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Andre Iguodala: ‘I want to continue to educate athletes and help them understand their power and influence’

Warriors forward hosts second annual Players Technology Summit

SAN FRANCISCO — Three-time NBA champion Andre Iguodala sat on a couch with a microphone in his hand on Tuesday in front of a crowd that included movers and shakers in technology, former NFL great Joe Montana and several current and former NBA players. But this wasn’t about basketball. The Golden State Warriors forward turned to Andreessen Horowitz general partner Jeff Jordan and asked him to share advice for investing in the tech world.

“Early on, only spend money that you can afford to lose,” Jordan said.

“Say that again,” Iguodala asked.

“Only spend money that you can afford to lose,” Jordan said.

“I was always into numbers and owning your own, whatever that may be. I never thought I’d get to this level. Once I get to each level, I always ask how can I expand.”

Iguodala was one of the hosts of the second annual Players Technology Summit at Bloomberg. Athletes, entrepreneurs and investors took part in a daylong tech forum where business successes and failures are shared. Iguodala and Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown participated in the opening panel “From Athlete to Entrepreneur,” former NBA All-Star Baron Davis was on “The Modern Athlete’s Voice” panel, and Warriors All-Star forward Kevin Durant gave the closing remarks. Current NBA players in attendance also included Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, Memphis Grizzlies guard Shelvin Mack and Miami Heat forward Kelly Olynyk and former NBA players Elton Brand, Jay Williams, Roger Mason, Festus Ezeli, Louis Amundson, Willie Green and Mustafa Shakur.

The Players Technology Summit had 13 plenary discussions over nine hours that included tech and platform approach to sports content and media, esports, the future of sports betting and fantasy sports, and from “CEO to Investor” with Iguodala interviewing Jordan. Networking was encouraged and took place throughout the day. During the event’s introduction, Iguodala offered some words of wisdom to his fellow NBA players and other participants.

“This is our second year, and last year I was actually blown away by the success we had, the conversations we had, the network,” Iguodala said. “And so we want to continue that trend. We want everyone to feel free to ask questions whenever you want. For you athletes, try your best to communicate and network with everybody. You’ll hear some amazing things throughout this day. We hope we learn as much as possible, and you know that relationships don’t just end this week but last for 10 and 20 years.

“We’ve got some CEOs, some VCs [venture capitalists] here. A lot of people here are from my network as well, so thank you to everybody for coming. A lot of the relationships that you guys will have today will go a long, long way, so make sure that you’re open to speaking to everybody. You have no idea who you might meet today.”

Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, talked to The Undefeated about his involvement in the tech world, his advice to interested young athletes, his thoughts on DeMarcus Cousins signing with the Warriors, sports gambling and more.

How much of this event was your brainchild last year?

Me, [Mastry Inc. managing partner] Rudy [Thomas], honestly, you have to give [Warriors All-Star] Steph [Curry] some credit too. Steph did a lot of good things. We’re always thinking ahead. ‘What is a way you can impact athletes?’ You’re educating a group like that as it fits their brand as well. You always have your brand. What can you do next to further the brand? I like to self-educate guys on what is going on.

Right now, we’re in a techie space and we are trying to get into each other’s worlds, so you’re not doing it just for the moment. We’ve been doing it for a year or two. We’re doing the legacy thing as well, but we are trying to make an impact. This will further our influence outside of sports.

When you signed with the Warriors in 2013, was Silicon Valley and the tech world in mind or were you already involved investmentwise?

I’ve always been thinking about it. [Los Angeles Lakers general manager] Rob Pelinka, who was my agent at the time … we were always talking about the tech space. Rob would always say, ‘Being in Silicon Valley would be great.’ And with the Warriors, the basketball side matched up with the business side. We are in a situation where you can have success on both sides.

“So when I got to free agency, man, it was perfect timing as far as the team having Steph, Klay [Thompson] and Draymond [Green], [then-coach] Mark Jackson. You could make a play on both ends of the spectrum. It just so happened the timing was good.

What are you hoping your fellow NBA players in attendance will get out of this event?

If anything, networking opportunities. Not networking to put your money somewhere or so you have to spend your money. Just the knowledge. If you have a situation that comes up, you’ll say, ‘Man, I wish I could talk to a person about this.’ But I got the number in my phone and it sparks an idea 10 years down the line. I think we saw that last year. A lot of the conversations from different parts of the world with some of the VCs, some of the entrepreneurs.

You had a guy like Lou Amundson. He played in the league a couple of years, and he made the most of the time he played and networked with everybody. He got tours of different startup companies, gaming companies, VR [virtual reality] companies. He has been able to test a lot of different products. Guys like that make the most of these events. We want to make that the norm with guys getting to network with everybody, helping those companies. Or vice versa, the companies helping the player. You never know what they lead to.

How did you get interested in the tech world?

I started an E-Trade account. Learn how your money works in different investment gigs. I made some investment in startups with my E-Trade account. You do some research on those companies because you are watching where your money is going and how it’s growing or how it’s being lost. A lot of companies were in this area.

One of them was a mobile gaming company that had a lot of success in Zynga. That was just an E-Trade investment. They didn’t know I invested. Then we invested in Apple. There were like four or five companies total where we made some great success with the investments. From there, you start doing your homework. You say, ‘Make this much money’ and then you say, ‘Well, what if I got in early?’ ‘What does it mean if you got in early?’ Then you start learning about Series A, Series B, Series C …

Were stocks a part of your world as a child?

Not really. I just remember that at my high school during my senior year we had an economics class. You take some money and pick a certain amount of stocks with your team, and whoever grosses the most at the end of the period, that team won. Then there was a bigger level around all the schools in the city [of Chicago]. It just so happened that my team won for my class. That was my introduction to stocks as well. I was always into numbers and owning your own, whatever that may be. I never thought I’d get to this level. Once I get to each level, I always ask how can I expand.

You told your fellow NBA players to make sure they speak to people and introduce themselves at this event. Why was that important to say?

It’s kind of difficult to get outside our comfort zone. But you don’t know how natural it is until you get outside your comfort zone. For us, we adapt on the fly. With our job, we adapt on the fly. We improvise on a lot of different things. It was similar to myself. ‘How do I approach someone in a different field than I am in?’

‘How do I spark a conversation? How do I make a parallel between our two companies?’ Once I got over that hump, I speak to people all of the time. We can sit and chat for 30-45 minutes. Before you know it, an hour has gone by and it leads to something else. Then you meet someone else and someone else and then you are in a different world that you didn’t expect to be in.

So what is next for you?

I will just continue to educate athletes. There is a bigger vision that is out there that I don’t want to quite divulge yet. I want to continue to educate athletes and help them understand their power and influence, bring that together. It’s going to be great.

I think [Lakers star newcomer] LeBron James has done a great job of just showing guys what is possible from the philanthropic side, giving back. I’ve always had that in the back of my mind. I’m trying to figure out the right way to do it. Who has the blueprint to do it? What [James] is showing is we don’t have to do it his way, but here is an example.

Are enough black athletes involved in the tech world?

We’re not. We’re a lot further than we were three years ago, four years ago. We tend to hop on what is trending at the moment. But I think once guys get in, what they are realizing is this is not a quick space. This is something for the long run. And once guys realize that, they really get into something that is really healthy for you.

You see that it is not something that is trendy. It is something that you are invested in. Your money starts [growing]. Whether it works out or not, it’s a learning experience. There have been a few things that I’ve invested in that are no longer operating, but I’ve learned so much through them. And then with other companies, I am doing very well. You learn to balance your portfolio.

You learn how your portfolio works. That’s a small piece. And then another piece that the banks always work. That is something that players have to learn, and that is why they have had issues. Guys are coming out of retirement and there is no income coming in, but the expenses are going out. It’s a learning experience all the way around.

What are your thoughts on All-Star free-agent center DeMarcus Cousins signing with the Warriors?

I’m excited for him. Like he said, it was a chess play. I don’t think guys realize, sometimes when we were playing him in Sacramento all those years, that it was an easy win. But when we were on the court with him I used to say, ‘We got to figure out something with this dude. This dude got it.’ He is multitalented and the best center in the league.

He had a tough [Achilles tendon] injury. He has been working hard to get back. We’re going to be smart with him and give him an opportunity where he doesn’t have to put too much pressure on himself. He doesn’t have to overdo it.

I’m excited to get with him on the court. I’m going to feed him a lot. I’m excited to see him get back to form and just enjoy the game.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown said during the first plenary discussion with you sitting next to him that he is trying to win a championship ring. You responded by saying his words were a little awkward.

I am a big fan of Jaylen’s. I was his coach at the [National Basketball Players Association’s] Top 100 Camp when he was 16. The assistant coach for me was a good friend from high school, and I told him, ‘[Brown] has got it. He is going to the league.’ To see how he’s grown as a person is an awesome thing. I am a big fan of what they’re doing over [in Boston]. They’re doing it the right way. They are playing basketball the right way. They have a great core. They have some veterans in Gordon [Hayward], Kyrie [Irving], [Marcus] Morris.

They have good coaches. They got really close to [the Finals] last year. You never know what happens. We are trying to hold down the fort. He is the type of guy where he is respectful. I play the big brother off the court. But on the court, he is trying to come at your head. It’s always good to see those guys real hungry and make the most out of their careers.

What are your thoughts on LeBron James signing with the Lakers?

It makes sense for him to be in L.A. with the influence he has on and off the court and his legacy. That goes right into his business endeavors. I’m always happy for guys who are enjoying the game and maximizing their potential on and off the court. And that is what he is doing.

What do you think about the future of legal gambling in sports? Is that good or bad?

It’s almost like marijuana being legalized. As long as it is handled with care and caution and it is not abused by the consumer, then it’s something that can be [positive]. If done for business reasons, it will help profits go up. But at the same time, you don’t want to get greedy with it. It can affect people’s lives. Gambling is big business. It is something that can hurt people.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.