How to get Serena Williams and Usain Bolt to back your venture: Lessons from Let's Do This

Asia's Tech News Daily

#Alex Rose, #Alexis Ohanian, #CNBC Make It, #How to get celebrities to back your venture, #Lets Do This, #Marathons, #Mass participation sports, #Reddit, #Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, #Sam Browne, #Serena Ventures, #Serena Williams, #Sports, #Sports startup, #Startup, #triathlons, #Usain Bolt, #Y Combinator start-up accelerator program

Tennis legend Serena Williams launched Serena Ventures in 2014. (Image: Reuters)

Serena Williams presumably gets several business pitches which she whacks away like tennis balls. But some ideas get her attention.

Usain Bolt, too, probably sprints away from aspiring startup founders seeking some of his megabucks. But there are some proposals that make him stop in his tracks.

One such pitch came from two college friends. (It’s almost always two college friends.) It helped that the pitch was about sports.

Alex Rose and Sam Browne, mates at the University of Cambridge and actively involved in college sports, realized it was difficult to find a schedule of marathons and athletic events, and then sign-up for them, on one platform under one umbrella.

Besides, Rose was fed up with his existing job. So, in 2017, he and Browne started Let’s Do This.

Let’s Do This is now among the world’s largest marketplaces for mass-participation sports, with some 15,000 events, such as marathons and triathlons, listed on the platform. They have raised $31 million so far, according to CNBC Make It.

A year after their 2017 launch, Rose, Browne and their six-member team moved to California to take part in the prestigious Y Combinator start-up accelerator program. That is when they started to make serious progress.

Along the way, they met Alexis Ohanian, the Reddit founder and Serena’s husband. Throwing shyness into the California desert, so to speak, they requested for a meeting with the tennis legend, who has her own VC firm, Serena Ventures.

Williams agreed to come on board.

As for Bolt, Browne went to the sprint star’s bar opening in London. Once again taking the bold approach, he persuaded Bolt to have dinner with him. And that is where Let’s Do This was pitched.

“So, yeah, a real example of sort of hustling your way into the right investor meeting,” Rose told CNBC Make It about associating with the two superstars.

Rose concedes that he and Browne probably set about launching the business with a “combination of naivety and overconfidence.”

In hindsight, he said that “if we knew the things we know now about the obstacles that you have to overcome to start a business, I wonder whether we would have would have quit our jobs to do it”.

It is here that disliking his existing job helped. The obstacles to starting a company didn’t seem “so terrifying, when the alternative was continuing with a job that I’d kind of fallen out of love with”, Rose told CNBC Make It.

As for having to knock on many doors to get enough funds to build the company, Rose said, “if you can find a problem that people are passionate about, then there are always people who are willing to back exciting ideas”.

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