The Raiders defensive stalwart is expanding his business portfolio. He spoke to Boardroom about Slate, his investment strategy, and which athletes’ entrepreneurial spirit inspires him most.
Maxx Crosby is one of the NFL’s best edge rushers. Known throughout the league for his powerful defense and shrewd sensibilities, Crosby has expanded his skillset beyond the gridiron. Over the last few years, he’s tackled a number of different challenges, from media ventures to entrepreneurial endeavors.
Most recently, Crosby teamed up with Slate Milk as an equity investor. The company, founded by Manny Lubin and Josh Belinsky, first came to be when the two wanted to re-envision a childhood favorite: chocolate milk. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the two took their product to Shark Tank. Lubin told Boardroom that the experience was the entrepreneurship equivalent of the Super Bowl.
Although Mark Cuban and the sharks passed on the investment due to the company’s early stage at that point, Lubin and Belinsky didn’t give up. Since the show, they’ve expanded their reach to 13,000 stores and have raised $24 million — a far cry from the $400,000 they sought on the show. Last summer, they also secured an official sponsorship with the UFC after Dana White organically came across the product and became an avid consumer,
Crosby, an avid UFC fan, found out about Slate from White — and quickly wanted to get involved in an official capacity. Lubin sees Crosby as the perfect partner to help grow the brand in the NFL community and beyond.
Boardroom chatted with the Raiders star to discuss the investment, his approach to vetting business deals, and which athletes inspire him most off the field.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Bernadette Doykos: How did Slate Milk first come across your radar?
Maxx Crosby: The first time I received a can of Slate was, I believe, during my rookie year or second year in the league as part of a training camp care package that my agency sent me. I grew up on milk and chocolate milk, and I’m a big energy drink guy. I loved the product right away and thought it would be something that would blow up.
BD: Prior to investing in Slate Milk, you spoke with Dana White about the product. What was it about that conversation that made you increase your interest in the company?
MC: Dana has become a very great friend to me and my family. Dana shared with me his enthusiasm about the brand, the product, and the people behind it, and it matched everything that I had already believed. For Dana to bring them into his platform and have Slate branded across the UFC rings, it shows you how much he believes in the brand. But beyond that, the people behind it — Josh and Manny. They’re rockstars — hungry hustlers — those are the people I like to align myself with.
BD: I’m inclined to think that you get approached by a number of brands with investment opportunities. What was it about the company that made you want to invest?
MC: I get approached all the time about investing into businesses and brands.
But not every investment is a good investment. For me, I really have to believe in the product. Is it something that I use? That I believe in? Slate checked all those boxes for me.
Then, I look at the people behind it. Does their energy, philosophy, personality align with mine and align with how I personally attack my own profession? Like I said, Manny and Josh are incredible people and have an incredible team and vision that they’ll work relentlessly to achieve their goals.
I also look at who is also involved in the brand (Dana White, etc) and how they’ve been growing. I’m lucky to have a team of people who can work through a ton of diligence to determine what investment works for me. Slate checked all the boxes for me.
Now, I’m also actively looking into the growth sport sector and am starting a fund that will allow me and my partners to invest in and become owners in different sport properties.
BD: How do you see your role in the company now that you’re part of the ownership?
MC: Manny and team have a killer vision and strategy for Slate. I want to use my personal platform to help execute and bolster that plan, as well as tap into my own network to continue to grow our team. I would love to start a team of Slate athletes, help with community projects, identify potential growth initiatives and opportunities.
We’re just getting started, but I’m excited for my role.
BD: Have you recruited any teammates or other NFL players as Slate Milk devotees?
MC: I’ve definitely gifted some cans to my teammates and staff. I get hit up all the time for more.
BD: Are you a UFC guy? If so, who do you think is the most exciting person in the sport?
MC: I’m the BIGGEST UFC guy. I’ve been a massive fan my entire life and have tried to attend every event, including Slap, since I’ve been in the NFL. I’ve also trained and sparred with several of the fighters. I like mixing it up and adding in some MMA into my offseason.
Dana has created a massive property and one of the best sports experiences in the world. I think Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz still hold the title as the most exciting personalities in the UFC. They’re both electric personalities and tremendous fighters and know how to not only perform in the ring but to pull in the crowd. Suga Sean O’Malley is now building an incredible base and brings similar electricity to the ring.
And I have to give major props to Sean Strickland, who just won the middleweight belt. Sean is unapologetic himself and a savage. I got to spar with him this offseason, and we went at it.
BD: Last year, when Boardroom caught up with you, you mentioned that you were looking at some longer-term investments. Slate Milk is obviously one of those. What advice would you give to a fellow athlete who is looking at the process of vetting these kinds of opportunities? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the investing game so far?
MC: Best advice I’d give would be to:
- Make sure the product is something you absolutely believe in.
- Once you believe in it fully, make sure that you have people around you who know what they’re doing and can look at the fine print. There are too many stories of deals gone bad and players losing money.
As far as other companies, I’m actually working on several investments that are in fashion, sports, beverage, and entertainment categories. Will keep those private for the time being.
BD: Are there any athletes that you look up to in the way that they conduct their business of investments off the field?
MC: I have three icons tattooed on my torso — Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant. All three were tremendously innovative and shrewd investors. Another that I really look up to is Shaq. Shaq has leveraged his image into an empire.
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