SAN JOSE, Calif. – Olympic medalist Michael Phelps has a second act in mind, one that might lead him to Silicon Valley. Although the athlete isn't offering much in the way of specifics.
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"I would love to get involved, whether it's in a couple little startups here and there, take a little risk, have some fun and see where it goes," Phelps said in an interview during a visit to San Jose, California.
Tech entrepreneurship would mark a big change for Phelps, whose business experience to date consists mostly of endorsement deals with Under Armour, Visa and Wheaties. These and other big brands have paid him an estimated $75 million during his career. In an advertising campaign that began last month, he became pitchman for the computer chipmaker Intel.
What else might the swimmer, who won 28 medals in five Olympics, do in the tech industry? Phelps wouldn't say, beyond noting that he isn't ready to start his own investment fund, like retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant did earlier this summer with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel. If Phelps has ideas for founding a startup of his own, he's keeping them to himself.
Making the leap from pitchman to businessman is not easy, said David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California's Marshall Sports Business Institute. "Athletes come and go and many talk a big game, but they don't follow through," he said. Phelps "is really going to have commit to learning about business and demonstrate his seriousness about it."
Celebrities have had mixed results in the tech startup arena, like anyone else.
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Rapper and producer Dr. Dre was part of the founding team that sold Beats to Apple for $3 billion in 2014. The value of an investment fund co-founded by Ashton Kutcher has soared from $30 million, to $250 million since its 2010 inception.
Then there's HJR Capital, started by former San Francisco 49er lineman Harris Barton. After enticing ex-teammates Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott to join him, the investment firm collapsed in 2009.
In September, former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling settled a long running legal dispute with the state of Rhode Island. A $75 million deal brought Schilling's 38 Studios to the state from Massachusetts. It failed spectacularly within two years.
Phelps is exploring other options. He's already launched a line of swimwear and other clothing bearing his "MP" logo. Other products are in the pipeline for next year, though he won't say what.
"I am getting my feet wet," Phelps said with a grin. "2017 will be a big year."