VC/Unpacked #10: Why I Hire Athletes

This series curates great content that folks interested in entrepreneurism and venture capital should explore. Some are from my own must list; others have been suggested by our community. Have a recommendation? Tell us about it.

Hi AVG Community,

I love hiring athletes. They tend to know how to compete, put the team before the individual, and grind out incremental improvement through disciplined, daily practice. While perhaps not trendy, these attributes have stood the test of time when it comes to building great things — startups included. In fact, one of my favorite interview questions or questions for an entrepreneur is, “What’s the best team you’ve been a part of, and what made it great?”

That said, most coaching books suck, and too many sport movies are clichéd. So here are some of my rare content “keepers” relating to sports that also have solid lessons for entrepreneurs.

Venture on,

- Mike Collins

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
By Phil Knight

This memoir is remarkably honest, funny, inspirational, humble, and wise. And yes, sports is a thread throughout the story, not just in Knight’s business focus, but from his relationship with his former track coach to his misfit team that “wins the tournament.” I love this book for its raw and compelling recounting of a long and nonlinear entrepreneurial journey. It’s also an object lesson in the challenges and rewards of taking the road less traveled and embracing the journey.


Moneyball: The Art of Wining an Unfair Game
By Michael Lewis

Moneyball is, at heart, an entrepreneurial tale of spotting an opportunity and disrupting through innovation. It recounts how the Oakland A’s reinvented themselves by looking at data in a fresh way and bucking conventional wisdom. Billy Beane (who now has a SPAC) found a way to compete with much deeper-pocketed teams through identifying and quantifying market inefficiencies. It’s a classic entrepreneurial lesson — plus an illustration of the deep smarts behind many winning sports teams. I prefer the book, but the movie is also highly watchable.


Directed by Randall Wallace

In the words of Roger Ebert, this “is a great film about greatness, the story of the horse, and the no less brave woman who had faith in him.” It’s also very much a story about teamwork. Study closely the dynamic between a horse and his dedicated owner, groom, and trainer, as well as the grit and perseverance needed to deliver outstanding performances. Secretariat encapsulates all the demands and sacrifices, joys and setbacks that working together entails. For me, it also brings home the awe and celebration involved in achieving something beyond yourself.


Alumni Ventures Group provides smart, simple venture portfolios with community to accredited individuals. PitchBook listed AVG as the most active VC firm in the U.S. during Q3 2020.

Originally published at on March 12, 2021.

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