NFL star Bobby Wagner helps kids get the tech exposure that shaped his life outside football

Former Seattle Seahawks star Bobby Wagner, who has since moved on to the Los Angeles Rams, during a stop at Step, a financial services company, on his tour of Silicon Valley tech companies and firms on Monday. (Tri Nguyen Photo)

Former Seattle Seahawks star Bobby Wagner looks back fondly on the opportunity he got away from football to learn more about business, financial literacy and technology. And now he’s helping young people experience those same opportunities.

In partnership with the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Next Play Capital, Wagner played host to about 21 students — including some from Seattle’s iUrban Teen — for a tour Monday of venture-backed companies and firms in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Wagner viewed it as an opportunity to take kids who might not otherwise get the opportunity and give them behind-the-scenes access to innovators in the venture ecosystem where they could hear about entrepreneurship, finance and early investing.

“The idea is just to get them exposed to something I was exposed to a little bit early on,” Wagner told GeekWire, adding that he chose Silicon Valley for the event because it mirrors an experience he had years ago. Last week he was in Seattle to host the King County Boys & Girls Club’s 2022 field day at Husky Stadium.

The Seahawks legend played 10 years in Seattle, where he won a Super Bowl title and established himself as a fan favorite in leading the team’s defense as captain. Wagner also tapped into the city’s tech scene, learning the ins and outs of venture and angel investing and ultimately joining Fuse as a general partner in 2020.

“We’re excited to continue to build with Bobby,” Fuse general partner Cameron Borumand told GeekWire back in March after the Seahawks traded the All-Pro linebacker to the Los Angeles Rams.

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On Monday, Wagner and the students visited Bessemer Venture Partners, a VC firm; Step, a financial services company; X, the research and development arm of Google; and Skydio, a drone manufacturer.

GeekWire caught up with Wagner to discuss helping kids, learning about the tech scene in L.A. and what he misses about Seattle. Our interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Students, including one handling a drone, center, at Skydio, a drone manufacturer. (Tri Nguyen Photo)

GeekWire: This event feels reminiscent of how you got started and got exposed to tech and business. Do you find yourself still learning about these companies and this tech scene?

Wagner: I definitely find myself still learning. There’s so many companies out there doing amazing things. And I’m still trying to learn every single one. This is as valuable an experience for me as it is for the kids.

What’s one lesson or experience today that you hope these kids will take home with them?

The biggest thing is I hope that they just realize that there’s more to business than just creating a company. There’s different ways of creating companies. You can invest in companies, you can buy companies, you can buy stock in some of the companies that you use on a day-to-day basis. Just exposing them to that and pushing the idea of financial literacy earlier. I didn’t know how to write a check or even understand any of that until I got to the league. I’m hoping this gives them confidence to dive into this stuff earlier than I did.

How are things with Fuse? Was there any thought of doing such a program with those guys in Seattle?

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I was trying to emulate the exact same thing that I did years ago, so that’s why I wanted to do it in Silicon Valley. But there’s nothing that stops me from expanding that to Fuse and even getting some kids to Seattle. I really feel like this could be the beginning of something that turns into something even bigger. With my connections in Silicon Valley, with my connections in Seattle, with my connections now in L.A., I think there’s definitely so many groups that we can touch. Maybe we’re a group that starts exposing kids to things that they should be learning in school.

You’re basically owning the West Coast. You’ve got Seattle, L.A. and the Bay Area.

That’s the plan. That’s the plan.

Bobby Wagner in action with the Seahawks in 2019. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

You’re hosting a football camp this week at your old high school. Talk a little bit about still turning kids on to football while also doing this business literacy thing.

Today we’re doing financial literacy for the older crowd and then Wednesday we get to run around and play the game that I love with young kids. Football is an amazing sport where you get exposed to so many different cultures. And there’s so many levels of leadership and team and sportsmanship. That’s what’s going to help me in life after football … in the world of business. I look forward to bringing that to everybody.

Can you compare the Seattle and L.A. tech scenes for us yet?

One difference between the Seattle scene and the L.A. scene is there’s probably a little more nightlife in L.A., so a lot of deals get done going out and doing things like that. I think Seattle’s kind of tech heavy but in L.A. there’s a little more variety because it’s so big. You have people that are interested in tech, you have people that do music that are also interested in tech, you have guys and girls that are interested in consumer tech. There’s so many different elements out here because who doesn’t love L.A.?

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Anything new or noteworthy you’re into right now in tech?

A lot of the stuff that we’re doing at Fuse is what I’m really excited about. I’m really excited to still stay connected because I feel the tech scene has been looking for that updated, young, hungry group, and we’re that group that’s going to give the city what they’re looking for.

What are you missing about Seattle?

I still go back so I don’t think it’ll truly hit me until I get into the season. The one thing that I feel like I’ll miss the most is being surrounded by all the trees and all the water, and how the moon hits the water at night. That’s something I remember. And of course the people.

Well, we wish you a lot of luck with the Rams, sort of … you know how that goes. It must feel weird to look down and see your number backwards on your jersey.

Yeah, a little bit. I’m excited for the new journey. … I feel the [Seattle] love. A lot of people think I’m gone for good. I just don’t play there anymore.

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