There are many similarities between sports and entrepreneurship. Both disciplines combine values such as resilience, effort, dedication, teamwork, hard work, management of both success and failure, ego management, the importance of good leadership, and more. It’s no wonder there is a growing tendency for elite athletes to be connected to the business world, in no small part because they constantly search for new challenges and «competitions.»
Endeavor had the opportunity to interview Laia Gilibets (Communications Director of Gasol16 Ventures) and Ferran Prieto (CEO & Managing Director of Gasol16 Ventures) to learn more about Gasol16 Ventures, the strategic vehicle that unifies all of Pau Gasol’s entrepreneurial activity. Gasol16 Ventures promotes ideas and initiatives with a clear international ambition, projects with high potential to have a positive impact on people.
In this interview, they discuss what Gasol16 Ventures is, its mission, vision, thesis and much more. Take a look and don’t miss it.
Endeavor: Why Gasol16 Ventures? What was Pau’s goal in founding the company? Was there anything or anyone in particular that encouraged him?
"Pau has been in the United States for a long time, where he experienced first-hand how sports stars such as Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant were able to translate their success on the court into business success. "
The motivation of seeing how his role models on the court also became role models off the court and his desire to continue learning and training have led Pau to meet fascinating people in the business world. They have gradually been watering the seed that Kobe and Magic planted, which now translates into Gasol16 Ventures – but which has a long way to go.
LG: Gasol16 Ventures was born from the desire to bring together all of Pau’s investment and entrepreneurial initiatives under a single brand. These are activities that Pau started during his sporting career with the support of a team of professionals, and which have intensified since his retirement.
"This initiative focuses on three pillars to which Pau can contribute value and experience (health, sports, and wellness) and support Spanish projects with potential for internationalization. "
Endeavor: It seems that recently, we have seen Spanish elite athletes taking an interest in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Why do you think this is happening? Do you see any parallels between elite sport and entrepreneurship?
LG: Athletes are increasingly aware of the importance of thinking about their future and starting to build their legacy while they are still competing. On the one hand, they have the media spotlight, which allows any initiative they launch to have greater visibility; on the other hand, it can be part of their social commitment to give back to society for everything it has given them. Sometimes, this desire to contribute and make an impact takes the form of entrepreneurial initiatives, like athletes who invest in startups, create investment vehicles, and even found their own startups. Other times, their interests align more with the social sphere and take shape by establishing foundations or associations to support current issues.
There are many similarities between entrepreneurship and elite sports. The mindset required, for example, is very similar, and they share values fundamental to success (resilience, effort, dedication, hard work, etc.). There are also many shared learnings, such as managing succes and failure, ego management, the importance of good leadership, etc.
FP: I think this trend started in the United States, where historically there is a more entrepreneurial culture, where people are more willing to try new things and where the fear of failure exists to a lesser extent than here. Elite athletes are competitive by nature, and when they see their athletic careers coming to an end, they look for other ways to compete, to continue pursuing victories. Moreover, sports is a magnet for successful entrepreneurs, and top-level athletes tend to interact with top-level entrepreneurs. From those relationships often come ideas, potential collaborations, and much learning.
Endeavor: Tell us a little about the Gasol16 ventures thesis and the type of entrepreneur/company you seek. Is there an interest in Spanish entrepreneurs with a global vision? Series A and above? Why? Do you see a greater need at this stage? Do we want to emphasize that there is more need at that level?
LG: We focus on three pillars (health, sports, and wellness), as these are areas where we can add the most value. We identify projects with high growth potential and make the whole team experience and network of contacts available to them. We are also interested in Spanish projects with global projection. In a way, they are parallel to Pau’s career: we want to take Spanish talent around the world. About the specific characteristics of the companies, we look for projects that are in Series A or above, have achieved product-market fit, and are already generating revenue.
FP: I would also add that we want companies in which there are already institutional investors, where the company is already in a more “scale-up” phase, and where Pau’s involvement and the value he can bring (both he and his team) is as or more important than the capital to be invested.
Endeavor: Tell us about Pau Gasol’s role (him as an athlete, how he wants to support the next generation of entrepreneurs and invest in them, build that long-term relationship), the “journey” that Pau talks about.
LG: Earlier, we discussed the similarity between entrepreneurship and elite sports. At the time, when Pau had the opportunity to play in the best basketball league in the world, the NBA, he encountered certain reticence and doubts in his environment – people who questioned his chances of success. Ultimately, he went ahead, and we all know the rest of the story. In the case of an entrepreneur, sometimes the path can be complicated. For this reason, Pau wants to do his part to promote the entrepreneurial spirit in younger generations, to encourage them to trust in their possibilities, and to support them when they decide to take this step.
Pau has also spent many years now in the United States, where entrepreneurship is something more natural and common, and failure is understood as part of any entrepreneur’s journey. That’s why he believes this mentality should be developed in the Spanish ecosystem and understood as another professional outlet.
FP: There is also a much more tactical component: for certain companies, having Pau as an investor can put them on the map and even validate them in the eyes of clients, investors, and other potential partners. In addition, our network of contacts can be precious, too, and in some cases, a call from Pau or the team can unlock a deal or open a door that didn’t exist before.
Combined with Pau’s experiences as an elite athlete, the “package” that Gasol16 Ventures offers for certain startups can be much more valuable than the capital we invest.
Endeavor: Success stories: You have advised and invested in Colvin (March 2022) and recently invested in LuzIA (Oct 23) Can you explain a bit more about these cases?
FP: They are examples of Spanish startups with ambition and a genuine opportunity to take over the world. Colvin saw that more than 60% of the world’s flower traffic passed through a market in the Netherlands and set out to change an industry that had not evolved in decades.
LuzIA wants to make artificial intelligence available to everyone, and what better way than by integrating it into an application like WhatsApp, which people of all ages use to communicate around the world? In just a few months, LuzIA’s user growth has been impressive, and its clear leadership position in the Spanish-speaking world and Brazil convinced us that these Spanish entrepreneurs wanted to, and could, become one of the world’s leading companies in a sector such as AI.
LG: Colvin and LuzIA are examples showing the quantity of talent and good ideas in our country and the determination of its entrepreneurial ecosystem. In the case of Colvin, it is a startup that wants to revitalize a sector with very specific inertia in favor of the end consumer. In this project, we’re helping build an internal culture that allows and accompanies them in their growth and international expansion.
LuzIA is an innovative project that aims to make artificial intelligence more accessible so everyone can take advantage of its benefits. In this sense, we are working with the team so that its technology can also be used to train people in healthy habits.
Endeavor: What are your thoughts about entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Spain?
FP: The Spanish entrepreneurial ecosystem has taken a spectacular step forward recently. We have more and more companies that are born with a global vision, with the ambition to take over the world, that are raising rounds at valuations of more than $1B, and that are steadily entering markets all over the globe, including the United States, not just to play, but to win.
Perhaps we lack more access to late-stage capital for these companies, which today have to look abroad. Legislation also needs to change; it is still easier to do business and set up companies in countries such as the United States than it is in Spain, where many procedures are incredibly complicated in comparison.
What we also need to do in Spain is to publicize the names of these entrepreneurs: Oscar Pierre, Pablo Fernández, Beatriz Magro, Laura Urquizu, Enric Asunción, Verónica Pascual, Juan de Antonio, Yaiza Canosa, and many, many more should be the heroes of Spain’s young people, their role models. They are our Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Sara Blakely, Arianna Huffington, and most people do not know who they are in Spain. They are not known to the general public.
LG: As we said, Spain is fortunate to have a lot of entrepreneurial talent and innovative projects in all areas. One only has to look at the companies of Spanish origin that are having great success in international markets, such as the two cases mentioned above. However, there is still a lack of support and conviction for our potential as a country. For example, few schools encourage entrepreneurship as part of the school curriculum, and it is not promoted as a professional path.
Beyond that, there is still a lack of a more favorable legal framework to accompany entrepreneurs, especially in the early stages, and a support network to help them navigate this path full of uncertainties. For this reason, we believe that entities such as Endeavor are so important in supporting people who decide to pursue this path. Entities like Endeavor enable entrepreneurs to learn and to weave a network in which there can be complementarity.
At Endeavor, we are inspired to see how our network members demonstrate their support for the next generation of entrepreneurs by sharing their success and being absolute role models, what we call #PayItForward.