Christian Ponder and Jason LaRose are building The Post — the ultimate networking hub and database for former college or pro athletes turned business people.
Professional athletes don’t need to be defined solely by their on-field accolades.
That’s the thought behind The Post, a professional networking hub for athletes, founded by Christian Ponder and Jason LaRose.
Ponder, who is also CEO, is a Florida State graduate that played four seasons in the NFL. LaRose is the former president of North America at Under Armour and most recently, Equinox Media CEO.
“The Post is taking the same environment that we played in when we had our teammates, coaches, trainings, and playbooks that were all about making the best athlete possible,” Ponder said. “It’s taking that same group within that same environment and giving you the teammates, coaches, and training to make you the best person possible within your respective field.”
Ponder spoke to Boardroom before The Post hosted a recent event at The Pendry, a five-star hotel in Hudson Yards.
“[This] is a continuation of an identity that has been a part of my life for so long,” Ponder said. “I think society looks at being an athlete as a liability. A lot of us, when we left sports, have really ran away from that identity and distanced ourselves from it because we don’t want to be viewed in a negative light.”
Membership within The Post provides the following:
- A curated board of advisors or “team” based on career stage and goals. The group will meet monthly to support one another in real-time leadership situations.
- Access to a network of athletes through The Post’s mobile app.
- A curriculum and content developed by educational and executive coaching veterans.
- Members-only events, focused on connectivity, support, and competition amongst members.
- A private clubhouse reserved for members and guests. It will hold co-working spaces, bookable boardrooms, recreation space, a podcast room, bar, and a luxe lounge.
“Our whole thesis and idea is that because sport is such a developmental tool and it builds character, grittiness, dedication, perseverance, these exact qualities make you successful in anything else in life,” LaRose said. “We want to lean into that and change the narrative of what it means to be an athlete.”
Funding for The Post dates back to last June. Will Ventures led a funding round with Andreessen Horowitz, Maveron, Parento Ventures and FJ Labs. Other investors in Will Ventures include OneTeam Partners, which represents professional player associations, including the NFLPA, MLBPA, WNBPA and the MLSPA. Before Will Ventures led the round last summer, Max Ventures incubated The Post.
The investments have been used to help The Post’s seven-member team create the company website and mobile app, and create leadership content with Motivate Labs at the University of Virginia.
Feeding The Post
To The Post, experience defines value. In their eyes, that’s two things: playing college sports and having five years of professional working experience. This eliminates any potential current college athletes who may not be looking to go pro in their respective sport. The team vows that will eventually change, though they can’t currently accept student-athletes.
“We call members of The Post professional athletes and athletic professionals,” Ponder said. “There is a vetting process and application process to be a member of The Post. We look at your athletic resume and your professional resume. We want to bring a lot of professional experience to the table because in order to provide value to our network we need members to be able to extract value.”
He added: “When I was a rookie in Minnesota, I immediately entered this space where I was surrounded by veterans who knew what it took to be successful and had a vested interest in my life. That’s what we are trying to create here.”
Tori Hanna, the Chief Brand Officer at The Post, gave more context.
“We are strategically building,” she said. “We definitely see that on the roadmap down our path. These NIL athletes are going to have more experience than any of us coming out of college sports because they’ve had to build their own brand and advocate for themselves. And so with that, it’s going to be unique skill for them but until we build the core of this company, we can’t take this to them yet.”
Hanna spent 18 years at Under Armour managing the company’s global sports marketing strategy.
Still, the process isn’t as simple as a job application — being a member comes with a price. For those who live close to one of the Post’s clubhouses, the tag is $5,000 annually. If you’re remote, the price is $2,500.
“You can’t buy your way in, you can’t buy that experience,” Ponder said. “You were either good enough to be a college athlete or you weren’t. That’s the minimum qualification. There have been so many athletes that have gone through the NCAA in the last 50 years and there’s nearly 500,000 that compete every year — we’re not taking all those people. We’re building what we want to be a world-class network and I think we’re well on the way of that. And so there needs to be a vetting process because in reality, what we’re really selling is the relationships that people have.”
“The nos will be thoughtful,” Hanna added. “We won’t just be sending out blanket emails or anything like that. The point is we have to build this the right way and with the right people.”
Growing Slow & Steady
As of Jan. 26, The Post had more than 500 applications and counting, with the network admitting 100 so far. But with 500 people vying to get in, why not weed through them to increase the network and gain revenue?
“We want to make sure that we scale this really thoughtfully and we continue to have experiences that are just what our members need and want from us,” LaRose said. “Another part of it is we are also trying to pair people in the right sets of teams. It’s all so that people can get the most out of the network as they possibly can.”
He also explained that If someone is accepted, they will hear from The Post within a month to figure out if they have the capacity for admission.
The company has had preliminary events over the last seven months, but none to officially kick off the club. The first official event will take place in March and will have 100 members. The Post did say it expects to approve between 400 and 500 members by this fall.
Only allowing a certain number of people into The Post is also what the founders hope makes the group diverse.
“The truth is locker rooms are way more diverse than boardrooms, so because we’re serving people who are formerly from locker rooms, it give us a huge leg up when it comes to the diversity of the group,” LaRose said. “We are paying attention to make sure that we are balanced in the diversity of our group. That is not only from a sport and ethnicity standpoint but a gender and life experiences point of view as well.”
The locations of The Post’s gatherings over 2022 varied, but in November, the team found a home in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The space is still being built out, but when it is done, it will include two conference rooms, a lounge, a game room, a podcast room, a pantry, a bar, and more. The Post expects the space to be ready in the spring.
The New York clubhouse will be The Post’s first physical location, with plans to eventually open more across the U.S.
“It’s a three-year roadmap that we would want to get a clubhouse outside of New York City,” Ponder said. “We have some milestones that we want to hit that so that we could go and raise our next fundraise and a big portion of that raise would be to the clubhouse.”
The co-founders are still working through the official clubhouse rules, but they did say they will base guidelines on respecting the people within the space.
Both Ponder and LaRose will be present on the ground during Super Bowl week, spreading the word about what The Post is, how it operates, and the advantages it has for people looking to start a new profession. According to the duo, most members and wait-listers trying to get into The Post have heard about it through word of mouth.
“A lot of it early on was LinkedIn searches,” Ponder said. “We have done no PR, we had one press release around the investment and that’s it.”
LaRose added: “The reality is the athlete community is really tight and now that we’re finally accepting members it’s just been amazing to see how fast they tell 10 people. It truly feels like we are about to boom.”
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