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May 23, 2021 67 min

Today’s guest is Isaiah Kacyvenski. Isaiah’s diverse background includes earning two degrees from Harvard, playing in the National Football League for 8 years in between, and achieving success as an experienced entrepreneur and investor. Perhaps what’s most impressive about Isaiah’s background though has to do with where he started from. Isaiah grew up in Endicott, NY where at times he grew up homeless and without food with his parents. His rise from poverty led him to becoming a subject of an NFL Films profile that received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Long Feature, and was also featured on an Oprah Winfrey show titled "Why They Beat the Odds". Following his NFL Career, Isaiah acted as Global Head of Business Development at MC10 and co-founded the premier sports tech research and advisory firm, Sports Innovation Lab. Immediately prior to founding Will Ventures, Isaiah was the Managing Partner at Blue Star Innovation Partners, where he led the firm’s sports technology investment practice. Today, Isaiah serves as Managing Partner of Will Ventures, a venture capital investment fund focused on sports technology and the massive, adjacent market opportunities that it opens up (human performance, health and wellness, media and entertainment, eSports, and more). In this interview, we dive deep into Isaiah’s time growing up in poverty, his journey to Harvard and playing in the NFL, perspectives on drive and managing setbacks, and all things Will Ventures. We could have talked for 3 hours, and due to time constraints we couldn’t touch on everything, but I promise part 2 is in the works.

Timestamps

00:03:06 Growing up in poverty in Endicott, NY

00:07:33 Both his parents grew up in orphanages

00:11:49 What homelessness looked like for him and his family

00:15:02 The impact of his mother's death on him

00:23:42 Why he feels there's always something big to accomplish

00:26:02 The impact his father has had on his life

00:30:29 When and why he started playing football

00:35:19 When he realized he could make a career out of football

00:41:08 How not making his high school varsity football team changed the course of his life

00:42:44 Journey to Harvard and playing in the NFL

00:52:53 Overview of Will Ventures

00:55:36 The democratization of sports tech and the importance of strong founding teams

00:58:24 A few of their portfolio companies

01:02:48 His driving force

01:04:12 Parting words of wisdom around getting through tough times

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