How to turn a professional sportsperson into a successful entrepreneur

Employment & Skills | Interview | Sport
Ferran Martínez

Business Leader recently caught up with former pro basketball player Ferran Martínez of GlobaTalent to discuss how you can build a business as a former elite sportsperson.

Can you tell us about your pro basketball career?

I started playing basketball at school when I was eight years old and, at just 12 years old, I was signed by FC Barcelona to play on the junior team. At age 15, I played in the final of the Spanish Championship, which we won, and I was the named best player in the tournament, scoring 63 points in the final.

The same year, the head coach of the professional team called me to play the pre-season with the professional team and, the following year, I made my debut in the first team and became the youngest player to debut in the Spanish professional league (ACB).

I became a great scorer and rebounder, and my talent as a player was different from others on the team. I was very fast for my size and also a very good long-distance shooter. I played for 10 years at FC Barcelona, ​​six years at Joventut de Badalona, and three at Panathinaikos in Athens.

I have many individual and collective records, such as the eight national leagues, The Euroleague in 1994, thre European Cups, two Kings Cup and many more. I also played for 11 years in the Spanish team, participating in five European Championships, two World Championships and Olympic Games.

How was the transition from sport to business?

During my sports career, I never stopped studying. I really liked technology and finance, so I studied computer programming and finance. In this way, I was able to have control of my economic incomes, creating my own investment system.

When I retired in 2002, I studied an MBA and began to advise elite athletes on how to manage their income and assisting with their financial planning. Athletes often have very high incomes for very short periods of their lives, and if they don’t invest wisely they can have financial problems after the end of the sports career.

I was then signed by the Swiss bank UBS to lead its ‘sports & entertainment’ unit, and I also led sports marketing issues at MediaPro. Later I joined other private banks such as Banc Sabadell, Mirabaud and Andbank. In 2012 I started investing in tech start-ups and created my own VC (Lánzame Capital). Later I founded with other partners more companies.

GlobaTalent, founded three years ago, combines technology, the sports industry and finance, and it is my passion. And also I wrote five books about management, investments and technology.

What are the biggest similarities between sport and business?

For me, sport is like a school of life. It teaches great values like teamwork, discipline, personal and collective improvement, being results-oriented, and knowing how to play under pressure. Every athlete knows how to overcome adversities and knows that, to be on top, you must work hard and never stop improving and learning.

Can you give me an overview of GlobaTalent?

GlobaTalent is a company built by professionals who understand sports and are passionate about this industry. We know how hard it is for athletes and clubs to gain the funding needed to build a successful career, yet there are few sources of funding and those available go to already successful players.

GlobaTalent democratises funding and fan access through our marketplace, where any fan can invest in their favourite athlete, club, or young sports stars. GlobaTalent is also a sports neo-bank which offers GlobaTalent VISA cards, providing significant discounts on sports equipment, shops and everything related to sports.

What advice would you give to sportspeople looking to make the move into business?

I would say that the sports career is very short and real-life begins when professional sports activity ends ‒ for most players, around 35 years old. From my personal experience, I have seen many athletes being completely unprepared mentally for the end of professional sport. Despite having been very successful, popular and wealthy, they have struggled financially after their sports career ended due to frivolous spending.

Those who take advantage of the experience, network, contacts, and values of being an elite sports star, can become a great businessman. GlobaTalent helps young athletes to fulfill their dream, and it is also an example of a great company that combine sports, finance and technology.

What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome?

The most important thing for me was to remind myself that my life as a professional athlete had ended. The way of life was totally different. I no longer had to wake up in the morning and go to training with the team, or travel around Europe or the world playing competitions with the Spanish National Team.

My main challenges were in continuing to study while training and taking advantage of my investment experience while I was still playing so I was set up financially when my sports career ended. The most important thing is to have passion for what you do and enjoy, just like when you played. So, I studied finance, computer programming, and venture capital investing.

What does the future hold for you and your business?

I think that GlobaTalent has the potential to be a disruptive company in the sports sector with unlimited growth capacity. Not only does it provide a new source of funding, but the technology allows us to mine data to help understand the needs of fans. This could lead GlobaTalent to disrupt the sports industry in the same way that Facebook disrupted online media or Netflix the movie industry. Personally, I hope to continue enjoying my work and having partners like my fellow founders of GlobaTalent.

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