Seattle Seahawks star Bobby Wagner on tackling venture capital and business lessons from the field

All-Pro NFL linebacker Bobby Wagner may best be known for his smart reads on the gridiron. But the anchor on the Seattle Seahawks defense also is tackling a side career as a venture partner at Fuse Venture Partners, a newly-formed venture capital firm that’s investing in early-stage Seattle entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas.

Wagner, who became the NFL’s highest paid linebacker after famously negotiating his own contract extension in 2019, is bringing some of his savvy and quick moves to the startup boardroom.

We chatted with Wagner for our latest episode of 2025: Tomorrow, Today, a new podcast created by GeekWire Studios in partnership with Northern Trust. The 30-year-old Los Angeles native and second round draft pick for the Seahawks in 2012 offered business lessons from sports; shared a few hot investment trends; and even picked the top NFL players he’d invest in if they became entrepreneurs. Wagner is a 6-time All-Pro and active angel investor in companies such as Tonal and Denali Therapeutics.

Listen to today’s episode here, and subscribe to 2025: Tomorrow, Today in any podcast app to catch past and future episodes. 

Here are some selected excerpts from the conversation that Northern Trust’s Jordon Voss and I had with Wagner.

  • On the 49ers rivalry, and why he wants to keep homegrown Seattle entrepreneurs. “We don’t want nothing to do with the Bay Area, man (joking). Nah, I like the Bay. The Bay is good. Obviously, everything that has been built in Silicon Valley is something that a lot of places are trying to mimic, and rightfully so. There’s been a lot of amazing companies that have come out of there. But the companies that come out of Seattle should stay home, and be funded by their home.” (Minute 3:55).
  • On what he learned negotiating his own football contract that applies to negotiating with startups: “The two comparisons that I can make to both sides is understanding your value. …When players did do their own contract, they had this crazy value that they put on themselves. Imagine if I came into the building and I wanted as much as Russell Wilson — they would probably shut the door in my face. And so that goes back to a company. A company can be an amazing company, but they can set their valuation of their company so high to where they price themselves out. …If I had zero tackles, I am not going to ask for the most money ever. You can’t come in and value your company at $10 billion if you don’t have any sales, or you don’t have anything to justify why your company is worth that much.” (9:15)
  • On why he’s excited about health, wellness and fitness: “I think there are going to be a lot more home fitness spaces than people going to gyms. A lot of the things that we do as professional athletes are also accessible to the everyday person, so I think fitness is going to look really different in about five years. There are going to be a lot more at-home things.” (19:00)
  • On why the sports market is so hard to crack for startups: “There are so many different kinds of athletes — you have soccer, you have football, you have baseball. And you have so many different age groups.” (20:30)
  • On how the venture capital industry can boost diversity: “A lot of it is opportunity, giving someone an opportunity to intern, give someone an opportunity to sit in on a board meeting and be around the different companies that you are building and just giving them access. But for myself, it is passing that knowledge down. All the knowledge that I get, all the access that I get, I try to pass that down. And not open a door, and close it behind me. But open a door and see how many people behind me that I can pull in with me, and start showing the value of diversity, the value of having that different perspective than yours.” (32:00)
  • On his choice of any NFL player he’d like to back as an entrepreneur: “I am going to pick a couple.” (34:00)

The discussion with Wagner is part of a recent series with leading venture capitalists — including Dan Li of Madrona Venture Group and Julie Sandler of Pioneer Square Labs — where we’ve gotten their thoughts on key investment themes of the future.

See also  Bezos, Branson and the billionaire space race: What to watch when Amazon’s founder blasts off

Subscribe to 2025: Tomorrow, Today in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or any podcast app. This podcast is a partnership of GeekWire and Northern Trust. Produced and edited by Josh Kerns of Cypress Point Strategic Communications.

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