Rob Thompson of GamePlanU.org joins the show today to discuss his upcoming SportsBiz Startup event in Orlando, FL on January 23-24, 2020. Rob also gives some advice to stuck or upcoming sports business professionals that you won’t want to miss.
Video of the Interview with Rob Thompson
Show notes from The GamePlanU.org Interview
Ryan Knuppel: On today’s show we sit down with Rob Thompson of Gameplan U to talk about his sports biz startup weekend in Orlando, Florida.
Ryan Knuppel: Everywhere you turn it’s the same old sports talk, the same headlines, the same news and the same boring information. This podcast is here to change all of that. We bring you hot sports takes, winning sports betting strategy and picks, reliable gaming industry news and breaking interviews with some of the biggest names in sports business. My name is Ryan Knuppel. Welcome to the Knup Sports Show.
Ryan Knuppel: All right. Welcome back to another episode of the Knup Sports Show. My name is Ryan Knuppel. I’m your host here. I am joined today by Rob Thompson. Rob, you with me?
Rob Thompson: Yay.
Ryan Knuppel: There you are. Hey, guess what? We are on video. We are on audio. We are going next level with this media thing Rob. I appreciate you being here. Thanks for joining me.
Rob Thompson: Of course. I just had to switch glasses. Half the time I walk around wearing them. I’m looking for them and I got them on.
Ryan Knuppel: On your forehead or something. The last place you’d look. Right? Awesome. Well thanks for joining me. Hey Rob. Rob is the founder, the starter, the whatever you want to call him of SportsBiz Media Group also Gameplan U. Rob, I know we chatted back on your show I think a month or so ago. I just wanted to catch up on my show here and have you on just to see what the heck is up and what’s going on. We are in the new year 2020. I know both of us have big plans and man, you’re hosting the event here in Orlando. I’m based out of Orlando so I’m super excited to meet you in person. I’d love to hear more about what this event entails and just where you’re going with your business man, what’s up, what’s new.
Rob Thompson: So I just celebrated my sixth year with the SportsBiz podcast. So SportsBiz podcast was created when I owned North American Sports Group and it was really a tool that I used to create content that was relevant to decision makers that I wanted to get in front of. Whether it was a media, whether it was a sport’s property or a sponsor. That’s what I thought my strategy was going to be at the time. What I realized is I love doing it. I love the stories of people and certainly entrepreneurs or people they’re innovators in the industry. There’s a handful of them that everybody knows of through Sports Business Journal and how we kind of came up in the industry together, whether they’re at leagues or teams or they were innovators. Those folks always intrigued me and I love to hear their stories because they match up.
Rob Thompson: With that I end up writing a book, How to Land a Dream Job if Your Dad Doesn’t Own the Team. And that led me to come back to my Alma mater at the University of New Haven in Connecticut to help them with the business development side of it, for athletics to go division one and to bring in corporate partners and just build other revenue stream opportunities overlaid into the university. When that all happened, it allowed me to kind of go outside that area and connect back to the school through Gameplan U and Gameplan U is a doc connector for career seekers and for startups and it doc connects that ecosystem of sports technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and then being in the industry, which most people never knew that working for a startup or starting up a platform within the sports’ industry is even an option.
Rob Thompson: And so whether it’s sports media or whether it’s management or it’s a third party vendor and then now, that other vertical is in the startup space. So that’s the evolution of kind of how I got to where I am right now. And it just kind of landed me in this place of I want to do something that facilitates those folks. Career seekers, startups, start overs and then investors. And that’s how we landed on the pro bowl to host a first annual SportsBiz Startup Orlando 2020 which is next week, the 23rd and 24th.
Ryan Knuppel: Man, I love that. It’s crazy how business and a life I guess kind of brings you full circle, kind of brings you in so many directions. I’m the same way in business trying this and doing this and I kind of have always known where I want to be, but the progression of getting to that spot is so amazing to me, how many different things you go through. It’s not just, “Oh, I’m going to do this.” And that’s what you end up doing. You kind of go through these progressions of this business, or this business, or this concept, or this idea, and then something kind of sticks and something clicks. And it sounds like you’re kind of at that spot now where, “Man, this is exactly what I’ve been thinking for the last 10, 15 years and I’m kind of there.” And I really enjoy seeing that from what you guys are doing. When you get to that spot there’s a level of confidence and satisfaction and just everything kind of goes well. Right? And so I just really am amazed by that in business, how that kind of comes full circle.
Rob Thompson: I think it’s just people’s lives in general and I mean, you took your passion and you picked up and you had a family that had to pickup, relocate down to Orlando and completely change everything. Completely take a leap of faith on you. The biggest bet you ever made was on yourself. Right? And you had the support to do that and you didn’t know where that was going to go. There are so many people Ryan, that are like you that get down with their career and they get to a certain point in their career like I don’t feel I’m fulfilled. I want to chase my passion or for whatever reason they’re handcuffed.
Rob Thompson: They don’t feel they can get up and go right and take that chance and they envy people like you. So I looked at the sports’ industry as I didn’t know how to get in it other than I was a coach. I started my first business when I was 23 years old as a scouting service for high school kids back in ’91 and there wasn’t scouting services back there and I sold it and I got the bug. But I was lucky enough to spend 30 years in the sports’ industry and in the entertainment industry, media industry with both the NFL and the Walt Disney company and arena football and a bunch of other things in there and when I got to the end of that road I looked at it saying, “Okay, now it’s time for me to help other people.” Because it felt right to me. I didn’t have to chase it. I wasn’t on that hamster wheel of building a resume and all that and build a career and chasing money.
Rob Thompson: I got to a point now where I felt I still have another swing at the bat in me that’s just not to the door. But being in higher ed, it provides me that stability. It scratches that itch of kind of helping that next generation to come up and then allows me to have that entrepreneur spirit where I can still develop businesses and do other things that kind of connects back to the school and the education process. So I’m in a really good place with my life and thank God. And knock on wood, this is a really cool time in my life and I’m just like you, I’m so thankful that we got to go through it because 15 years ago, five years ago, we weren’t doing this.
Ryan Knuppel: The opportunities didn’t really exist like this. This internet thing has really opened up so many doors for all of us.
Rob Thompson: It does. And when you’re a 13 year old kid and you know that if you could become a YouTuber doing it on boxing and potentially make three, four or in this case this year was $34 million in revenue. Anything is possible with this. And when that happens it creates interest from investors. It creates interest in the marketplace with brands and media and people. They know now that they could do this just like you and I are sitting here. This is what we do for a living.
Ryan Knuppel: Crazy to think of that. Huh?
Rob Thompson: Right. Ten, 15 years ago, this is something we would have probably done as a hobby, but now this is real.
Ryan Knuppel: Yeah. This is it. We’re in it. So let’s go back. So speaking of investors, speaking of interest, this event man, this event that you have coming to Orlando, at the time of this recording, it’s next week. So, I’m actually really excited. It’s a week and a half away. Tell us a little bit more about the event. So it’s going to be kind of a Thursday, Friday, even into Saturday event I believe. But give us a little bit more information about what’s going on with this thing. That way if anybody’s in Orlando listening and isn’t a part of it, maybe they want to be, they can contact you and see. So what’s going on with this thing?
Rob Thompson: So first of all before I forget its gameplanu.org is where you can find out more information and there’s a list of activities that weekend and the general public can attend as well. There’s some special rates for students to attend. So it’s a lineup of 14 startups from all over the country, different levels. There’s college kids who have created an idea in their dorm to someone who is doing a pivot in their 20 something year career who sees an area in the marketplace that they can capture. So it’s a two day event. It’s actually a day and a half. The first part of it is a little bit more about inspiration, learning from an investor, what they look for in startups.
Rob Thompson: So it’ll be a little bit of this, a one on one conversation panel discussion and then a reception and a network opportunity. That’s Thursday and then all day Friday over at the USTA Training Center, I guess national headquarters for the USTA in Lake Nona there is going to be half a day, it’s going to be workshops and that’s going to be on branding, on just working, being an entrepreneur. So listening to other panelists that are going to be there from some good friends of mine, but also some folks that are influencers in this sports’ industry in general. And then the second part of the day is going to be the demo day pitch, so it’s each person, think of Shark Tank, gets 10 minutes, five minutes to tell their story and then five minutes to answer questions from our investors and our panelists and then if they win, the winning reception is we don’t give away a big oversized check.
Rob Thompson: If you walk away with an interest in some seed capital eventually and build relationships and collaboration with other startups and certainly with the investors that will be in the room, then that’s what you need. 90% of it is showing up. I recommend highly of any startups that are out there, including the ones that are coming down and participated in our accelerator that they go to as many demo days, as many of these events as possible. They’re just a smaller version of a convention and they’re starting to pop up everywhere. The investment space, especially money coming in from Europe and Israel and Canada and Southeast Asia, it doesn’t matter.
Rob Thompson: You have a good idea they don’t care where the idea comes from. If you can incubate it and you can create it and you can execute it, then they’re going to take a chance on you. And there’s a lot of it in the marketplace right now. So if you’re a startup, if you’re interested in the industry at all, if you have an idea and you want to get a sense of what these demo days are, go to gameplanu.org and come join us. Come join us the 23rd and 24th of January 2020 in Orlando.
Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, that’ll be amazing man. That’s in my backyard. I’ll give a little plug out for the USTA headquarters where you’re hosting this man, that’s a state-of-the-art facility there. I mean I’m sure they consider it the top tennis facility in the world, but there’s 80, 90 courts. They have a couple main courts there. So hopefully everybody gets a chance to take a look at the facility as well, which I’m sure they will because they do a great job there. But congrats on getting over at that facility. Good job there.
Rob Thompson: Well, I mean it was your recommendation.
Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, well I mean, hey, you made it happen. I think that’s a great spot to be in and Lake Nona is growing leaps and bounds and so it’s a natural fit. I mean there’s tech investors living right here that would probably love to be involved that don’t even know about it. So I think as you kind of grow and continue to build this thing, I’m sure the interest is going to keep growing. I mean I see in my space directly, I mean, my space is a little more focused on the sports betting side, which obviously is growing leaps and bounds right now as well. But we’re seeing investment talks and people wanting to invest, people looking for investments. We’re seeing that kind of stuff all over in this space right now.
Ryan Knuppel: So, like you said, there’s no lack of money out there right now. And I think this experience that the people there are going to get just from pitching that experience, even if they don’t get money out of it, that experience is invaluable. I think it’s something that you almost have to do as a business owner just to get your feet wet, understand what those talks are like, make connections. I mean, make connections with the people in the room. I think that’s a big thing and so man, that’s going to be fun. That’s going to be a good one.
Rob Thompson: Well, we picked this market last year. I think I told you I brought a group of students down to work the Pro Bowl Fanfest activities and then I said, “There’s got to be something else here.” There’s nothing better than going into a market when there’s a big event happening. And Orlando’s used to big events and sometimes those events could get lost. But I felt this week going into it, there’s opening up the Fanfest, there’s a PGA golf show going on. There’s a lot of other things that are happening in the marketplace that if you’re in the sports tech space or just the sports’ industry space in general, Orlando next week is the market to be in. Then the following week is the Super Bowl in Miami, which is a sort of distance. So there are some folks that are going to go down there right after ours. So what we will do when we kind of grow this property and these events is we’re going to look to other markets that have major events happening in it and just kind of.
Ryan Knuppel: Piggy back.
Rob Thompson: That’s it. We’re going to drift off of it or draft off them, whatever that term is.
Ryan Knuppel: That’s awesome. Well good. Well I don’t want to keep you all day. I mean I appreciate you being here. Tell us again. So you said gameplanu.org correct? That’s where we can find all the information on the event.
Rob Thompson: That’s it.
Ryan Knuppel: Anything else? Anything else for our audience? Any last words of wisdom you have or advice, I guess? I think a lot of the listeners of this show are business owners, sports betting, specific eye gaining type individuals. Any advice you’d have for any of them?
Rob Thompson: So if you’re ever thinking about a pivot your career, I can tell you right now that if you’re smart about it and you’re sincere about it and you have the effort, you want to put the effort behind it through to 100%, chase it. And don’t give up your day job until you can figure it out, right? Until you’ve got revenue coming in. Don’t just look for an investor because that’s not always the best fit for everybody, right? You could bootstrap things and you could suck it up and work a little bit harder, but we only have one life to live, right? There’s one ballgame for us. This is not a scrimmage. This is it. And so I can tell you every day that I woke up a little bit scared, but I went to bed satisfied.
Rob Thompson: And there’re times when I just felt like throwing it all in, even when I was with corporate America. But there’s nothing better and satisfying in your life when you get up every day as scared and anxious as you may be, but you go to bed so satisfied because you control it. You control your life and you control what’s happening. You’re never going to make enough money for yourself or your wife. Right? You’re never going to have enough but do you have enough to satisfy yourself? So, that’s what I would say. Don’t ever forget why you began your journey. If you are in a startup or you’re in a business that you are operating and when you feel like giving up, just try to remember why you started in the first place.
Rob Thompson: So we do have another accelerator happening in the spring with Gameplan U. There’s typically a 90 day time period where I come in as an on demand kind of freelance executive on your team that helps you kind of understand your business, open up some doors, networking, position your business for that next level, whatever it is, whether it’s investors or whether it’s a ramp up. And so that’s going to happen and applications are going to be open in February and that’s also a gameplanu.org. Just to end it with a pathetic plug.
Ryan Knuppel: Amazing. Well I think that was great advice you gave there. I appreciate that. Really look forward to meeting you next week Rob. Make sure that happens on Thursday and possibly Friday. So appreciate you being here. Appreciate you giving some of your advice and listeners, watchers, hey we’re video now so watchers, I really encourage you to reach out to Rob and even if it’s as simple as, “Hey Rob, I may be interested or I have some questions for Rob.” I know he’s always open to that as well. So Rob, appreciate you being here. Hopefully in a year we can jump back on here and talk about year two in Orlando of the startup for you.
Rob Thompson: Ryan, it’s always a pleasure buddy. I’ll see you hopefully Thursday down there with the Palm trees and sunshine.
Ryan Knuppel: I wouldn’t miss it. It’s 85 degrees. I may go sit by the pool here in a bit. All right, everybody. Thanks for listening. Rob, appreciate it. Have a great day everyone.
Rob Thompson: Take care everybody. Bye-bye.
Ryan Knuppel: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Knup Sports Show. If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider subscribing to our iTunes channel today. Plus visit us at knupsports.com for more pics, previews, strategy, and news. That’s knupsports.com.
Relevant GamePlanU.org Links
- Find out more information about GamePlanU & the Startup event here: https://www.gameplanu.org/
- Email Rob at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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