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Matt Higgins is the Co-Founder & CEO of RSE Ventures, a sports and entertainment fund investing in some of the most fascinating companies on the planet.What would Matt know about sports? Quite a bit actually, he’s also the Vice President of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Excited about speaking at RISE, we sat down with Matt to find out more about RSE, his ideal dinner guests and the future of sports investing.
What do you love about RSE Ventures?I love our culture. We don’t go along with the tide for the sake of it. There’s just too much groupthink in our world and to find real opportunities, you have to be willing to go at it alone for a while. That’s one of the many things I’ve learned from my partner Stephen Ross, whom I consider to be one of the most creative entrepreneurs of our time. The freedom to think unconventionally is the best part of RSE Ventures. Further, the diversity of our portfolio keeps it very interesting. One day we are working on the Dolphins and the next day it’s virtual reality. Our MO is relatively simple – we connect the dots in sports, entertainment and tech. We scan the horizon to try to see what’s coming and then figure out how we can be opportunistic across the portfolio.
Tech is changing sport rapidly – what will be the one biggest change over the next 12 months?Live content will always be king, and sports is the king of live content. So the question you always have to ask yourself in our industry is what’s the next big opportunity in live content? Personally, I think virtual reality is an incredible opportunity for sports. A relatively small percentage of an audience who watches a live event actually attends the live event. The rest of us watch that event in a two-dimensional universe. Virtual reality is going to open up the live experience to millions of people. The technology is clunky today, but it won’t take long for that to change. Millions of virtual reality devices will be sold this holiday season, and those people are going to want content to consume. Sports will be among the early industries to meet that demand.
What’s your favourite ever Miami Dolphins memory?It’s less a memory and more a connection to the team. I remember as a ten-year-old kid, my best friend Howie and I would toss the ball around on a patch of dirt in Queens. He was Super Duper and I was Mark Clayton. But I’ve never had an athletic bone in my body, to tell the truth. That’s why I like marathon running: it’s a mental game.
Aside from the Dolphins what are the other sports teams you love in the world?I have other teams I ‘like’ but I reserve ‘love’ for just one other – the New York Mets. It’s part of my DNA, growing up a poor kid in Queens and scrounging money from my New York Post paper route to go to games. I remember sitting in the Upper Deck – I think the seats were six dollars – and watching the 1985 Mets and loving every minute of it. Oddly, the player I remember most from that team wasn’t a superstar, it was Jose Oquendo – the ultimate utility player, one of the few guys in major league baseball to ultimately play every position. A kindred soul.
What five sport companies would you love to invest in?In sports business, there is a lot of novelty – a neat idea masquerading as a company but it’s really just a feature, or worse, someone’s hobby. So you have to be really discerning and leave emotion or fandom out of it. I look for businesses that can scale with real revenue potential – not just aggregating a big audience with little prospect for monetisation. These are companies we are invested in: Next VR, poised to be the broadcast home of great live sports virtual reality content; Fanvision, the expert in getting live content to smartphones in a venue; the Drone Racing League, a union of the e-sports phenomenon and the explosive growth of e-sports and sites like Twitch; Thuzio, which is organizing the entire marketplace for talent, not just in sports. Lastly, I’m not invested in e-sports at the moment, but it’s just the first inning, and it will be a big priority of ours in 2016 to identify companies to invest in.
You can invite five sporting people to a meal – who are they?In no particular order:
- Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin, one of the single greatest human beings you will ever meet and someone I’ve looked up to since I was with him at the Jets.
- Dan Marino, a guy with all the talent in the world and none of the ego that often comes with that talent.
- Paul Tagliabue, a true statesman.
- Michael Jordan, just to ask him what it takes to be the best.
- Tiger Woods, because I believe most people deserve a second chance and I would like to see it work out for him.
You can invite five non-sporting people to a meal – who are they?To make it easier to answer this question, I’ll just do living people:
- First on my list is Aung San Suu Kyi, to understand how she had the fortitude to stay under house arrest all those years at such great personal expense.
- Mark Zuckerberg, I love the way his life is taking shape, constantly improving upon himself and giving so much of his money away.
- Elon Musk, since no idea is too small or too complex to grapple with.
- Warren Buffet – I had breakfast with him once and an hour wasn’t enough to soak up even a fraction of what he has to teach about values.
- Naval Admiral William H. McCraven, because I think executives can learn a lot about leadership from our military and I can’t get enough of this commencement speech.