A new pair of executive education offerings are coming to Columbia Business School and they are proving once again that athletes love business school. Former New Orleans Saints player Marques Colston is looking to change the game with courses that help athletes gain skills in entrepreneurship and venture investing.
Dynasty Sports Group, a business development and consulting agency founded and helmed by Colston, has synced up with Columbia to launch two month-long courses later this year. “Venture Investing for Professional Athletes” and “Entrepreneurship for Professional Athletes” will coach former and current professional athletes in areas such as the basics of private equity investing, angel investing, and venture capital plus entrepreneurial finance, growth hacking, valuations, and negotiation strategies. In-person lectures at Columbia will be accented by live webinars and guest speakers from the investment world.
In a LinkedIn post published on February 8, Colston wrote, “In recent years, a lot more professional athletes have entered the venture capital ecosystem — as both investors and entrepreneurs. As one of those athletes, an initial challenge I faced was developing an objective process to evaluate opportunities.” The courses, he says, will give athletes the skills to sift through the scores of entrepreneurial and investment opportunities that come their way and to leverage their skills and assets as elite competitors.
THE PITFALLS OF MISGUIDED INVESTMENTS
The market for such programs is evident. According to reports, 16% of NFL players go bankrupt after retirement, indicating a real need for better financial literacy. Columbia says much of the value the new courses is that they will aim to curb the instances of unwise investments by athletes and other celebrity-status professionals. Many professional sports players, whose training is rooted in athletic performance, may not be as savvy when it comes exploring and properly vetting entrepreneurial opportunities or investments, says Dil Sidhu, Columbia’s dean of executive education.
“You hear horror stories from sports, entertainment, and other walks of life that haven’t worked out or they didn’t know what they were actually getting into,” Sidhu says in a news release. “Our goal is to ensure that professional athletes are armed with the business acumen and investment skills to be successful as they pursue a new type of competition on a different playing field.”
Erica Duignan Minnihan, who played a leading role in proposing and developing the Colston-Columbia partnership, echoes Sidhu’s sentiments. “You can pile a quarter or a half million dollars into a startup that a friend told you about, but that’s what gets you into trouble,” says Mijnihan, a Columbia graduate who serves as program director for the new initiative. “Venture investing is fun and potentially very lucrative, but you need to take a certain approach. The approach is diversification, diligence in building a portfolio over time, understanding valuations, etc.
“This can change the way this community approaches investing in early-stage companies and improves the value that they can ultimately bring to the startup space as a whole.”
ARMING ATHLETES WITH SKILLS TO BE SUCCESSFUL
“You don’t necessarily see many people, if any, within the athlete ecosystem that have this specialty,” Colston says. The 34-year-old retired Super Bowl champion is now co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team, creator of a digital marketing agency, and owner of a portfolio made up of about three early-stage sports and tech companies.
“You see financial advisers and you see contract agents,” he says. “Expertise in the private deal space is one of the gaps we wanted to fill. To give these athletes and influencers a toolkit of their own to evaluate and really create an objective process to get in front of the deals that make the most sense and properly vet out those deals on the front end.”
Columbia isn’t the first business school to partner with professional athletes. In 2014, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business announced an MBA program designed for NFL players. But Colston says he and business partner Lance Johnstone — another former NFL star — chose to partner with Columbia because of its reputation and the network it allows players to tap into. “Being able to partner with a top business school in the world gives us a ton of credibility and chance to learn from different global perspective which is really important.”
The first of the two ex ed courses will begin this April, and the second will start in June. Both are open to current and former professional athletes from all sports. The cost is $9,950 per program and Columbia says it expects 25 participants for the inaugural group.
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