Issue No. 65: The Ultimate Warrior

Last Word: A Metaphor For Cleveland

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LeBron James steps off of the team plane wearing another statement, he’s “The Ultimate Warrior.” Just a week ago, it was a shirt that read “The Undertaker.” But you have to peel back a few layers to understand why – beyond curses and sports – this win was so important for the city of Cleveland and, frankly, the entire state of Ohio. You may not have heard of HOMAGE, the company who licensed the image and printed that shirt – one of millions that they’ll sell in 2016. If they do have investors, they are silent. They don’t have a Mattermark presence. And rarely do you see their CEO, Ryan Vesler. The product, in essence, does all of the public relations.

Just a few miles away, there is even larger eCommerce brand. It’s digitally vertical and it’s native to the web. It’s one of those DNVB’s that Andy Dunn describes, though it isn’t linked in his encyclopedia. They are growing faster than the majority of private eCommerce companies and yet, you’ve probably never heard of them. Rogue is building a $35M office structure for its 300+ employees and the eCommerce brand has never once been featured in TechCrunch or Recode or VentureBeat. If they do have investors, they are silent. You’ll rarely, if ever, hear from the company’s top two employees.

For sizable cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus this is the status quo; Cavs management, their season, and their story arc are all business as usual. Be underestimated until the very end. Even the major venture capital funds like Ohio’s Drive Capital (who manages $.5B) are inconspicuous compared to their coastal counterparts.

So, What Happened When Venture Capitalists Took Over The Warriors:

When I asked him about the previous night’s game, [Warriors Owner – Joe Jacob] could hardly contain himself. He boasted that the Warriors are playing in a far more sophisticated fashion than the rest of the league. “We’ve crushed them on the basketball court, and we’re going to for years because of the way we’ve built this team,” he said. But what really set the franchise apart, he said, was the way it operated as a business. “We’re light-years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things,” he said. “We’re going to be a handful for the rest of the N.B.A. to deal with for a long time.”

The ultimate lessons that I’ve learned over the years: is that (1) humility is far more effective than hubris. And (2) work for your team, not for the credit. The legacy that the Cavaliers’ 2015-2016 season will leave for Cleveland and its state? Ohio isn’t just good enough to compete, it’s an able competitor. Things are done differently, but things do get done. Ohio is an effective place to do business. Yes, there are fewer bets made. And those bets may involve less startup capital but places like Cleveland focus on finishing, not starting. It’s tougher to earn a win here but each win means more. Hype matters little compared to the outcome.

There are lessons that both regions can learn from one another. But the lesson that was taught last night? Put your team in a position to succeed and then let the work speak for itself. Hats off to the Warriors for an amazing season.

See more of the issue here.

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