The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer
Paul Berger, “Middle East Sports Stories”

Paul Berger, “Middle East Sports Stories”

April 19, 2021

Paul Berger is a true Middle East insider, having been based in Dubai, UAE for nearly three decades and done it all from advertising, motorsports, helping to build the Dubai Autodrome to now running EMEA for the Arena Group, one of the leading temporary event structures groups in the world for sports, music, exhibitions to cultural events.   

 

Key Highlights

  1. Paul’s early days in Advertising in the UK and his route to Dubai. BBDO took him to Dubai. 
  2. From Advertising to Karting – setting up his first business (Leisure Karting) in Dubai – great stories (races in Oman, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi)
  3. Dubai Autodrome & Business Park -  how it all started and where it is now (www.dubaiautodrome.ae)
    1. Clive Bowen of Apex Circuit Design, designed the track (www.apexcircuitdesign.com)
    2. What worked and didn’t work and what is happening on the track now
  4. Next Entrepreneurial venture – Sports Marketing Global – focused on motorsports & brands from the Middle East  (partnered with Chris Akers – who was managing F1 Driver, Robert Kubica at the time)
  5. Working with McLaren (Ekrem Sami), first deal with Emirates in motorsports (and how amazing visuals did the trick)
  6. Abu Dhabi NDA & F1 story -  how the deal came about and contract was signed 
  7. Harlequin Marquees – brother in law business – new challenge – bringing it together with Arena Group, UK (a company with 260 year history – started in 1761)
  8. Arena’s first acquisition outside the UK, big growth since then through acquisition and Public Listing in the UK
  9. Paul’s role as CEO across EMEA – expansion across the region – 350 staff across Asia/Middle East, offices in Malaysia, Korea, Hong Kong, etc
  10. Arena America, Europe/UK, Middle East/Asia key regions– his region became the biggest and most profitable division (pre-Covid 2019) – hugely successful year (Anthony Joshua fight in Saudi) 
  11. The Arena Business – temporary Event Architecture – from tents to modular buildings, interiors, hospitality, etc 
  12. And then Covid happened and how that effected the Business and how Arena reacted to it – pivot business away from events, where could the equipment be used (temporary hospitals, etc)
  13. Saudi family was keen to invest, raised money to make it through Covid – prior to that he was in the process of taking the company private again with US PE group (management buy-out)
  14. Looking into the future, when is the event business coming back – his views on 2021 (transitional year) and 2022-23 – two year process to come back to 2019 numbers
  15. Sports in the Middle East – big growth over the last few decades and where is the growth in the future – Dubai was the initial driver, Abu Dhabi the last decade, last few years Saudi Arabia 
  16. Mostly driven by large scale events, from Boxing, F1, UFC, WWE, Tennis, Golf, etc – some top Venues now like Coca-Cola Arena (20k seater) in Dubai
  17. How to operate in the region – need to have a presence on the ground in the key markets, have local experts and strategic partners

 

About Paul Berger

Paul Berger has been working in the Middle East and Asia since 1993. He started his career in Dubai with the OMNICOM Group, as a lead Account Director on Emirates Airline, Pepsi Cola and General Motors. In 1997, Paul moved into the sports event management sector, by launching the first leisure motor sport tracks in the region. Indoor Karting, Outdoor Karting, the Dubai Autodrome FIA Circuit and local motor racing championships.

In 2009, he became CEO of Harlequin and subsequently sold the company to the Arena Group. In 2010, he became CEO of the Middle East and Asia Division for the Arena Group, launching the company in Singapore and Malaysia. Paul has subsequently expanded the division to Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Korea and now Japan. Paul is also the President of the International Live Events Association in the Middle East.

 

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Hrish Lotlikar, “The Superworld of NFTs”

Hrish Lotlikar, “The Superworld of NFTs”

April 8, 2021

Hrish Lotlikar is a living example of a successful digital nomad Entrepreneur. A former Investment Banker turned VC, turned Tech, Blockchain and Crypto Entrepreneur. Besides covering Hrish's amazing career we take a very close look at his latest venture "Superworld", the relevance to sports and the connection to NFTs, the currently hottest trend in the Crypto and sports, music, arts IP (Intellectual Property) world. 

 

Key Highlights

  1. From High school to Navy Reserved Officer and Surgical Technician removing eyes 
  2. Pursuing Triple Degree (MBA, MPH, MD) in graduate school then taking him into Management Consulting and Investment Banking and his first Entrepreneurial exploit creating "The Wall Street Program", teaching how to get a Wall Street job.
  3. Next stop Venture Capital (VC), bio-tech and other tech companies with "world changing ideas" 
  4. From New York City (after the crash in 2008/09), traveling across Eastern Europe for 1.5 yrs. Great story on how to start a seed stage VC Fund in Ukraine with Victor Pinchuk (Ukrainian Billionaire) and tech accelerator in Belarus. 
  5. Early employee, Senior Business Developer/Global Evangelist of Toptal, Andreessen Horowitz backed venture
  6. Rogue Initiative Studios, LA based entertainment studio leveraging the latest in tech, VR, AR with Hollywood IP and partnered with Hollywood director Michael Bay
  7. Superworldapp.com - virtual world in augmented reality mapped onto the real world, with 64 billion virtual real estate blocks (NFTs) on Blockchain which can be purchased
  8. Superworld is Pokémon Go meets Foursquare meet Monopoly
  9. Connecting Superworlds to the Sports & Entertainment space, from Venues to activities in the virtual world 
  10. Still a few steps required to buy a block right now, thru your Ether wallet. Getting easier soon. 
  11. NFT market place coming soon, platform to create NFT for any IP, sports, music, art, etc linked to augmented reality to showcase the NFT 
  12. Exploring Online to offline (O2O) opportunities. Real Estate developers are exploring this space. 
  13. Bringing Sports IP into the virtual world. 
  14. NFT (Non Fungible Token) - basics explained
  15. NBA Top Shots (not Hot Shots 😂) discussion and how it connects to Superworld's NFT market place. Creating digital assets out of content, experiences, unique moments 
  16. NFT Salon vertically integrated into Superworld, music, art, architecture - Mars House example 
  17. Long tail of NFT content to put these NFTs into the "virtual world" of Superworld 
  18. Working across other platforms like Open Sea 
  19. Contact Innerworld@superworldapp.com for on boarding and other questions 
  20. ERC721 is the standard for NFTs, on the Ethereum Blockchain 
  21. Digital Assets (NFTs) can be programed to create earnings for artists in perpetuity (on future sales transactional and value creation). A whole new way of monetization for IP.
  22. Launch of Superworlds NFT Salon in early April:
    Contact Innercircle@superworldapp.comfor IP owners. 
    Collectorscorner@superworldapp.com for NFT Collectors 

 

About Hrish Lotlikar

Hrish Lotlikar is a Co-founder and CEO at SuperWorld. Previously, he co-founded Rogue Initiative Studios, a Hollywood film, TV, gaming, and immersive entertainment studio. He was also the founding Managing Partner of Eastlabs, an early-stage VC fund based in Kyiv, Ukraine. Previously, Hrish was a Senior Business Developer and Global Evangelist at Toptal (backed by Andreessen Horowitz, the Rockefellers & the co-founders of Facebook and Zynga), a venture capital investor at Spencer Trask Ventures, and an investment banker at both UBS Investment Bank and HSBCSecurities, where he specialized in public finance, corporate finance and M&A. He also was an Associate in the Global Business Development Group at management consulting firm Hewitt Associates.

Hrish was born in India and grew up in the United States. He also has spent many years living around the world in Europe, Asia and South America. He has a close connection to the people and cultures in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Spain, France, Vietnam, China, Colombia, Bali and Thailand.

Hrish holds a BA in Political Science from Rice University and both an MBA and MPH from University of Illinois at Chicago. In his free time he enjoys working out, fashion photography and traveling the world.

 

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Sophie Goldschmidt, “From Tennis, Basketball, Rugby to Surfing”

Sophie Goldschmidt, “From Tennis, Basketball, Rugby to Surfing”

April 1, 2021

Sophie Goldschmidt, has been recognized as one of the most influential/powerful Women in sports by multiple publications/organizations from Forbes, Adweek, Leaders in Sport, Sports Business, etc, working across the globe in leadership and senior positions from the WTA, NBA, England Rugby to the World Surf League.  All very different sports, with different opportunities and challenges along the way.  Great stories and learning from her exciting career over the past 20 years.

 

Key Highlights

  1. Journey from Baylor University playing NCAA tennis and landing at Adidas USA in Portland
  2. Working in the Adidas Tennis division, Indian Wells, Roland Garros, dealing with top players from Hingis to Kournikova,  Henman, Safin, etc
  3. Moving to WTA during the time the William sisters, Sharapova all becoming big stars, working with Larry Scott in the commercial and marketing space
      1. Sony Ericsson WTA Tour – US$ 88 million  (5-6 year deal) – breakthrough deal
      2. Porsche, Lotto, Wilson and Eurosport deal
      3. Moved WTA Year end final from LA to Madrid – new commercial deals
  4. Next stop, the NBA in NYC – David Stern and Adam Silver, tennis fans too - made connection through tennis and then moving into this new sport 
  5. Moved back to London as Managing Director EMEA, establishing NBA operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa – more decentralized operations, opening offices in Moscow, Milan, Istanbul, Jo-burg, etc
  6. Over 70 players from Europe in the League already at that time, NBA League Pass (OTT), finding new local marketing partners (sponsors), 
  7. “Basketball without Borders” across South Africa and other countries, grassroots development, something the NBA is very good at – Leading up to potential NBA League in Africa
  8. Long terms view,  “one kid at a time” convert from kicking to bouncing a ball  (David Stern)
  9. Opportunity to join England Rugby (RFU) as Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer – passion for the sport from her dad – opportunity for the sport following the very successful London Olympics and leading up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in the UK
  10. First female board member at the RFU (also became the first female board member of the PGA European Tour during that time), evolved the brand and more progressive approach to sponsors, driving commercial and engagement with fans 
  11. CVC new investment into Rugby and her thoughts on it – new resources and more independent strategic thinking for the sport
  12. Joined the agency world at CSM – getting a look into the agency world
  13. Moving back to the US with the World Surf League as CEO – sport accepted into the Olympics, new wave technology with Kelly Slater Wave Company, etc
  14. Turning the challenge of the unpredictability of the weather (waves) into an opportunity, streaming vs linear TV, early digital adoption, less focus on live, lifestyle brand 
  15. Elevator pitch – as many surfers than golfers (over 400 million) in the world, beautiful location and people doing amazing things, highly engaged audience (sponsors from Corona to Airbnb)
  16. Big educational process, understanding and interest depending on the markets, Brazil is huge 
  17. Sophie continues on the WSL Advisory Board, in addition to new roles now as an Advisor in sports, media, tech, health & fitness including; as a business partner to the new connected Home Health & Fitness Platform (Tersa), LOVB volleyball, MIXhalo, Egoli, Racquet Publishing, Pamos and as Board Governor for the International Tennis Hall of Fame

 

About Sophie Goldschmidt

Sophie is a dynamic, senior, global leader with broad and deep proven experience in sports, entertainment, media and technology. Throughout her career she has been at the forefront of globalizing and innovating sports and entertainment properties.

Most recently she was CEO of the World Surf League (WSL) and previously in leadership, commercial and marketing roles at the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the PGA European TourAdidas and the global sports marketing & entertainment agency CSM.

Sophie is a member of the WSL Advisory Board and business partner for Tersa. She also currently advises Egoli, LOVB, MIXhalo, Racquet Publishing, Pamos, round21, West 10th, Sportable and McKinsey, is a mentor for Techstars and a Member of the Board of Governors for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

 

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