Startups Venture

After Cycling, Lance Armstrong Makes First Deal As A VC

After leaving the world of professional cycling amid a doping scandal that resulted in lifetime bans and a $5 million settlement on federal fraud charges, Lance Armstrong is getting his second wind as a venture capitalist. Armstrong is the co-founding partner of Next Ventūres, a brand new venture capital firm with an apparent focus on athletics.

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Lionel Conacher Jr., son and namesake of Canadian politician and professional athlete Lionel “The Big Train” Conacher, joins Armstrong as the firm’s second general partner. Conacher was also a multi-sport athlete who did a short stint playing professional football in Canada.

The firm announced its first investment on Wednesday. Austin-based Next Ventūres led a seed round raised by PowerDot, which according to a statement from the firm is “the world’s first app-based, smart muscle stimulation device, designed to provide increased wellness, recovery and performance enhancement.”

Easy jokes about performance enhancement aside, electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is a helpful treatment for athletes and non-athletes alike. Physical therapists use EMS to help prevent muscle atrophy during recovery and releasing muscle spasms after a particularly strenuous workout.

Most EMS systems are kind of clunky and clinical-looking (after all, they get the most use in rehabilitation settings), but not PowerDot. It’s consumer-friendly and comparatively sleek (again, its main competition is medical equipment), and available in a bold, bright red.

“Our first investment in PowerDot illustrates our unique access to early-stage technologies designed for human optimization that have the potential to catapult from the specialized elite athlete market to the mass market,” Armstrong said in a statement.

It’s not Armstrong’s first startup investment, but the first he’s done as a professional VC. Armstrong credits a $100,000 investment in Uber, through Lowercase Capital, for “saving” his family in the wake of the doping scandal. Uber was valued at approximately $3.7 million at the time, according to CNBC.

VC As Second Act For Professional Athletes

Lance is not the only former professional athlete turned venture investor. Last September, Mary Ann wrote about how more National Basketball Association players have been getting into the venture funding game with the goal of taking startups to the next level. NBA players such as Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry have all put money into startups. Kobe Bryant co-founded his own VC firm, Bryant Stibel Investments. It’s not just basketball players who like to invest. Former San Francisco 49er Steve Young and former Romanian tennis player Ion Tiriac have also become professional investors.

Kiva Dickinson, a partner at CircleUp Growth Partners, has co-invested with some athletes (although not necessarily NBA players) on funding rounds and is bullish on the practice.

“Overall, we believe that athletes can certainly add a lot of value and validity to any company they get behind. They can be highly credible influencers when it comes to which functional products work or which products are generally good for you,” Dickinson told Crunchbase News last September. “Furthermore, they have strong communities and can introduce a product to their fans in a unique and genuine way.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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