Entrepreneur and venture capital expert, Christoph Sonnen, reunited with host Michael Redd to talk about his road to success and what betting on yourself really means to him.
Great business ideas are like surfing. You won’t make it if you’re too early, you won’t make it if you’re too late.” – Christoph Sonnen
Christoph is the co-founder and CEO of leAD sports accelerator and is also a partner at ADvantage Sports Tech Fund, joining forces with Jeremy Pressman and myself with a commitment to invest in early-stage tech companies shaping the future of sports.
Over the last 20 years, he has founded, managed, and sold several businesses, structured funds, investments, and accelerator projects. He is passionate about building the right team and believes in having the vision to be able to see the next big thing.
A world-class surfer, Christoph compares entrepreneurship and building a business to waiting for the perfect wave. That success is not so much about being the best, but knowing when to make your move as you see it.
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In this episode Michael and Christoph talked about:
- How great business ideas are like surfing
- Why startups need to learn how to hold their breath underwater (without panicking)
- Takeaways on Christoph’s first (and last) job at Red Bull
- How he combined sports, tech, and his venture experience to great success
- What the future of sports tech looks like
- The challenges and rewards of venture life
- And more!
- leAD Sports & Health Tech Partners
- ADvantage Sports Tech Fund
- Christoph Sonnen on LinkedIn
- Michael Redd on Instagram
Christoph Sonnen: Great business ideas are like surfing. You won't make it if you're too early and you won't make it if you're too late, and it's really important in surfing. So, it's really about the timing and the preparation to get onto that wave.
Michael Redd: Hey, everybody. This is Michael Redd and welcome to the Betting On Yourself podcast, where I interview successful entrepreneurs, athletes and other top performers who rose to the top, took success into their own hands and bet on themselves.
Michael Redd: It's been months since I've been able to connect with my good friend Christoph Sonnen, and I've been really looking forward to this reunion. Christoph has been an entrepreneur and venture capitalist for over 20 years. He is the co-founder and CEO of leAD Sports Accelerator and is also a partner at ADvantage Sports Tech Fund, joining forces with Jeremy Pressman and myself as we invest in early stage technology companies aimed at shaping the future of sports. Christoph is a people person. He is passionate about building the right team and believes in having the vision to be able to see the next big thing. A world-class surfer, he compares entrepreneurship and building a business to waiting for the perfect wave, as success is not so much about being the best, but knowing when to make your move as you see it. We talk about his road to success and what betting on yourself really means to him. Here's my conversation with Christoph.
Michael Redd: Christoph, man, thank you for being on the pod today. Means a lot for me. I wish I could see you. We've been talking about seeing each other and getting together to play golf or whatnot, but obviously the times have made it tough for us to do that.
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Do you remember when we met last and where?
Michael Redd: Oh, boy. Was it Berlin?
Christoph Sonnen: No. I give you a hint.
Michael Redd: Okay. Israel.
Christoph Sonnen: Yes, it is. And I still have goosebumps thinking of the last time we met there in Israel. We'd just celebrated our first close for the ADvantage Sports Tech Fund.
Michael Redd: Yes.
Christoph Sonnen: I remember it was at the OurCrowd summit in Jerusalem.
Michael Redd: That's exactly right.
Christoph Sonnen: It was February 14th, Valentine's Day, but more important, it was a Friday, so it was Shabbat and our brother and business partner [crosstalk 00:02:15]...
Michael Redd: Yes.
Christoph Sonnen: Jeremy took us to this local synagogue. Remember that? I had many great Shabbats in Israel, but this time Jeremy took it to a different level, remember that?
Michael Redd: Of course, of course.
Christoph Sonnen: And I give you another hint, the special place there was like, I mean, everybody was dressed in, obviously, in a Jewish Orthodox way. They prayed and danced crazy and then the two of us.
Michael Redd: Yeah.
Christoph Sonnen: So you, right... Let me just say it carefully, not the smallest African-American male, you're the only one there, and me, for sure the only German, right. So I mean, we definitely sticked out there and just, like, I want to remember, I mean, they start dancing crazy and singing crazy, right?
Michael Redd: Yes.
Christoph Sonnen: And they absolutely included us, though we... I would say, you broke the ice with your heavy dance, and man, you can dance. Not so sure about your singing but you've got a style of... Anyway, that was seven months ago, seven months ago.
Michael Redd: Yes, you're one of the rare people in the world, who've seen me dance and sing. We had a beautiful time that night and actually, man, you began to really connect on a different level, because you were sharing with me about your background as a surfer and we'll get into that in a little bit, but again, man, just grateful for you to be on this podcast. Many know you as the Founder, Co-Founder of leAD Accelerator and also a partner, obviously with the ADvantage Sports Tech Fund, with the incredible Adi Dassler family.
Michael Redd: I want to hear more about your perspective though on Betting On Yourself. What has that meant to you in your life?
Christoph Sonnen: Wow, that's a long one, because you actually asked me for my life story, so let's go in. Let's dive into that one.
Christoph Sonnen: I think like you, I started with sport before becoming an entrepreneur and, slash investor. My sport as you picked is surfing and I see great business ideas are like surfing. You won't make it if you're too early, you won't make it if you're too late, and that's really important in surfing. In surfing, the majority of the time, you wait for the perfect wave to come. You have to paddle to bring yourself in the right position and then you have to approach it, right? By the time you approach the wave, you already spent 90% of your time waiting for that situation, so you only have like 10 seconds to really approach it and in that short period of time, you don't want to be too early and you don't want to be too late, right?
Christoph Sonnen: So it's really about the timing and the preparation to get onto that wave, right? And I always prepared myself really, really well, so the first 20 years of my life, I made all my bets on surfing, not on business, not on investing, pure surfing and took a lot of risks, but I would say like I came really, really prepared and so later in business, I did the same. I just minimized the risk by being super prepared. I found in the first 20 years, like my perfect mix, as I said like in surfing, so like how to approach it, how to tangle it, not to be too early, not to be too late, right? And later in business where I made the business bets and investment bets, I found the perfect mix was people, places, culture, and foreseeing macro trends.
Christoph Sonnen: So I was always thinking in decades and thinking about, "Okay, I want to be super, super prepared, like in surfing," so I looked in the macro trends, what's going to be the next 10 years, what's going to be out there and found my mix in people, places, culture, so foreseeing what's going on in the social movement. And again, great business ideas for me are like surfing, you won't make it if you're too early or too late, and you need to have great people by your side, right place, right culture, for the business to take off and to surf that wave. So again, taking risks for me is normal, taking bets on myself is normal, coming from surfer, really important to be not too early and not too late and be prepared.
Michael Redd: That's exactly right, it's a great correlation. And I want to ask you this question about surfing, because I'm a big surfing nut, and me and you had maybe about a half an hour to hour conversation about surfing, and I've never surfed before but how did you wind up getting into surfing? Because for those who don't know, Christoph is like a world-class surfer and we talked about it at length earlier this year, but how did you get into surfing?
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah, so I grew up with my parents, they were Doctors/Engineers Without Borders in West Africa and for those who don't know, big continents and countries, like in Africa, in India, people tend to not swim, especially not in the oceans, so swimming is not a favorite thing there and so there's no surfing. But at a young age of three years, I was really fascinated by the waves, nobody was swimming, nobody was pretty much in the water and my parents, they teach me swimming first, a small river in West Africa. And then I was fascinated by the ocean and I couldn't give up, I wanted to swim, swim, swim, swim, swim, and at some point, I was just tired, a young child, and I took plywood to be and little wooden pieces, there was no surfing and played around with it.
Christoph Sonnen: And looking backwards, I think I played around with that plywood and surfed the waves on plywood for a couple of years. So I would say like it's fair to say I'm the best plywood surfer.
Michael Redd: Wow.
Christoph Sonnen: And then later on, when I had the first wave with a proper surfboard, it was pretty easy for me and, yeah, that's how it all started.
Michael Redd: Wow, yeah, one day, we will surf together at some point.
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah.
Michael Redd: Was there a pivotal moment... and you've had a number of them over the years when you pivoted, shifted, reinvented yourself... was there a pivotal moment as a youth or a teenager or young adult where you said, "I'm going to take this massive bet on myself?"
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah, again, the teenage time, the first 20 years was all the betting I had to do was on surfing, so it would be surfing. It would be just this bigger and bigger and bigger days when I lived in Maui, Hawaii and you're good at a point, but you're getting better. Like in better, like in any other sports and here it's like the waves are getting bigger and bigger and bigger and they're changing. So the whole bet was basically like, "Hey, can I get out there or is it just too crazy today," right? So this was like for months and months and months at the teenage time, my bets and then if you fail, it's not too bad if you know what you're doing, because you always, at some point, you fall on the water.
Christoph Sonnen: But you want to be, like really, like hold your breath, be able to have two, three minutes underwater, not get panicked. And I think, to your question, my bets was more like, "How long can I not panic under the water?" So this is really like that you have to train.
Michael Redd: Wow. I bet that advice is pretty relevant now with COVID all around the world, entrepreneurs, start ups, being able to last underwater, that's a great, great point there.
Christoph Sonnen: Without panicking, huh, just like think...
Michael Redd: Yeah.
Christoph Sonnen: Hey, we're going to do it, it's fine. We're going to survive it. No problem and we're going to pop up to the surface at some point.
Michael Redd: Wow, wow, that's so good and before, obviously, ADvantage and leAD, you were instrumental in Red Bull. Talk about that experience and how you got to, after getting your masters, transitioning now into Red Bull.
Christoph Sonnen: Yup, so was really, really interesting time. Red Bull was actually founded late '80s, so most people don't know, so I was really like early employee of Red Bull and that was actually my first and my last job. So after, I became an entrepreneur the rest of my life, but it was amazing because it was, first of all, when I joined, it was a true start up. It had nothing to do with the professional structures Red Bull has today, but it had this amazing vision from the founder and, at that time, from the managing director to go absolutely into... so I joined in the '90s and there was this time of extreme sports, like snow boarding. Like all those extreme sports came out, like skate boarding was at the peak, so it's like snow boarding, [crosstalk 00:11:30] surfing came later on, and we were really on the forefront of that being the sport guys on MTV, so to say.
Christoph Sonnen: And that helped really to build the brand and really, like truly, it was like a start up, right? It's like, I think, we made a lot of mistakes, but we made more things right than wrong and I think that's a true great start up story as Red Bull was a pure start up in the '90s, nothing to do with what it is today. So great experience, specially in the start up sense.
Michael Redd: Wow, so seeing that experience led you to other ventures and just talk about the mindset on transitioning, because you've transitioned a number of times over the last 20 years, plus, in operating in different capacities. Talk about that mindset, even within a business, and then personally, just transitioning constantly through life.
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah, I think, again, like I always use my surf methodology where you have to change, like every wave is different, every day is different, every weather is different, every beach is different, and with people around that are different. You have like different atmosphere all the time, when you go out, especially when you surf the world largest waves. And so transition came normal for me, but it's always like seeing like, "Hey, what's the right time?" So I was always like, "What is the right time to transition," right?
Christoph Sonnen: And I was like always being prepared myself and when the transition actually came, I couldn't foreseen it or I did foresee it. So I was like, "Okay, something else going to come in my life," and I was prepared for it. So transition was always like a natural, like an easy way for me, because of the preparation and the foreseeing of trends or give you a couple examples. Like, we invested largely and I transitioned myself a little bit from sports at that time into solar energy around the millennium and we made a lot of bets in investments into solar energy, which was at that time crazy. But if you could foresee the trends, and the people and the pace of life, like people just wanted to have renewable energy at that time, no matter what, so it was a great business.
Christoph Sonnen: By the time I had transitioned into that business, it was already like sold through a couple of years. So transition was always for me was a like years and years and years of process and nothing like rushed.
Michael Redd: Yeah, yeah. There are people that are listening to the podcast and they may not feel that they have the ability to do that. What will be your advice to people who are listening and saying, "Where's my motivation? How do I get motivation to take bets on myself?" What would you advise the listeners on how to do that?
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah, I think like knowing yourself is really, really important, and know your capabilities and they don't need to be the best... I don't think I'm the best in what we do, right? It's not about being the best, it's not about being the greatest. It's about understanding who you are and better the condition for yourself, like in sports, just train. Like identify your game, identify your play, and get better in it and then see your chances. Like when there is a time for transition, take it, right? Take it and be prepared.
Michael Redd: And you've been gifted with a lot of vision, like you were saying earlier in the conversation, seeing a decade out, the trends, micro trends, where things were going, and so along the way, you were able to combine sports and your sports experience and also technology in the venture world, right? So talk about that thought and where that germinate from.
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah, maybe that's a bit like our founding stories from leAD.
Michael Redd: Yeah.
Christoph Sonnen: leAD stands for the Legacy of Adi Dassler and companies called Lead Sports and House Tech Partners and it goes back like when I was together with the great grandson of Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas. I joined 10 years ago the multi family office called Adi Dassler International Family Office and obviously, we're sports guys, and we were thinking about what would Adi Dassler do today or what we can do for his legacy, right? We went out six years ago and made a feasibility study and sports tech was just starting, right? So it was traditional, handshake, leagues, and stadiums, and financing in that area. It was like the sport business, per se, right? But it was not like sponsorship was big already, for sure, but like it was not, there was not too much tech in there, right? So it just popped up.
Christoph Sonnen: So we did our feasibility study, traveled around the world and realized that there's so many good young entrepreneurs out there in the field of sports tech, but actually nobody was investing in them and that's just six, seven years ago. And we realized that our old school sports, so to say, finally going to be disrupted to technology and so there was a transition I made, transition like the family made to basically go back and say, "Yup, we believed seven years ago that this is the future of sports, it's sports technology."
Michael Redd: Wow, and it's been really impressive, so honored to be a part, as a venture partner at ADvantage and just really seeing so much in innovation in sports. And it was interesting, Christoph, and as you know, being around the family, you can feel the passion that they have for not only sports, but also innovation, which is the legacy of their grandfather and great grandfather.
Christoph Sonnen: Yup, absolutely. I mean he was a great inventor. He was like the Shoemaker in World War II and after World War II. I would argue, he was not the best businessman, it was more his wife, but he wanted to have a shoe for every athlete in every sport. So now, full stop. We are in 1940s, right, nobody was thinking, "Do we need a different shoe for playing basketball, for running, for ice hockey," for whatever. It was all one boot, so to say, right? And it's like if you'll run long distance, short distance, well, it takes the same boot, 1950s, that is like...
Christoph Sonnen: So and he was driven, driven, by like, "Hey, if we run and it rains, shouldn't that have a different sole? Shouldn't it be a different shoe? Shouldn't it give you like a different grip to the ground," right? Isn't like basketball completely different to handball, to soccer, to all of it, right? And he was this great innovator in the field. And when we talked about what would he do today, right? What would Adi Dassler do today and there was a big discussion and the family was like, how he would bring his innovation in the sports of today and he wouldn't do any shoes anymore because they're pretty good right now, right? He definitely would help the young sports tech entrepreneurs to succeed, and that's what we do, so yes, family is super excited.
Michael Redd: You personally as an athlete, when you look at all of the innovation and technology that's out there to continue to long gate an athlete's career, how do you feel about what you're seeing and doesn't it make you feel a little jealous? Like, "Man, if I had this when I was really active as being an athlete, this would totally change ang rearrange my whole career?"
Christoph Sonnen: Yes, I know, I do. I mean, it's absolutely like outstanding and it's like, "Oh, I wish that we would have that 20 years ago." But I ask myself that question and then it's just like, "Oh, when I like out big surfing in the '90s, right, or '80s even, what were people doing in the '60s, right, 28 years before?"
Christoph Sonnen: And it's the same thing as like, "Okay, they didn't have the surf boards, they didn't have the technology we have." They didn't have the removable fins. Poor guys had to basically have the fins stick, integrated in the surf board. If they break the fin, the board is gone, right. So I would just like, "Oh," by the size of a wave, I would change my fins and so there was like, even if it was not tech as we're pertaining it today, but, yes, I had an advantage over the guys like 20 years before me, so fair enough.
Michael Redd: I mean, and we get so much access to so many different things. How do you personally differentiate between the opportunities that you see?
Christoph Sonnen: I mean, you see it and glad to have on the team, but like it's crazy, it gets more every day, right? It's like every day. Stuff like a year ago or when we met, that's probably the peak, yeah?
Michael Redd: Yeah.
Christoph Sonnen: We've seen so much techs and we've seen so much innovation, but I mean it's just non-stop. It's getting more and more and more and it's going to go on like the different directions. But for me, always most important is the team, there's so many great ideas. They may succeed or they may have failed, but for me, it's always the team. And even I'm a surfer, for me still, entrepreneurship and sports is team sports. Not everybody agrees, that's fine, but I find it hard if you're just by yourself, an athlete or like an entrepreneur and just doing yourself. For sure there's great examples for it, but I think the majority of athletes and entrepreneurs is like team eventers or team sports.
Christoph Sonnen: So I always start looking at the teams first before I fall in love with an idea because it's easy to get all over one idea, all over an IP somebody has and then you meet the team later and you're like, "Oh," maybe they have conflict with the person and they can't pull together, right? So it's really important. And maybe I can't help, maybe the person's great, but I cannot be helpful. So I always see, like first, how's the people factor, can I really help, right? That's my second question, first, like people.
Michael Redd: Yeah.
Christoph Sonnen: And then technology, can it be done? What can we bring on the table, and what are the uses, right? And often, not to be too negative, but often, a lot of great ideas are really tailored to a small problem and it can translate to others. So I always try to see, like if somebody, for example, has like a product in soccer, I wonder like, "Hey, can you use this in other sports?" Because, yes, soccer's a massive market, but it's still like a narrow view of it.
Michael Redd: Wow, and you mentioned team, and the one thing that I've been impressed with beyond the thesis of ADvantage is our team and our team is really rock solid. Talk about how important that's been from a venture standpoint to have an incredible team.
Christoph Sonnen: Yes, you mentioned like ADvantage Sports Tech Fund, it all started like with an old friendship I have with Israeli company OurCrowd and we co-GP-ed on that and that's the first friendship here. And, again, it's a special one, like to have funds and that large operation between a German and a Israeli company.
Michael Redd: Right.
Christoph Sonnen: And people, even still today.
Michael Redd: Yeah.
Christoph Sonnen: I think that says a lot and out of this [inaudible 00:22:34] partner, great friendship. Alex came in from the family, he came in quite young, so he was a rookie in a team. I think was hard for him being the great grandson from Adi Dassler and really coming in as a rookie in a team, and taking all the challenge we gave him and he took it amazingly and couldn't do it any better. And so, yeah, so he's a big part of the team now, and so do you, right? And I think like we growing it right now, but with that spirit we four have in mind, it's easy to add on great people and be even a greater team.
Christoph Sonnen: And I think it's also important, like none of us is the, per se, the number one person, right? That says a lot, too. Has not been one player, it's not like, "Oh, Christoph is the greatest player in the team or Jeremy or you or Alex," right? It is a team effort, right?
Michael Redd: Totally agree. Totally agree, and if you wouldn't mind, just kind of share a little bit what we're looking at as far as deal flow, what technologies that we're really, really keen on right now.
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah, I think like when we started we were looking into fan engagement, we were really excited about fan engagement and all the technology around that. We looked at e-sports, less as teams, but more like in a infrastructure around the connected athlete, all the devices, but we're not looking at the heart, we were almost looking at the software behind it, right? And I think, like my point of view and again, like in the team, we all play different positions. It's important, too, that we don't play the same positions. We all have a different opinion and a different answer to your question, but I try to see like where's a holistic technology.
Christoph Sonnen: Because I'm kind of think, see the next thing is like, "Okay, I have my training app, but if my training app doesn't know what I eat and drink the night before, it's not a good training app, because it just gives me the wrong measurements, right? If I had a good sleep the night before or a bad sleep, it should like change my training efforts and this holistic approach, still is missing to some degree, so I'm really looking into technologies, into that space. And then for me again, but that's just my position in the team, I always like to foresee the next decade, right? And the next decade is... Today, it's easy to say it, three years, or three years ago, it was not that easy to say.
Christoph Sonnen: It's like for me, the wider health, mindfulness takes really, really big part and I think like all technologies, specially like when we were professional athletes and the training devices, it should go in that direction. So I'm really going more into health, even into med-tech, so sports meet health and med-tech and that's my personal view and the direction I'm see... and mindfulness for sure will play like a huge... betterness, mindfulness, a huge role into our investments in the future.
Michael Redd: I totally agree. I want to ask you a question about e-sports and it's been debated on whether with the explosion of e-sports, will digital athletes at some point be more popular than actual athletes?
Christoph Sonnen: I think it's going to be mixed. It's a hard question. I think it's for the Next Gen to answer that question. I'm certainly open for it, and I going to see that it's close, right. I think that it's going to be really, really, really close, that the e-sport athlete have same viewership, like same fan stadiums, and so on, but I think at the end of the day, again, I'm coming from trends, right? The trend is right now on e-sports, and it's not going to go away. It's there to stay, right? But with all the technology, with all the things we're having right now in the next decade, right, if you think like 10 years long, will it really be like growing bigger and bigger and bigger?
Christoph Sonnen: I think there's going to be a natural peak, too, and I do think that people going to go away from spending more and more and more hours. After high, high, high peak, right, after they're spending eight hours on computers or 10 on gaming, on tech, on home offices and whatever we're doing, right? And yes, it's going to accelerate in the next five years for sure, but is there an end? Is it going to go backwards? Little bit, I think so, yes. So I do believe like the traditional sports will have a little bit more important role.
Michael Redd: Let me ask you a question about this new reality, COVID, over the last seven eight months. It's completely rearranged everything in our world. How from your perspective has been the approach from entrepreneurs and start ups during this time? Have they been more innovative and creative with their decks, with their pitches? What have you seen from entrepreneurs in this new reality?
Christoph Sonnen: Yeah, definitely, I think that they're handling it really well. I think they're taking the chance. Surprisingly, not a lot of start ups like, because they're all so young... so they were not in 2008, so a lot of my advice comes from the financial crisis in 2008, where basically, a lot of big tech companies just had their [inaudible 00:28:03] and I think, my advice to the companies is just like, "You have to hang in, 2021 going to be not pretty."
Christoph Sonnen: Here's the misconception, where a lot of start ups think... and a lot of people by the way think... "Oh, at some point it's over and we're going to go back to the normal," right? And again, as a Futurologist, I would say like, no, we're not, never going to go back to normal. We're going to go into something more beautiful, that's fine, so let's not be scared. But it's not that we're going back to where we were before, and here's some start ups that they're feeling like, "No, we're going back where it was before," and they don't see like what happened 2008 and like how the ubers, the Airbnbs, and all these companies had [inaudible 00:28:46], right?
Christoph Sonnen: They really need to think, this is a chance, they're seeing it and they're working harder, which is great, but they may miss the absolute huge opportunity that now [inaudible 00:28:58]. But they're all doing good, they're all working in that direction, but they may have not the experience from 2008 that's now really like [inaudible 00:29:05], but they're all like hustling, they're all like better their condition and for their company for sure, so pretty proud of what I'm seeing out there, and it's hard.
Michael Redd: No, it is. It's very hard and one of the beautiful things about leAD, as well as ADvantage is the level of mentorship that's provided for these entrepreneurs. Talk to me about how important that's been for you in your own life as far as having mentors and people to help you along the way in your journey?
Christoph Sonnen: Oh, super important, like firstly, best mentors, definitely my parents, in business and in life. When I grew up, as I mentioned before like my parents were Doctors/Engineers Without Borders in Africa, and therefore employed by the German government. When we came back in the '80s to Germany, the earth, the rivers, the air was heavily polluted and my father, he really found his entrepreneurial spirit and founded one of the largest clean up solution companies and I was part of it since day one in mid-'80s. And so definitely like, one of the greatest mentors as today, I'm a parent.
Christoph Sonnen: We talked about my first and last job was Red Bull, important mentorship, to have that radical view on how in relatively okay tasting drink and also just relatively okay health wise succeed to an extreme sports marketing and having that vision, again, like 10 years before. So the founder of Red Bull and was not just him, was a couple really, really great leadership guys in the team, they foresee that and then was really, really like mentoring me in that way. So definitely like an inspiring time.
Christoph Sonnen: But we talked also about like what we're doing now, like with the leAD and it's not just like us giving and us being mentors to our start ups, but it's also like the legacy of Adi Dassler is so inspiring. As you know, as I mentioned before, we named our company leAD, Legacy for Adi Dassler, the Founder from Adidas, and it all started, what I said, like what Ali Dassler would do today, right? And I had like thousands of discussions with Inge, which is the daughter of Adi Dassler and amazing person, amazing spirit and the great, the grandchildren from Adi Dassler, Horst and Klaus and Alex, is in the team.
Christoph Sonnen: You never met him but the daughter, I spent a lot of time and so like Horst, the grandson from Adi Dassler, and all the stories, they're so inspiring and it's not just because we named leAD, Legacy of Adi Dassler, but that's what he stands for. So in all this together, like I was saying, between parents, inspiring time from Red Bull, and then founding the Legacy of Adi Dassler, diving deep into it and now giving it back, I think that's really, really inspiring. And not just the mentorship to our start up, but also like a mentorship for me.
Michael Redd: It's beautiful, man. I want to ask you this question about venture, what is the greatest reward of venture?
Christoph Sonnen: I think the greatest reward is if you have a profitable product and can have a small operation, and have like a great team, like can be a small team, it could be a small venture, but you see like that your idea is actually working. For me, it's not about the scale, it's just like we're all looking for big money, big scale. For me, it's like if you achieve that you're profitable, you have your own company, which is a venture, right? You have your own company, you don't need to be employed. You made it, you employ a couple of other people, you call them friends. I think that's a great, great, great achievement.
Michael Redd: The greatest challenge of venture?
Christoph Sonnen: Being not a surfer and understand there's a failure. Just remember, like even the best surfer, even the best surfer in the world, right? He going to fail at the end of his ride, crash in the water. It's going to be a failure, because he can't have his weight without a wave on the surf board. He going to fail and he going to drop in that water, right? And in venture, you're going to have failure and you have to deal with it, right, as an investor, as an entrepreneur, and it's you just have to see it. And the risk is here, that you hold it too long, especially as an entrepreneur, instead of saying, "Okay, that idea, A, didn't work out. Let me work on idea B, because I made so many experience."
Michael Redd: That's so good because so many entrepreneurs and people just in the world, they have a fear of failure and failure's just a part of the journey, and that's a great point, Christoph. I'll ask you this question, it's a personal question for you, do you prefer being the founder or being the venture guy?
Christoph Sonnen: Well, I'm an entrepreneur, so I think the answer's like, I see myself as a founder and if I have to... what are we doing? Invest, and somebody's calling me, "Invest," I say, "I'm not, I'm the co-founder," and they're like, "No, you're not. You're an investor." It's like, "Ah, okay, it's true." But I feel like a co-founder. So, yeah, [crosstalk 00:34:31], so it's all different [inaudible 00:34:32].
Michael Redd: Yeah, what continues to drive you to this day, with all that you've experienced?
Christoph Sonnen: I think like now, like on our company, like leAD, right, the whole how we developing in the future, right? The transition in this difficult times, with our portfolio companies, being there as a mentor for them, helping them out, and really like being on this beautiful like sports and health, like one of the trend which is not going to go away, especially now, right, everybody wants to live longer. We want to be healthier and we want to get some type of entertainment also out of sports. I think that drives me every day and that's the best I could wish for.
Michael Redd: I think ADvantage and leAD are literally on the cusp of incredible things over the next couple of years, as far as leaders in this whole space. The things that we're experiencing and seeing is just... and more importantly the people that we're encountering, the type of people, the type of leaders we're seeing has been remarkable, and it's been an honor to be a part of it.
Michael Redd: I'll ask you a question or two more. If you had to go back to your 16 year old self, what would you say or advise that 16 year old?
Christoph Sonnen: You want me to tell you what I would advise myself back in 1986? Hm, okay, so there was a first year roll out [inaudible 00:35:59] by the way. Let me think. Okay, I think, I would advise on the mix of giving back and kindness to oneself. Let me explain that. I always try to support and help, even when sometimes it's just the wrong time. As entrepreneurs and athletes, our drive, our internal energy defines us, but we need to fuel it some, right? The best long lasting fuel I ever had is use time is to oneself. Take time, be nice to yourself and appreciate what you really have earned and how hard you were working, without that, you cannot help others and that should always be a goal. So kindness to oneself is really my advice, especially in the teenage years.
Michael Redd: So we went backwards to your 16 year old self. Tell me now what you're seeing and sensing on the next decade, obviously with leAD, obviously with Sports Technology, ADvantage, what are you seeing in the next 10 years?
Christoph Sonnen: Now it's easy to say. That's an easy one because the decade just started. So obviously like, health, health is going to be like the number, number one macro trend, right, and how to live longer, how to live better, how to have more quality, and with that is going to be coming interesting questions like what is my legacy? What I'm standing for? Do I leave a house for my kids? Do I leave like a bank account from my [inaudible 00:37:26]? What people going to say if I'm not there anymore and if I look backwards, right?
Christoph Sonnen: And I think that whole mindset is changing radically right now. It was there before, but again, we're coming to mindfulness, we're coming from betterness, that's all beautiful parts of the next 10 years. But that's easy to say today, I actually like worked on the same principles two years ago when we were like on the forefront of Sports Tech, yes, we were, with leAD, and I changed our company name, and throw our DNA actually into sports and health tech partners, right? And so that was basically the result out of foreseeing, not that COVID is coming. No, no, no, I didn't see that, that the decade, the next decade, which we're now in has like a major in basically like health, longevity, mindfulness, betterness, right?
Christoph Sonnen: That that's important for the people and so you can build your investment thesis, any person's life around that actually.
Michael Redd: Man, sounds good, Christoph. It really does. Man, it's been an honor to have you a part of the Betting on Yourself podcast, man, and I promise you, we will play golf, and I promise you at some point, we will get to the surf board as well.
Christoph Sonnen: Oh, we need. That's like seven months ago, huh?
Michael Redd: I know. I know. I mean, it's funny. I have not been on a plane since March, so I haven't traveled and we've been home. So I tell you what, it's been a unique time of just like discovery and I think, too, also, and you can add to this, innovation and imagination. There's time to think and we've certainly been able to do that, so...
Christoph Sonnen: Yup.
Michael Redd: It's my honor, buddy, thank you so much, Christoph, your time, man.
Christoph Sonnen: Thanks for having me, thanks for having me and I think that's great closing words. There is also like good in the difficult and hard time and let's make the best out of it.
Michael Redd: You got it. That's bettering yourself.
Michael Redd: Christoph is an amazing man and I'm honored to be walking this journey with him. I hope his story and perspectives on entrepreneurship and his willingness to take risks resonate with you, as you work towards achieving your own goals. Stay tuned for more exciting guests coming up on this season of Betting on Yourself.
Michael Redd: Until next time, I'm Michael Redd, and remember, you are the secret to your success.
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