Managing Partner, Next Play Capital

Ep#2: Ryan Nece

In episode two, we stop in Tampa Bay. Dhani speaks with Ryan Nece, Managing Partner of Next Play Capital, Advisory Board Member at DocuSign, Founder of the Ryan Nece Foundation, and NFL alumni.

Next Play Capital logo
Venture Capital
Ryan Nece
We've invested in 40 companies. We had six IPO's this year, we're investors in companies like Impossible Foods, Bytedance (TikTok), UiPath, Hims & Hers, and a bunch of other Guild Education, a bunch of other amazing companies.
Ryan Nece, Managing Partner, Next Play Capital

Ryan Nece's experience

Ryan Nece

Modern Dealmaker & Former NFL Champion

Super Bowl champion, founder, advisor and investor in successful tech companies like Hippo, Brandless, ByteDance (TikTok), Flexport, Peloton, and Rubrik. He began his career as a professional football player starring for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and winning the 2002 Super Bowl before finishing with the Detroit Lions.

  • Henry Crown Fellow - Aspen Institute Business & Society Program
  • Advisory Board - DocuSign
  • Founder & Chairman - Ryan Nece Foundation
  • Board Member - Tampa Bay Sports Commission
  • Former  - Partner at Provident Investment Advisors, Football Analyst at FOX Sports, Co-founder at Gridiron Ventrues (DBA Straightcast Media Acquiried by FOX Sports), and Principal at Arenda Capital Management
  • Former Board Member - Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo & WEDU
  • Former NFL Athlete - Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Episode highlights

What makes a successful deal or investment?




Dhani Jones (01:37):

Welcome back everybody to The Pathfinders, presented by Ansarada. I'm your host, former NFL player, investor and entrepreneur Dhani Jones. Joining me on the show today is managing partner of Next Play Capital, advisory board member at DocuSign and founder of the Ryan Nece Foundation, NFL alumni, Ryan Nece is here to talk to us about seizing opportunities and what it means to be a leader and how to leverage success to give back to communities in need.

Dhani Jones (02:09):

Ryan, welcome to the show. It's exciting to see you because so many different times, we're always, I feel like crisscrossing the United States going to different places. It's kind of like when you were at Tampa, at the linebacker position, flying all over the place. I mean, what has it been like since your transition?

Ryan Nece (02:29):

Yeah, no, Dhani, I appreciate you having me on, and man, I'm so proud of all the things you've accomplished over the years, and it's a testament to the way you approach life. And you try to find ways to exhaust a moment and try to find ways to scratch that itch of curiosity. And you find yourself in an interesting corners, and that's just unusual for a lot of athletes, but what it's allowed is for you and I to cross paths a number of times over the years. And so it's been awesome to watch you put yourself in positions that most athletes aren't in. And for me, it's inspiring because I think it's really important in my career to see individuals like you, that approach life in that way and approach business that way and find ways to build meaningful relationships.

Ryan Nece (03:11):

So I had to say that on the show, because I'm sure like you, so many people approach me and go, "Hey, Ryan, you're so rare, there's not a lot of other athletes that are out there doing things." And I started going off in the list of people that are doing great things after life, after football. And you're one of the first individuals, so easier said than done as you know, that transition is tough for all of us. But one of the things that I did early on was try to find ways to build meaningful relationships with men and women that I respected, whether that was in philanthropy, whether that was in politics, whether that was in business. So, yeah, that was a longer winded way of answering your question, but I had to give you some love and some kudos from the get go.

Dhani Jones (03:54):

We're two powerful inside linebackers that are able to run the field. And I think it's the same way-

Ryan Nece (04:00):

You're the inside guy, I'm the outside guy, I'm the skinny one that just ran fast, man. You just...

Dhani Jones (04:04):

Just curious, why do you think sometimes it's difficult for some people to transition? Is it the fact that it's difficult to build relationships with people off the field? Is it because we kind of find ourself in the same silos or in the same neighborhoods? Or is it because maybe we just don't want to do things like that because for me, you mentioned curiosity, I'm a Montessori kid. I've only lived the curious lifestyle, my entire life, where I get in trouble for asking questions. Sometimes I get kicked off the field because I asked too many questions. I mean, I actually got my coach at the New York Giants, Tom, Tom Olivadotti, I never forget this. He told me I was only allowed to ask three questions. And so what I decided to do is ask one question, fill out the answer to all of my questions that I've now written down in this book, the book of questions.

Ryan Nece (04:56):

I love it.

Dhani Jones (04:58):

So I wrote a book of questions. Then I had 20 questions that I had outlined during the meeting. I just gave it to them say, "Hey, can you just answer these questions?" But why do you think people don't transition?

Ryan Nece (05:09):

Yeah, it's a great question. And I mean, as you know, and I know you've interacted with so many different athletes, not just in football, but in all sports and they all face similar challenges. And I think some of those challenges is one because you've been programmed from an early, early point in your life to think about one thing and one thing only, and that's being the very best at your craft and at the skills and at the sport that you're particular playing. And so when you put all that time and energy into one thing, it doesn't allow for you to start to explore other opportunities. And then all of a sudden the game you don't really retire from the game or sport, the sport retires from you. And so when you walk away from it, all of a sudden now you're forced to be somebody that you're not familiar with.

Ryan Nece (05:54):

You're now in a position where you're trying to who you are. And maybe even more importantly, what's going to give you the passion to wake up every single day. And that's it. I don't care what industry you're in, change is very hard. And whether you went from being a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher, and you had to go into a whole new field that you were unfamiliar with, or a whole new arena that you weren't familiar with. That would be daunting for everybody. So that just inherently the job itself puts you in a position to be able at a disadvantage when you transition. The second thing, most athletes aren't proactive, the way that you were. Most athletes aren't asking question after question, and aren't being told, "Hey you're asking too many questions," and aren't seeking out environments where they're uncomfortable and it's just not in the nature.

Ryan Nece (06:40):

Most athletes, people come to them, they bring you your equipment, they bring you your food, they bring you your schedule and it's there in place for you to then optimize. It's very rare that you have to go and seek out, "Who should I spend time with and why should I spend time with them? And what do I need to learn to get better?" And then I think one of the other things that's really hard Dhani, depending on how long you play for, if you play for a long time in the league, you start to build up a certain bravado that you are the man, or you are the woman. You are the elite. You are the alpha in this idea of going back to being a rookie becomes very foreign. And so most athletes go, "You know what? I just want to be Dhani. I want to just go run my own podcast or run my own firm or run my own company."

Ryan Nece (07:23):

And they don't realize the time and energy and effort you put in over the last decade after you were done playing, to put yourself in a position to succeed, you went backwards to go forward. And so a lot of the athletes, I think, struggle with that. And then finally, I mean, there's so many things, but one of the things I've found over the years, that a lot of athletes also struggle with, especially the ones that are capable of doing more than just their sport. They go, "You know what Dhani? You'd be graded insurance. You'd be great at wealth advisor, you'd be great in media." And they start telling you all these things that you could be great at, and you probably could.

Ryan Nece (07:58):

But what happens is it starts to become paralysis by analysis. You end up not planting your flag and you start to dabble and think about, "Should I try this? Should I try that? I don't want to lean in too much here because I may miss an opportunity over here." And so you end up spending two or three years just floating and never committed. I think the ones that commit and say, "I'm going to do this for six months. I'm going to do this for a year. And then see if I like it. See if I want to move on." Are the ones that seem to have a better transition. But if you float for a while, it just delays the inevitable as sooner or later, you got to plant your flag and start to focus on what you want to accomplish and what you want to achieve. So those are a few things.

Dhani Jones (08:39):

Yeah. Lloyd Carr great University of Michigan coach always said, "At some point you have to plant your feet and say who you are and what you believe in." And I think it's the same thing that you're referring to when you look at the world of business and that spin cycle is a very real thing. And it doesn't matter if you're where you are right now, Next Play Capital, or where I am with Qey Capital, we've all spun. It's just a matter of how long you continue to spin for. And that ego is a very real thing in order to be able to... Yeah, and I wouldn't necessarily term it as going backwards to go forward. And I don't think you were saying that. I think it's more of, how do you kind of take a step back learn, right?

Dhani Jones (09:18):

And then move forward. And I think that's one of the most important characteristics that a lot of players just miss. And it does reflect in the amount of time you've been in the league, because if you've been in there for two years, you're like, "I never really got my feet off the ground." But if you've been in there 20 years, man, you can't tell me anything at all right. You can't tell me anything. I've been in the league. I've done this, I've played this game. I know exactly who I am or where I want to be. And I'm going to be at the helmet. And the fact is, when you move into these future roles of leadership, it's important to learn from the very best as I know you have, especially through your upbringing. And then also through the friends and family and the people in the community that you've built around you in order to arrive at the leadership role. So I mean, as I think about some of the things that have prepared me for those leadership roles, what specific things within the NFL do you think have put you there?

Ryan Nece (10:12):

Well, yeah, I think it's three things. One, it's the ability to be around men, obviously in the NFL that have achieved a certain level of success that few other individuals have achieved. And what I mean by that being around the 1,500 men in the NFL. And I say that because it's a brotherhood beyond just your team. It's an unbelievable experience to be around these individuals because you get to see what it takes to be excellent. You start to learn the habits of what it takes to be successful at the very top of your game. You don't just wake up and all of a sudden roll out of bed and you're able to be a Hall of Famer or a Super Bowl champion. There was a lot of time and dedication. I think about John Lynch, who just went into the Hall of Fame, the GM of the 49ers. Dhani, this guy would be at practice before everybody.

Ryan Nece (11:01):

I remember coming in at 6:00 AM. The guy's been there for an hour stretching going through routine, he's six years in the league. What's he doing spending an hour stretching? He'd be after practice and he'd spend an hour tackling, a tackle dummy, just a dummy for an hour, just practicing his tackle technique. I didn't understand it, when I was younger, but I started to understand he was developing the discipline and the routine of pursuing excellence, continuing to refine the small details over and over again, to be the player that he wanted to be. So being in that environment, it prepares you to start to look for those clues outside of football, who are the other individuals in business, and whether it's lawyers or doctors, that approached their craft in a very similar fashion? The second thing I think is the huddle, right?

Ryan Nece (11:49):

The beauty of the huddle, being in a huddle with individuals from all walks of life, you went to Michigan, I went to UCLA. You come from a different family than I come from, but when we get in that huddle, man, we're brothers and we're now pursuing something bigger than self. We are now pursuing a goal and an initiative to go and achieve a particular game plan that to me is unifying. And I think it was a privilege to be in a huddle with men from all walks of life that I probably would have never interacted with unless I had that opportunity to be in that huddle. And I think in life, as we've learned, and we think about all the statistics that are out there, especially in our business, how important it is to have diverse perspectives at the table?

Ryan Nece (12:31):

Who's in your huddle now? Everybody looked the same? Does everybody come from the similar walks of life? The more diverse your huddle can be in and having perspectives that are people that are like-minded pursuing something bigger than self. I think the better we all would be in making decisions. And then the third is this acceptance of learning how to absorb pain or be comfortable with pain. And what I mean by that as an athlete, you know and I can see your face, you have to do the things you don't want to do to be the person or the player that you want to be. And oftentimes that comes with grueling regimens of training and routines and preparing your body and callousing your body to go and play at the highest level. And it seemed almost easy. We accepted it, but it was a mental mindset, a mental toughness to say, "Yeah, I tore my PCL, but it's okay, I'll play. I'll find ways to commit. I'll find ways to navigate the waters."

Ryan Nece (13:28):

It's okay. I got to wake up at 5:00 AM and run until I almost throw up or do this training until I bleed, we accept that because we knew the results and the benefit of that. I think often in life, man, we come across a lot of people that it's easy for them to define success. These are the goals, these are the things that I want to achieve, but very few people can define their level of pain threshold or the things that they're willing to do to achieve that goal. And so for me, it was this willingness to start to learn. And if I wanted to be this, it was going to come at a price and I had to figure out mentally how to do that and embrace that. And still today, there are things that I want to achieve and things that I want to do. And that comes with great sacrifice and this willingness to embrace pain.

Dhani Jones (14:15):

Well said. And I can't thank you more for laying it out like that because I think a lot of people don't realize how much of a level of endurance it takes in order to build that callous and the amount of habits that you have to continually reinforce in order to be able to even get to that level where you can have that success.

Ryan Nece (14:37):


Dhani Jones (14:38):

People are like, "Why are you waking up so early? Why are you staying there so late?" Well, it's the same way with weights, "Why are you lifting so many weights?" It's not just the weight. It's also the endurance that my hands must go through in order for me to continue lift that weight so that as my hands get stronger, my body gets stronger, as my body gets stronger, my mind gets stronger. So thank you for laying it out like that.

Dhani Jones (14:59):

And to speaking of success, both on the field, you've had tremendous success, off the field. And one of the things that kicked you off was Straight Cast and this authentic content and so many people used it and it was so before it's time. And-

Ryan Nece (15:21):

Way before its time.

Dhani Jones (15:23):

It was way before it's time. And it got acquired by a Fox Sports.

Ryan Nece (15:26):


Dhani Jones (15:27):

So what did you learn from that deal? How did you even come up with that deal? And what did it take to actually get that deal done?

Ryan Nece (15:37):

Yeah. There's a lot in there. I think it's interesting because one of the things that I've also been driven in, and I say, it's really more selfish. It's this idea of meeting needs for other people. I get more out of life when I'm finding ways to create solutions for others. That's why we have a foundation that's mantras the power of giving. The businesses that I've been involved with, were identifying a particularly need and building around that. And I say that because that's where Straight Cast came out of, I was working at a family office. I was an investor and an analyst at this family office, DeBartolo family down in Tampa, shout out to the DeBartolo family for allowing me to come and be in the office and try to figure things out for a little while.

Ryan Nece (16:19):

And then a former teammate who you know who was in business school guy named Jeb Terry called me up. He was graduating from business school. He said, "I have this idea. And I'd love for you to help me with this idea." And he told me about this vision of Straight Cast. And we decided to co-found the business and the business was very simple. How do we find ways to give athletes the ability to create authentic, real video content in real time, and then send it to television in 15 seconds or across their social? And today we say that, and it sounds like that's everywhere. What are you talking about? But in 2010, that didn't exist. Video was still somewhat taboo, especially raw video people recording from their phones. But we even today, it's really hard if I say, Dhani, send me a video, record a two minute video of you talking or working out an email that file size is too big. It's really clunky. It's hard to then get that file downloaded, uploaded into television, blah, blah, blah.

Ryan Nece (17:19):

So we created a platform that allowed individuals an application to record a video and after they press send, it could be pulled up. And then the back ends of Fox ESPN, all these major media outlets. And the reason we did it is because at that time, if you remember, so many guys are doing Twitter and people were getting in trouble for them, things they were writing late at night, or remember coach N-word don't press send. And partly because things would get misinterpreted. It was a new form, it was a new medium. How do you actually communicate? And then we also learned, I was never big star, but there was a lot of big stars. They would have ghost writers writing on their behalf. So it wasn't really form true form of content.

Ryan Nece (18:02):

But if I could get Dhani after a game, in the locker room, on the team bus or on the team plane recording a video and that's content is king. That was content that very few people had in the world. And then we also had the model, which actually didn't work out the best where we'd have the media companies pay for that content. And then we would trickle it back down to the player. Because you're the world's expert and why should we do the interview after the game and then walk away? And all these media companies were monetizing that amazing content. So somehow some way we wanted to figure out how to pay the athlete. And that messes with your model a little bit when you start eating up your margin that way.

Ryan Nece (18:44):

But nevertheless, we built it to a point where we had thousands of athletes creating content at all different times, both ESPN and Fox, you name it, media outlets, both digitally and in traditional television, were using that content. And we got to a point where we raised some money. We were not achieving the goals we wanted to, to get to the next round of funding, full transparency. And so we figured out, "Well, we got to figure out what's our exit here. How do we make sure the company can survive and go on?" And we had a chance to position Fox and ESPN against each other. And we said to ESPN, Fox wants it an exclusivity. And we said, the Fox ESPN wants exclusivity. And those two, like most things, hey, look, they don't want one to get the better of them.

Ryan Nece (19:33):

And so fortunately Fox came to us and said, "We want the whole thing." And they came to us and we ended up striking a deal with them and they ended up buying it. We had an earn-out Jeb went and spent two years in the earn-out. I decided to leave and go start Straight Cast. And really that's the story behind it. But it was humbling buy for a brother. I would much rather run down the field on kickoff and hit 300 pound hit the wedge hit 300 pound lineman over and over then the early days and the start-up because just, you know what I mean, you're literally drinking from a fire hose. You're the legal team, you're the marketing team. You're the accounting team. You're doing it all.

Ryan Nece (20:09):

And with very limited experience or resources. And so I have so much more empathy for the individuals and men, women go, "I'm going to go do this and build this." And everybody goes out, "That's impossible because they, everybody told us it was impossible." And somehow some way they find ways to figure it out and make it become possible. And that's just a beautiful thing.

Dhani Jones (20:30):

But that's the entrepreneurial spirit.

Ryan Nece (20:31):


Dhani Jones (20:32):

That's the outside linebacker, that's the middle linebacker, that's being on the field and sometimes making it up. I mean, no matter how many times you practice, no matter how many times your coach runs through with the scout team and they try to give you these looks, there's always a little wrinkle. And I always tell people that wrinkle is where you really start to shine. That's really where you start to learn your most valuable lesson because you got to figure it out. And a lot of people don't have enough endurance. They don't have enough habits that have been instituted so that they can actually get to the point where their brain goes out on it's own. And you were able to do that in your exit, which I think is phenomenal. Would that be something you would have done differently with Straight Cast today versus from before?

Ryan Nece (21:20):

Yeah. And it's kind of the advice I give to a lot of early on founders is one. I would've created a stronger advisory board from the beginning, just like sports. You didn't get there by yourself. You had unbelievable coaches that gave you the information, that prepared you to put you in a position to say, "This is what you should do." And then to your point, the artist or the true athlete then takes that and goes, "Okay, I get that. I'm going to play it a little bit different." And so having that individuals around you to give you that advice early on, or the coaches or an advisory board, I think would have really helped us, especially individuals that are from that arena. And then the other thing that I would have done is probably spent more time with founders because it's very lonely. And what I mean by that, Dhani, you know this, one of the things that's really hard for athletes is to ever ask for help or never say, it's not going well or ever say I'm hurt and that's ingrained in our mind.

Ryan Nece (22:18):

But as a founder, it's similar. It's hard to tell your investors or your board or your employees, "Hey, this burning down behind me right now in this thing is going sideways and I don't know what to do and to really ask for help." And the only way to me to do that is probably find other individuals that understand when you say it's burning down what it really means. And so spending a little bit more time with founders and other individuals that have walked that walk probably would've gave us some ease and probably wouldn't have allowed me to lose my hair so fast. And so lowered the stress level and the anxiety we had as founders early on.

Dhani Jones (23:02):

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Dhani Jones (23:47):

So you started this company, exit this company, and then you migrate onto this amazing company in terms of the Next Play Capital. How are you all, or how did you take the lessons of Straight Cast and evolve that into the world of venture investing? Because sometimes a lot of founders like, they're like, "I'll start one company, go start another company." You said, "Well, I'm going to start one company. I got a couple other ideas, but inevitably, I'm going to get a bunch of people around the table when we get a bunch of money around the table, and I'm going to start doing deals that includes maybe some ideas, but also other people's ideas." But how are you doing it differently? Because there's a lot of VC firms that are out there that have their perspective. They have their own thesis. What's Ryan Nece's thesis with Next Play Capital?

Ryan Nece (24:35):

Yeah. And again, it started with a need. There were so many players that would come to me. And just like, whether it's you know, a dentist or a mechanic or a doctor, people kind of gravitate towards individuals that they think are in a particular field and they go, "Hey, I have this idea that I'm working on or I'm investing in this company." And so many people, especially athletes would come to me, "Hey, Nece, you're in tech, will you look at this opportunity? What do you think about this? I'm going to invest in this. I'm putting a lot of money in." It was frustrating to see a lot of men and women put money into things that have low probability of success. And the thing about venture is people don't realize 90 plus percent of all the returns come from 5% of the venture funds.

Ryan Nece (25:17):

It is a small concentration of managers that find ways to invest in the men and women that are really creating these transformational companies and those VC firms, the first round union squares Excels, Greylocks, Andreessens, Sequoias, Benchmarks of the world. They don't need people's capital. They are turning away hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars of people begging them to give them money because they generate these amazing returns. And so I always felt that if we could find ways to get access to those managers and give our community of athletes and influencers and other individuals, the ability to invest like an institution with the best firms, that would help solve this need of scratching this itch and giving our community that put dollars to work in venture and back some of the most amazing companies. And so that was the premise. And how do we give our investors the ability to have a seat at the table?

Ryan Nece (26:11):

And then at times, if we could maybe invest alongside these world-class managers into some transformational businesses and get a piece of those companies as well. And so, it's been an amazing journey. We're crossover 400 million under management, we've invested in 25 other venture funds. We've invested in 40 companies. We had six IPO's this year, we're investors in companies like Impossible Foods, Bytedance, which is TikTok, UiPath, Hims & Hers, and a bunch of other Guild Education, a bunch of other amazing companies.

Ryan Nece (26:44):

But Dhani, that thing that I'm proud of, man, 75% of our investors are minority. 60% are black in a community that has historically not had the ability to get access to alternatives, let alone true venture in the best funds creating this community of investors and being able to be a good steward of their capital and man, that drives me and wakes me up every single day of how do we continue to be this conduit so that we can have more diverse perspectives and more individuals that represent what America really looks like in these rooms, spending time, putting dollars to work in, man, that excites me and we're going to continue to build from there.

Ryan Nece (27:26):

On top of it, we also spend a lot of time with education. We have a fellowship program that we educate athletes. It's a two week program and 100 athletes apply this year. We have our Bridge Summit, our Iron Sharpens Iron Summit. It's not just giving capital, but again, this idea where it comes from being around men like you and others, this idea of curiosity, how can we hope? How can we make sure we're equipping you and everybody else with information that empowers them to go and be better decisions and better investors far beyond our own walls? So all those things, we spent a lot of time proud of what our teams accomplished and still a lot of work to do ahead.

Dhani Jones (28:04):

Still a lot of work ahead, and also a lot of money on the table that you get to manage and also you get to place. And it's all about those returns and you've done a phenomenal job. And the one thing I think about that you just pointed out is diversity and inclusion. I mean, I think it's important. It's the landscape of the future 2040. Tristan Walker talked about it through his Code2040 back in the day when he was laying that out in terms of the diversification of America, it is right here, it is front and center, and you're doing that Next Play Capital. And how do you think about that as it impacts the future of investing and the future of industries of tomorrow?

Ryan Nece (28:44):

Yeah. I mean, there's two things I also come back to and it again and think about what Dr. Martin Luther King would tell us. It's not just about the color of your skin. It's about the content and the character of an individual. And so it's amazing that we now have all this emphasis around investing in or bringing on more men and women of color and more minorities. I think it's extremely important. We need to have those initiatives. They've been around for a while. But we're continuing to embrace that more. But if we don't also focus on the quality of the individual and who they are and their character, and are able to find men and women that are just amazing individuals and really counted, oh, that happened to be black or happened to be Hispanic. Then I think we're all doing ourselves a disservice and that's short-term thinking.

Ryan Nece (29:30):

And so that's one of the things that I'm constantly championing when I talk to folks in our industry and peers and go, "Ryan, I'm trying to approach this. I'm trying to be a solution. I'm trying to be helpful," and man, make sure whatever it is that you're creating, whatever initiative that you have, that you take that into consideration. The other thing is endurance, Dhani. I mean, you know this at the beginning of every year, all of us have these New Year's resolutions and have these deep convictions of how we're going to live our life better and be healthier and be more fit, blah, blah, blah. And statistically 75%, if not higher of individuals abandoned all those resolutions and convictions in the first two weeks.

Dhani Jones (30:10):

I read that same article.

Ryan Nece (30:12):

Yeah. And so how the heck do we think that all of a sudden people are going to have the same convictions and have the same ability to have the endurance that's needed to stick with this idea that, "I'm going to be different. I'm going to try to find ways to help other individuals that aren't even themselves." And so having the endurance and putting in initiatives and programs that aren't just temporary, but that have a mindset of what does it look like in 10 years? And let's build backwards from there. And so that takes a more methodical and strategic approach around it. Those are the things that we spend time talking about. And quite frankly, the other thing is it's celebrating the men and women that are putting points on the board. I think people remember Jackie Robinson won because he happened to be the first black baseball player, but the dude was a phenomenal athlete.

Ryan Nece (31:01):

And granted he was a Bruin and there's a reason for that. But the guys stole more basis. He was the fastest guy. He hit better balls. He wasn't seeing the best pitches. He wasn't getting the best calls, but he outperformed everybody around them. And that's one of the reasons why they go, "Oh, shoot, we need more of that. We need more of that." And if we can start to celebrate individuals that are achieving levels of success, people are going to go, I want more of that. Because the end of the day, people are going to still be motivated by that all mighty dollar. And so we have to make sure we continue to champion the men and women that are out there putting points on the board that are taking initiatives that they're doing the things that are needed to be difference makers.

Ryan Nece (31:41):

And so I think about all the guys like Elliott Robinson and Michael Seibel and Richard Kirby and the laundry list of folks that I know you know in our community and the venture community that are putting points on the board that Tristan Walkers and all of them, great people, men out there and women as well that are doing some phenomenal things that I'm excited to celebrate.

Dhani Jones (32:03):

Yeah. And it's awesome that we all know the same people, but it's also challenging because we can list them off. Right?

Ryan Nece (32:11):

Yeah, I know. That's right.

Dhani Jones (32:12):

It comes in here thinking, "Oh man, Ryan's going to give me a name I've never known before." And I know everybody's name that you're talking about, but we keep celebrating the content of those people's character because they therefore reinforce that greatness that is found in so many of us. And I just want to say congratulations and working with DocuSign, I didn't even know you were working with them. I mean, how did you get that role?

Ryan Nece (32:37):

Yeah. That's a crazy-

Dhani Jones (32:39):

That's a big deal. I mean, so many people, I'm using DocuSign 10 times a day.

Ryan Nece (32:44):

There's a gentleman named Michael Arriata and Michael was chief of staff for the CEO and that I became friends with and he said, "Hey, we put together this small advisory board for DocuSign right before they were going public. We'd love for you to be on it." Michael, was one of these individuals, super talented high, high IQ and EQ, a Christian believer and just a really phenomenal human being. And now Michael actually is running a firm down in Atlanta called Garden City, which is a private equity shop. But Michael was the one that introduced me to the DocuSign team. And I'm just an advisor on the advisory board and there's a few of us that are out there and it's a special group. And again, it's our role and responsibility, really more to be an ambassador to the company and an ambassador for the things that they're trying to do.

Ryan Nece (33:34):

And in the way that they're trying to approach really changing the game on how we're signing contractual agreements in all industries. I mean, and there's not a moment in time I feel like that I'm not signing something digitally now. And the amazing part at DocuSign's behind all of that. And then internally too, how do we actually be supportive of what the company looks like on the inside? And so those are some of the things that we're used to powwow about and have conversations and provide input and support to the executive team and to the broader DocuSign community.

Ryan Nece (34:05):

So, yeah, I mean, you know this it's about, again, trying to get in the huddles with talented people. It's I always find that I'm in a position where I have imposter syndrome often and not sure that I'm worthy to be there, but hopefully I can provide a perspective that's unique and find ways to feel uncomfortable. And in those rooms, I always feel like I'm the one that's getting way more back than whatever it is that I'm giving.

Dhani Jones (34:30):

That's okay. That's where you're supposed to be in sometimes, that uncomfortable feeling is providing a lesson that therefore at a later date makes you more comfortable, but also makes you comfortable to tell somebody what they need to do while they're uncomfortable. And that's that huddle, that's that experience when you're sitting there and you're next to second year player and you've been in the league for a little bit of time. You got to counsel that young buck, you got to be able to give them that advice. And so, while you're doing that in the world of business, you also kind of take things to the next level with your Ryan Nece Foundation. So how has that been in this development, how's that affected the community and what are you excited about when it comes to your foundation?

Ryan Nece (35:18):

Yeah. I mean, it's crazy to think the foundations now celebrating year 15, which means I'm just getting older than the work that we're doing is exciting because it comes back to this idea. I don't know when you went into the league, one of the things that I've found, it's also really lonely as a rookie. You think you hang out, people was like, "Oh, you hang out with all your teammates all the time." Not really, they have families and kids and others. There's a small group of the rookies that maybe hang out with one another, but they're long days, foreign world, you don't know the city, you don't know where to eat or where to hang out, blah, blah, blah. And so one of the things I did early on to get acclimated to the city was I started volunteering, started working at nonprofits and churches and different community.

Ryan Nece (35:58):

The community service department with the bucks would wear me out. I would just volunteer, "Hey, send me wherever you need me." And then I became a person that was in the city. I became a community member. I became a citizen of Tampa Bay. And because I started to hang out with the people and I started to fall in love with that, through that, I realized that man, there's all these amazing organizations, they're doing phenomenal work to try to cure cancer, eradicate homelessness, find ways to solve some of the biggest issues that a lot of people in our cities are faced with. There's no reason why I should try to recreate another organization that's doing the same work that all these other great ones are doing. But what I did find was so many young minds were being indoctrinated with this idea of how to take care of self.

Ryan Nece (36:45):

And if you think about just some commercials, like obey your thirst or have it your way, or it's all about really self. And so I realized for me, if we could find ways to start teaching these young minds how to start thinking about others, that those are the individuals that are going to give more money into these great organizations that are going to sit on the boards that are going to be more productive citizens in society and help all these other nonprofits. And so anyways, I wrote a curriculum that teaches high school juniors and seniors, the principles of the power of giving. And so that's what our foundation does. It takes high school juniors and seniors do a two year program where they learn these fundamentals on how to think about others. And we start with one question in the program, and then we end with the same question.

Ryan Nece (37:30):

When's the last time you asked a family member or a family member or a friend, how can I help you? And if you can find ways to do that consistently in all areas of your life, you're probably going to start to embrace the power of giving, but you're indeed going to make your city, your community, your state, your country better. And so that's what we do with the organization. And again, it's 15 years and finding ways to continue to move the ball forward as you know raising a dollar for a nonprofit is probably the hardest dollar to raise because what you're giving back is a pat on the back and a big thank you. But man, I'm so proud of the students that have gone through our program now. And again, it makes me feel old because there's so many of them now that are shoot, they're out of college, they're working, they're giving back, they're active community members in all over the country now, which is awesome to see.

Dhani Jones (38:21):

Well, I applaud all of that and all the efforts. Because I think playing on the field, metaphorically speaking, you have 11 guys, but your point is, it needs to be 11 guys. And you add females, you diversify the huddle itself. Things start to change. The people in the stands and stadium and ownership, you can metaphorically use the world of football and all of the colors on the palette and the people in the stadium as this beautiful opportunity to open up people's minds and giving and thinking about others before you think about yourself is one of the most important ingredients that we all must have in order to be able to work together.

Dhani Jones (39:13):

So I appreciate what you've done, what you will continue to do. Last question. And we love this one. Which is your favorite celebration of a winning deal. I mean, you got all these things that are happening. You closing all these deals, you've got all these IPO's and you celebrate. Because no matter how much money you raise, no matter how many deals you close, you got to have that good time. In order to be able to say, thank you. And look, you want that pat on your back, you don't want the pat on the back to sit in at home. So where do you go to celebrate some of your winning deals?

Ryan Nece (39:50):

Man, you're absolutely right. Happiness is only real when shared. And so in those moments, you got to share it. And so in San Fran, Cauchari man is my go-to, it's a Mediterraneans Downtown San Fran, that restaurants phenomenal. And so we'll try to celebrate there as a team, if I'm in New York, it's Carbone, which is phenomenal. And in Tampa, when we do things, obviously with the foundation, there's a gentleman named Jeff Gigante, he's got a couple restaurants. So Jeff and his restaurant, his crew we'll hit up any of those restaurants because the food's great. And all of those individuals that come together and all those different spots, man, it's a lot of fun. So I had to throw three of you. I don't know if anybody's done that, but I had to try to step it up three different cities for you.

Dhani Jones (40:36):

You step it up and I want to be able to celebrate with you. So I can't wait to go to your events. I can't wait to spend more time. I can't wait to learn. I can't wait to be in uncomfortable situations as we both continue to learn. And most importantly, give back and expand the huddle. So I just want to say thank you again to you Ryan, for joining us on the show today and showing us how authenticity. It's courage, can help forge a better path for not only yourself, but your community as you say as well. Please remember to leave a review and to follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your favorite podcast. I'm Dhani Jones, and this has been The Pathfinders, presented by Ansarada. Thank you, Ryan.


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