Start-up, sports and entrepreneurship are not meant to cross paths. For French footballer Blaise Matuidi, everything is well connected and it is this conviction that has led him to create his own investment fund called Origins. As for Forbes, Blaise Matuidi agreed to tell us more about his motivations, along with co-founder Ilan Abehassera.
When were you thinking of creating assets? What’s the point?
Blaise Matuidi: I have been interested in technology for six years now and had the opportunity to meet Elan in the United States. We kept in touch and since I also wanted to invest in startups, we jointly decided to create the Origins investment fund. We have ambitious goals in terms of development but also the desire to change things to encourage the encounter between the world of sport and technology.
Ilan Abihasera For my part, I have already founded three technology companies and now run the startup points. My partner Salomon Aiach is an investor in the German Earlybird fund, previously with Facebook France and then Goldman Sachs in New York.
When we met Blaise, we knew athletes understand how technology works. But not all of them invest in it. So we convinced great athletes to join us like Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Serena Williams for example.
Secondly, to differentiate ourselves from other traditional funds, we have decided to offer to leverage the influence and fame of sports stars on social networks. The idea is to say: If a startup decides to join us, it will be able to benefit from a marketing campaign through our network of investors and thanks to the influence of athletes.
What do you think are the similarities between sports and entrepreneurship?
Blaise Matuidi There are strong similarities between an athlete and an entrepreneur. They both have the desire to win, even if it means taking risks or making sacrifices. Now, there is also a huge cultural difference in sports in Europe and the United States. American athletes are more invested in business causes.
In Europe – and especially in football training centers – athletes are trapped in a bubble that prevents them from opening up to the world of entrepreneurship. This was my case and I want to change that with Origins, to show that it is possible to combine the two.
We shouldn’t be ashamed to say that as top athletes, we make money. What matters is how it is used and I want to show that footballers can have an impact on society.
What investment topics will you focus on?
Ilan Abihasera : we invest in technology companies in B2C, among others, in key topics that move the general public such as Web3, NFT or even playing for profit. These are innovation sectors with a fairly large potential for added value. But we can also be interested in health, social or even fintech, we’re not really limited to one sector. On the other hand, what will really guide our choices is whether this or that product will be of interest to Blaise’s fans or other sports partners in the project such as Paulo Dybala, N’Golo Kante, Olivier Giroud, Presnel Kempembe, Kingsley Coman or Miralem Pjanic.
We also co-invest in innovation with Kevin Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures in New York. We also intend to support European start-ups and the advantage for them is to take advantage of our network in the US to better spread there. Conversely, this is also important for young American shooters who want to settle in Europe.
It also announced its first equity investments…
Ilan Abihasera : Yes, we’ve already invested in Ugami and Yumon. The first startup, which is about to launch its first product, is a kind of “gamer revolution”. Fintech that offers, for example, rewards tied to achievements unlocked in certain games. The second is a platform that helps players create NFTs around them.
Origins is planning equity investments of between €100,000 and €500,000. The fund has already made two investments. We invest in somewhat ‘early stage’ projects and the goal is to recover equity to reinvest in other young shoots that are doing well in our portfolio.
About fifty famous football players have joined your project… Did you manage to convince some of them personally? What are they looking for there?
Blaise Matuidi : There is real enthusiasm on the part of the athletes and everyone immediately understood the asset’s interest. Together, we are able to achieve great things and this will serve as an example for generations to come.
I have also spoken directly to my sports friends and of course Presnel Kimpembe is one of them. Presnel plays for one of the biggest clubs in the world and trains three times a week for France. But like me, his vision doesn’t stop there, he doesn’t want to be just a footballer. Getting seriously focused on your sport is fine, but when you spend three-quarters of your life playing football, it can be very difficult to get out of it. It would be better if it was easy to cross bridges with the world of entrepreneurship. I come back again to the American example where college athletes come into contact every day with future architects or future heads of innovative companies.
Training must be reviewed because it is possible to combine sport with entrepreneurship and above all, it is important for possible failures along the way.
What can the world of sports bring to entrepreneurship?
Blaise Matuidi : I really want to share with you how proud I am of our project. Just a year ago, I would have never thought of being at the helm of a 90-person box followed by 50 athletes! I would never have felt empowered to give a conference speech in front of more than 1,000 people – and yet today I can do it without any problem. Athletes can often be ranked very quickly, but I want to prove that we can lead by example and participate in other big projects.
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