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Meet Mario Götze, the Entrepreneur

Boardroom spoke with the 2014 World Cup champ about spreading his wings as an angel investor as he returns to the tournament for a second run with Germany.

You probably know Mario Götze for scoring the game-winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final for Germany. Or for a decorated club career across Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, PSV Eindhoven, and currently Eintracht Frankfurt that includes five Bundesliga titles.

We’re here, however, to introduce you to the entrepreneurial side of the 30-year-old attacking midfielder who will once again compete at the World Cup as the German national team opens group play on Wednesday against Japan in Qatar.

Götze began his career as an investor in 2016 as a passion project, noticing some interesting similarities with his athletic pursuits. Founders of a business start with a vision and a small team, and then they get to work to achieve as many victories as they can.

“In soccer, we also have the season, working on things as a team, building a vision, and a common goal,” Götze told Boardroom over Zoom earlier this month. “It’s very similar to us as athletes.”

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Mario Götze now has 30-35 angel investments and managed funds, predominantly in pre-seed and seed rounds. He started with consumer brands like nutrition and wellness companies but has since expanded into a diverse set of categories like Web3 and sustainability companies.

Currently, 80-90% of the companies he’s invested in are based on meeting founders and believing in their vision. Götze also has an advisory board made up of a few trusted business leaders, micro VCs, and founders he’s developed over the years who have their own regular jobs. He even gets messages on LinkedIn pitching the star footballers on their respective visions.

“Because I’m so early pre-seed, the most important thing I’m looking for in a business is the founder, the vision, their leadership, and the team,” Götze said. “Because in the end, I have so few data points at that stage and you never know what’s happening in two, three, four, five years. So this is the only thing I can really assess in that stage. And then, of course, the signaling of other people investing. So if it’s a micro-fund or other business angel, I factor in how much they raise. There are a lot of factors that go into it.”

Being an internationally-recognized star with 8 million Instagram followers definitely helps when he’s talking to all these companies, but a major challenge for Götze is balancing deal flow with football and fatherhood, a process he believes he’ll benefit from long term. He sees Formula 1 drivers and other athletes start in their late 30s or 40s or after their careers are over, and recognizes the advantage of having a head start.

Over the last six months, Mario Götze has invested in a variety of different companies including:

  • NFT living asset platform Freeverse.io
  • Business training course company Junto
  • Virtual experience brand Virtex Stadium
  • Digital learning platform Knowunity
  • Digital careers site PowerUs
  • Cryptocurrency services firm Pile
  • Digital wealth management company RIDE Capital
  • Sports media management automated ScorePlay
  • Food and beverage data-driven software company Root Global
  • Automated renting platform Mietz for landlords and tenants

While this is quite a diverse group of companies, Götze said the common thread between all of them is the founder’s vision.

“I have to meet them and speak to them to really understand their passion behind it,” Götze said. “That’s the only thing I can assess in that early stage.”

One recent example of being really excited about a founder’s vision is a Berlin-based CBD brand called Sanity Group. Götze is always interested in how he can be better on the pitch and how CBD can help him as an athlete. Additionally, the rapidly growing industry is being regulated in a positive way in Germany.

“If the market opens in Europe, there’s a huge opportunity,” Götze said about CBD. “ScorePlay is very interesting right now because they try to have a licensing momentum now for different leagues where they can scale it and also go to the U.S. This is very interesting.“

Götze also has an eye on a Los Angeles-based company called Remedy Place, which is building what it’s calling social wellness clubs in LA and New York. Most of these companies he’s invested in are German-based but right now, he’s also exploring a more pan-European ecosystem. He didn’t choose to play in Frankfurt, one of Europe’s leading financial centers, for investing, but Götze still sees the benefits and the networking on both the media marketing and the venture sides.

While it’s normal for American athletes to be so heavily involved in business and investing, Götze estimates that Europe is still 5-10 years behind these trends.Europe is more fragmented because of the different countries and languages, but Götze still likes to study American athletes to understand their path and how the entrepreneurial culture evolved over time.

The two biggest things holding back Götze the investor are knowledge and time. Being on the road all the time as a footballer, taking care of his children, and also looking at 15 different pitch decks is a difficult juggling act. While he wants to play another six or seven years, preparing for life after football and knowing what he wants to do after his athletic career is over positions him well ahead of the game.

Until then, Mario Götze wants to build his portfolio out to 100-plus companies and then contribute to those founders and teams while learning from those businesses and their journeys. By the end of his own, Götze would love to become an expert on angel investing or VC, all while continue to build and learn along the way.

But knowing what he’ll do when he retires is a huge relief to Götze, who will try to win World Cups on the pitch and major VC deals off of it.

“I want to enjoy being an athlete — being a soccer player right now — because I think this time is very limited,” he said. “I have to stop at some point, but now, I can build a foundation for that post-career momentum.”

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