Posts from Sports

Sticking With The Plan

Managing a business is about having a plan, sticking with it, and not panicking or looking for hail mary passes. There are no silver bullets or shortcuts to success in life. You need to have a five to ten-year plan and you need to stick with it and execute against it day after day, week after week, year after year.

I was reminded of this watching my NY Knicks navigate the off-season after making the playoffs for the first time in eight years. The Knicks front office stuck with the core of the team, kept all of their young talent, and upgraded significantly at point guard and small forward. They also do not have a guaranteed contract that extends beyond the 2022-2023 season.

I am sure it was tempting to think about accelerating the plan after a season that went better than anyone was expecting. I am sure that they thought about taking bigger risks and going for broke now. But I am glad they did not do that.

Instead, they rewarded players like Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel who were a big part of getting them into the playoffs with multi-year contracts, they got Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier as upgrades at point guard and small forward, and kept all of their youngsters.

That’s a model for how to think about building a business and a leadership team. It is much more likely that you can get a win with a five-year plan than a one-year plan. And you need to build your team over time, developing promising talent, and making smart upgrades when they are required.

There are times when you need to throw in the towel on the plan, blow things up, and execute a turnaround. That usually comes with new leadership at the top and a new five-year plan. But that should be rare and done only when it is clear that the current plan is not working.

When the current plan is working, even better than expected, it is best to stick with it, make incremental improvements here and there, and keep at it.

#management#Sports

Leadership Matters

Last night I watched the NY Knicks win their fourth straight game on the road in New Orleans. They are now 29-27 and have a fighting chance of being a .500 team this season with only 16 regular season games left.

This is essentially the same team that went 21-45 last year. Elfrid Payton, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Taj Gibson, and Reggie Bullock were all on that 21-45 team.

What changed?

The coach is what changed. Tom Thibodeau came in and has instilled an entirely different approach and culture. The Knicks are the league’s best defensive team, allowing the least points per game. Last year, they were 18th in defense.

This Knicks team is competitive in every game, even if they don’t win them all. Last year, we would regularly walk out of the Garden down 20 points in the fourth quarter.

I am going to the Garden on Sunday for the first time in fourteen months and I am excited at the opportunity to be at a game that will hopefully be competitive down the stretch.

Watching Thibs at work is a lesson in leadership. He sets the tone, expectations are high, players that don’t put in the effort don’t play, no matter who they are. Everyone knows what is expected of them.

I have seen this in companies too. The same team, with the same product, in the same market, can be completely transformed by a new leader. Leadership matters. A lot.

#life lessons#Sports

Trading Cards, NFTs, and Crypto

I have written about our portfolio company Dapper‘s NBA Top Shot game here at AVC a few times now. Think of NBA Top Shot as digital trading cards. It is more than that, but that’s a simple way to think about it.

I tweeted this out today:

I don’t like to sell crypto, but I do like to trade crypto for crypto. I got all of our Ethereum by swapping Bitcoin for it a few years ago, for example.

NFTs (non fungible tokens) are a different kind of crypto asset. They are digital assets like art, trading cards, etc that are issued on a blockchain and as a result are rare, unique, and easily traded.

NFTs, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, can increase and decrease in value over time.

Rookie cards have been traded for as long as there have been physical trading cards. They are a way to speculate on an athlete and their career. This Steph Curry rookie card is listed for $150,000 on eBay right now.

So my purchase of the Tyrese Haliburton moment is a bet that Tyrese is going to have a long and successful NBA career. Hopefully, he will be an all-star someday. That would make my moment increase in value. Will it increase in value more than the 3.33 BCH that I parted with to buy it? Well, that remains to be seen.

#crypto#Sports

NBA, NBA Top Shot, and Intangible Market

The NBA is back in business. Our family watched a ton of basketball over the long weekend including the Knicks huge win over the Bucks last night. It’s great to have my favorite sport back in action after a short layoff.

Also back in action is NBA Top Shot, the digital trading card game from the NBA and our portfolio company Dapper Labs. New packs will be dropped in the new year featuring all stars, rookies, and more.

But you can shop right now in the marketplace and buy cards from other players.

The trading opportunities in NBA Top Shot are exciting. I have purchased 11 packs since the game launched, for about $250 in cash and crypto. I have sold a few cards and now hold 61 “moments” that are estimated to be worth about $2800.

That estimate comes from a third-party app called Intangible Market that allows crypto collectors to estimate the value of their collections.

Intangible Market is an example of why building games and other experiences on crypto blockchains is so exciting. It means that others can build on top of your work and make it even more fun and interesting to use and play.

Crypto has a built in business model, tokens, that means that these platforms can be open to everyone to build on and enhance and evolve. That is radically different from the web and mobile ecosystems of the last twenty-five years and why developing on crypto is such an exciting and wide open opportunity right now.

#blockchain#crypto#digital collectibles#Sports

NBA Top Shot Public Launch

Our portfolio company Dapper took the ropes off NBA Top Shot this past week and it is now open to anyone who wants to play this super fun NBA collectibles game.

I wrote about NBA Top Shot in early August and provided access codes to AVC readers who wanted to get in on the beta. So some of you are already playing the game. But now all of you can do so.

I just bought a couple of packs this morning in the new and improved UI and scored a Nikola Jokic jumper (over AD) from the western conference finals.

I love the Joker so I am going to hold onto this one.

This is my pack opening experience from this morning:

I will put some of those cards into the marketplace and sell them. But I am holding onto Jayson Tatum and Joker. I already have a few Kyle Lowry cards so I am probably going to put that one into the marketplace.

I have a few cards that I am not ever letting go of. This Kawhi #1 (out of 1256) is my prized possession:

The #2 of that card is listed for $10k in the marketplace so I think mine is worth even more:

I do have some choice cards listed in the marketplace for sale:

So get into the game and pick them up from me 🙂

Anyway, you all get the idea. NBA Top Shot is a ton of fun and will be a great way for us fans to stay connected to the game during the offseason that seems like it is coming quickly. LeBron and this guy are quite the combination:

#crypto#Sports

My 1985 Nike Air Jordan Investment

Earlier this week I purchased 1% of a collection of five 1985 Nike Air Jordan sneakers using our portfolio company Otis’ mobile app.

I paid $330 for ten shares (out of a total of 1000 shares) implying a value of $33,000 for the five pairs, or roughly $6600 each.

This page shows the highlights of this sale, including a video, a link to the investment deck, and a link to the offering circular.

The Air Jordans offering sold out quickly but luckily I got a push notification on my phone alerting me to the “drop” and I was able to secure an interest in the collection in less than a minute. It was a lot of fun to do. I have bought interests in nine collectibles via the Otis app over the last few months.

The idea of breaking up collectibles into small interests and creating/making a market in them is a very interesting idea. It allows people who appreciate these items and understand their value to participate in the appreciation without having to be super wealthy. I like that very much.

I also like that Otis is a “crypto adjacent” business. Our friend Jesse Walden coined that term and I really love it. It suggests that there are non-crypto based applications, like Otis, that will deliver on some of the promises of crypto and prime the pump for what a fully crypto-based application can do for us. Otis could have been built on a blockchain and these security interests in Air Jordans could trade on a blockchain, but that is not how it works today. It may go there in the future. But regardless, we are starting to see how technologies like crypto can open up a market to everyone, or at least a lot more people, and that is very exciting to me.

#crypto#digital collectibles#entrepreneurship#Sports

You Can't Fire Your Investor

I saw this tweet coming out of the Upfront Summit yesterday (where I will be today):

It is great that the capital markets serving founders have become hyperefficient. Being able to get a round done in a week vs a quarter is huge for founders who have better things to do than run around the country talking to VCs.

However, there is a dark side to this trend and that is the reality that shotgun marriages don’t often work out so well. You might be able to get a VC into your cap table in a week but try getting them out. That’s almost impossible.

Which reminds me of this tweet exchange with some friends about the Knicks ownership situation:

#Sports#VC & Technology

Practicing Patience

We went to the Knicks Celtics game last night.

For three and a half quarters the Knicks and Celtics played a tight game and the game was tied at 95 with six minutes left when Coach Fizdale called a time out.

The Knicks came out of that time out befuddled and turned the ball over on three straight possessions which ultimately led to 12-0 run by the Celtics and the game was over.

As we walked out of MSG, I was depressed. More losing.

But my son Josh had a different take. Dennis Smith Jr is finally coming out of his early-season slump. Kevin Knox had a good game after taking a beating in the press recently.

Losing is hard. The Knicks are 4-16 so far this season. There is not much joy in the Garden right now.

But I appreciate Josh’s optimism. By the time we had gotten to dinner, some of it had rubbed off on me.

Patience is hard. Being a Knick fan is great practice.

#life lessons#Sports

NBA Top Shot

I’ve written on this blog about extensible blockchain games, the ability to own the virtual goods you earn or buy in your games, and the idea that these virtual goods can move from game to game. I think this is a big deal and possibly the thing that brings blockchains and crypto tokens to the mainstream user.

So, here’s an awesome example of that. Our portfolio company Dapper announced today that it is building a blockchain game with the NBA called Top Shot.

Here is the idea behind the game:

NBA Top Shot will feature a social experience built around digital collectibles as well as a complementary head-to-head game designed to create a fun, authentic and accessible fan engagement on blockchain. Like other sports games or fantasy brackets, fans who play the game are tasked with creating their ideal squad, but in this game, their rosters are built by acquiring live in-game moments from the NBA season. These moments, such as a Kevin Durant 3-point shot, or Joel Embiid dunk, which are acquired as digital collectibles or tokens, can then be either owned forever or used to compete against other players in online tournaments and leagues.

NBA Top Shot will start offering crypto-collectibles in the fall, with the game to follow in early 2020. You can get early access by leaving your email address here nbatopshot.com

#blockchain#crypto#Games#Sports

Disappointment

Being a Knicks fan teaches you a lot about disappointment. At one point this spring, we thought we were going to get a couple top free agents and the first pick in the draft. We ended up with a lot less.

Fortunately, I have learned a lot about disappointment in three decades of backing early-stage startups. Our business is one where a third of things we do don’t work out at all and another third deliver a lot less than we had hoped when we pulled the trigger. Only a third of our investments deliver on what we expected when we made them.

Fortunately about ten percent of the investments we make so vastly outperform our expectations, that they make up for everything else we do.

So we live with a lot of disappointment. And one of the questions I struggle with is how much of that disappointment do we share with the founders and teams we work with.

Certainly feedback helps founders. But if the feedback is too negative and too downbeat, it is not helpful and can also lead to tune-out.

So I have found that many times I need to bite my tongue and take the disappointment in stride and chalk it up to the cost of doing business in early-stage investing. You have to be an optimist to make early-stage investments and you can’t let the disappointments take that optimism out of you.

Which takes me back to the Knicks. It has been twenty years since the Knicks had a winning culture. That is a lot of losing to endure. But I keep buying the seasons tickets in hopes that things will change. I am going to stay positive and hope for the best.

#Sports#VC & Technology