Last week, SPORTS TECH TOKYO launched its inaugural webinar series featuring mentors from within the STT network. The first episode with Michael Shaprio (Director of Innovation and Venture Investing at Major League Baseball) and Kimberly Frisch (Corporate Development at World Wrestling Entertainment) was widely viewed around the world by the STT community –– both via the live webcast as well as the recorded session. The duo primarily discussed ‘How Leagues & Properties Approach Venture Investments’ while also tackling questions from viewers/listeners on a wide range of subjects such as betting, investing, fantasy sports and fan-engagement. Here are the top five takeaways from the episode
- ‘If not now, let’s keep in touch’ actually works: Relationships are everything in business, and more so in the sports industry. If for some reason, a property is unable to participate in a fundraising round, it doesn’t mean that it’s an end to the relationship or conversation. It’s down to the startups and founders to keep them abreast of developments. Kim mentions in one instance that when an investment discussion with an early stage startup fell through, it opened the door for a pilot with a department within her organization.
- Importance of an operational management team: Pre-revenue stage startups should have an operational management team so when they generate revenue they will be fully functional and be able to accelerate progress on projects and relationships.
- Innovative technology enables global distribution of content, and therefore expansion: Properties such as the MLB and WWE are looking to leverage technology to help penetrate new markets. MLB, for instance, is making its presence felt in Japan, Canada and parts of Europe and are relying on innovative technology, be it in streaming, and in-stadium experience to capture and engage new audiences.
- Enhancing experiences for fans is a priority and a challenge: Whenever rights are involved, sports properties will always look to protect their (primary) revenue streams first, and then do a cost-benefit analysis and take into account the IP rights before thinking of monetization.
- Learn from whoever and wherever you can: Even the best in the business look for ways to better themselves and seek some sort of mentorship from time to time. Be it partners you work with or people around you, there’s always room to pick something up if you’re paying close attention. You’re always learning!
Mike is the Director of Innovation and Venture Investing at Major League Baseball. Mike’s role at MLB includes sourcing and executing on venture investments in start-ups across a number of strategic areas. In addition, Mike works to identify innovative businesses who would like to work with MLB’s 30 ball clubs across areas such as player performance, in-stadium hospitality and fan engagement.
Prior to MLB, Mike worked in content strategy and acquisition at Verizon, where he helped Verizon execute on partnerships with the NFL and NBA. While in graduate school, Mike worked at both Courtside Ventures and the National Basketball Association and prior to graduate school Mike worked at Ballast Point Ventures, a southeast U.S. focused growth equity fund and in the mergers and acquisitions group at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. Mike received a B.S. in Finance and M.A. in International Business from the University of Florida and an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Kim is Vice President, Corporate Development at World Wrestling Entertainment, leading the corporate development and venture investment practice. In this role, Kim sources and executes venture investments with a focus on media and technology, and collaborates with business partners to identify opportunities to drive innovation for the company.
Prior to joining WWE in 2013, Kim held Corporate Development roles at NBCUniversal and Nielsen, after spending nearly ten years in investment banking at Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers advising media clients on capital raises, acquisitions, divestitures and other structured transactions. Kim received a B.S. in Finance from DePaul University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.