapoorNYC) and Tim Katt (@Tim_Katt) for all things sports, media, tech, and venture capital.
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