This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com.
In the inaugural episode of HBO’s award-winning comedy series Silicon Valley, good natured geek Richard exclaims to his fellow quirky pals: “For thousands of years, guys like us have gotten the s—- kicked out of us. But now, for the first time, we’re living in an era when we can be in charge. And build empires! We could be the Vikings of our day.”
Perhaps even better phrasing for the sake of this article would have been, “the Warriors of our day.” But you get the point.
This satirical nod to the real life Northern California tech boom upon which the show is based is spot on as always, showcasing how those known traditionally as “nerds” and “geeks” have officially transformed into the cool guys. Gone are the days where “techies” were considered socially awkward desk jockeys with pocket protectors and thick glasses. Thanks to the emergence of the San Francisco Bay Area as the epicenter of technological innovation and market disruption, being a techie now means you drive a state-of-the-art, fuel efficient sports car, date a supermodel/actress, and own a multi-million dollar home in the forested hills of Silicon Valley’s elite.
So if the “geeks” are suddenly ruling the world, then what’s happened to those on the other end of this cliché scale: the “jocks”? Well, with the massive contracts, even bigger endorsement deals, and celebrity status that are still very much a part of the professional athlete job description, it’s not as if this privileged group has been dethroned. The main difference is that now there is much more room at the cool kid table. And at the risk of sounding even more cliché, the “jocks” and “geeks” are now getting along swimmingly.
On June 19, Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala of the world champion Golden State Warriors, a two-time MVP and a Finals MVP respectively, took to their collective audience of over 30.4 million followers on Twitter and Instagram to announce their latest off-court project: the Player’s Technology Summit.
Hosted by NYC-based business giant Bloomberg, the summit was created by Curry and Iguodala to “bring together top leaders in the technology, venture capital, and sports communities to exchange ideas and share expertise in an educational and empowering forum.” The two-day event was held last week at Bloomberg’s San Francisco offices and paired together CEOs and other industry leaders in Silicon Valley with young and ambitious athletes looking to shrewdly invest their millions.
In an interview with Cory Johnson of Bloomberg TV at Bloomberg’s San Francisco office where the summit was held, Curry and Iguodala shared their unique experiences playing in front of the billions of dollars in human net-worth who sit courtside at their games at Oracle Arena in Oakland.
“You look at our home games, you look at the crowd in the front row at games … that’s obviously a great place to network,” says Curry. “When you see those guys come watch us play, we get to tap into their world a little bit. That’s part of the conversation [in the locker room], who’s who that showed up tonight, if anybody has connections or history with those kinds of guys.”
Without a doubt, “playing in Silicon Valley’s backyard” as Steph calls it, has injected these players with the exciting entrepreneurial fever that has swept across the Bay Area in recent years. Savvy athletes like Curry and Iguodala are not simply resting on their athletic laurels, they are eager to jump in on the startup grind.
While the ultra-exclusive event (Steph revealed the guest list included only “about 25 well-known figures”) showed the ever-increasing intersection of entertainment and technology, what many don’t know is that Curry and Iguodala have already been sowing seeds in Silicon Valley’s fertile entrepreneurial soil for some time, and the conference was their way to encourage other athletes to do the same.
As far as active NBA players go, few have created such impressive investment portfolios as Andre Iguodala. The Warriors’ 13-year veteran all-star—who recently resigned with the Dubs on a three-year, $48 million contract—has even admitted that playing close to Silicon Valley was one of the reasons he decided to join Golden State back in 2013.
“As an athlete you try to find markets where obviously the athletic side is appealing and you see a lot of promise there,” Iguodala told Bloomberg TV when asked what initially attracted him to the Bay Area. “I saw the promise in a young group of basketball players who I could try and help and enhance and try to win a championship. And then you see the other side, where Silicon Valley has been there for the ups and downs of tech, and it was on the up and up. So it was the perfect marriage of those two things, on the court and off the court, for me to enter into.”
“That’s a huge benefit of playing here,” Steph agrees, flashing his trademark baby-faced smirk. “A quick drive from Silicon Valley, you can come watch us play, but we still get to partake in that networking opportunity and learn from those guys.”
Regardless of motivations for joining the electrifying squad just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, Iguodala had been dabbling in the investment game for a while. He has skin in the game with Netflix, Facebook, and Tesla stock, but even more impressive is his involvement with a wide range of ambitious startups. From the group fitness app Chorus (led by former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo) to a sleep-tracking company called Hello, all the way to men’s shaving company Bevel and bond-trading efficiency software Trumid. ‘Dre may be most widely known for his bionic legs and bulging biceps on the court, but he’s building an equally impressive investing reputation off of it.
As for Steph, his legitimate entrepreneurial efforts are really just beginning, perhaps because he now has so much money he doesn’t know what else to do with it. Curry signed a record-setting $201 million supermax deal with the Warriors this summer, which will surely pair nicely with an Under Armour deal that has given him stock in the thriving company and set him up as the face of the global brand. All said and done, Forbes estimates that the league’s first unanimous MVP will bring home a cool $80 million in earnings next season alone, through his new salary, endorsements, and royalties. All this cash flow surely has the popular Curry family shoulder-shimmying to the bank, and that’s not even considering Steph’s wife Ayesha, who has also shown an entrepreneurial knack with her own cookbook, cooking show, and restaurant chain. There’s no doubt that the Baby-Faced Assassin is turning into the sports world’s next Billion Dollar Man.
But just as back-to-back MVPs and two championship rings hasn’t lessened the Warriors guard’s work ethic on the court, the financial success that has resulted from his superstar status is not making him complacent in the investment arena. He has stock in social media giant Pinterest, a site he says he and his wife both use, and is a co-founder of Slyce, a social media marketing platform that allows athletes to conveniently filter through floods of posts and stay on top of engaging their audience.
Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala, two Silicon Valley Warriors, working on their jump shots during the season and honing their business acumen during their time off. They may not have graduated from Wharton, but their incredible talent and massive notoriety now has them rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s brightest and wealthiest, an opportunity that they are determined to cash in on. And while every team in the NBA has been scrambling in the offseason to try and keep up with the dominant squad in the Bay, Curry has been sending a message to venture capitalists, CEOs, and entrepreneurs all summer long:
“There’s more to us than just wearing that jersey.”