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Najee Goode: “Athletes are Entrepreneurs”

Najee Goode: “Athletes are Entrepreneurs”

Najee Goode may be a Cleveland, Ohio native, but when it was time for college he chose “a school in the hills” and left a piece of his heart behind.

Goode enrolled in engineering at West Virginia University and committed to playing football for the Mountaineers. Advisors warned him it would be a challenge – a college athlete graduating with an industrial engineering degree – but his family kept him motivated. His father, an NFL player himself, reminded Goode he was capable of doing big things. In fact, it was at IHOP eating blueberry pancakes with his father when he found out he was going to be drafted to the NFL.

“I had the motivation to stay focused and I was able to use that motivation to help me out in school,” Goode said. “My dad played in the NFL, and he said you’ve got to be able to strain and commit to this because the next life is going to be ten times harder being a professional.”

Goode received a call from Tampa Bay Buccaneers asking if he was ready to play in the NFL and that was the start of his professional football career.

From the Buccaneers, he continued to play for the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts, and completed his career as a linebacker with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Like any new professional starting out, the first year can be quite the adjustment.

Goode admits that being a rookie was hard.

“What people don’t realize is that at the same time you’re getting paid there is also the stress and the expectations of doing your job, for athletes or executives in the business world,” he said. “My rookie year involved criticism and working to make the right decisions.”

He also had to adjust and learn how to take care of himself and his finances.

“The first check I received was a lot of money, and I didn’t know what I was doing, but luckily I had my brothers and my father to help me with the experience. It was a huge learning experience – taking care of and protecting myself while also at the same time trying to learn, grow and expand.”

Goode admits that through it all, he always stayed close to West Virginia.

He may have suffered an injury but, just as the famous saying goes, another door opened and Goode was able to join the conversation of a new business venture.

Grant Wiley and Jonathan Ohliger, two WVU alums and football players, reconnected with Goode in 2014 and started talking about the idea of FinTech and sports.

The three gathered in New York City and started brainstorming the concept of VEEPIO.

VEEPIO logo

VEEPIO – which stands for video public offering – is a content optimization tool for the NFL and NFL Alumni mobile apps.

VEEPIO-enabled fans can touch interactive objects within photos and videos to link to more information, without interruption or leaving the mobile app. This new networked connection allows fans, at peak moments of interest, to convert desire into immediate action.

“A lot of people don’t know it, but our technology was actually created and distributed before Instagram Shop was,” Goode said. “We developed our code and the IP in 2014 and 2015, and that is something I am really proud of.”

In partnership with Ohliger and Wiley, Goode serves as the company’s Co-Founder and Chief of Fan Experience and Engagement.

“VEEPIO has opened doors and my perspective on public speaking and communication, and the landscape of technology and understanding of the business world of FinTech,” said Goode. “Athletes are entrepreneurs by trade, by skill in our professional sport.

Goode was able to put his heart and his passion for football into VEEPIO because it is for all fields of business, especially for athletes, executives and students.

“I was able to see that there was a need in the market for a product like ours,” Goode said.

And investors agreed.

“One of our first investors told us that banks don’t invest in ideas, they invest in people, so when I see young entrepreneurs approach new business, what makes them stand out the most is themselves. You have to have your heart and soul into what you’re doing. It is very rarely that your product or business works because you want it to or you just want to make money. Going from zero to one is the hardest.” 

At the end of the day, Goode said it’s the unique attributes of the creator that drives any new business.

VEEPIO is what it is today because its team has the passion and the drive for the product.

“We create positive opportunities for content creators on all platforms to engage and create more data, which turns into understanding the digital consumer,” he said. When I saw that and I was able to grasp that, I fell in love with it immediately.”  

This February, VEEPIO announced a three-way partnership – Partnership Unite – between the NFL Alumni Association (NFLA) and the HBCU Week Foundation, Inc.

VEEPIO’s role is to create digital infrastructure and evergreen programs that will link both the NFLA and all HBCUs to initiate sponsorship dollars which, in return, will provide lasting economic equity for the institutions and future students.

Out of this partnership came the Jack Spinks Scholarship, honoring the first player from an HBCU to be drafted into the NFL.

“Creating lasting economic change through technology is a core part of VEEPIO’s mission, and working in tandem with the NFLA will allow us to transform the sponsorship and fundraising opportunities that are currently available for HBCUs,” said Goode to Yahoo! Finance last month.

Today, VEEPIO is also a resident at Vantage Ventures where they are able to amplify their business through new and innovative technologies, and work with other professional and student-based entrepreneurs.

“We are fortunate to be entrepreneurs in residence with Vantage Ventures because of the connections they provide,” Goode said. “It is an honor to work with Sarah Biller and the Vantage Ventures team, and to be a part of John Chambers’ vision with the school of business.”

Chambers College students are also fortunate to get firsthand experience from Vantage Ventures residents like Goode and the VEEPIO team.  

Andrew Berry, a Chambers College MBA student, is learning both in and outside of the classroom through experiential project-based learning in collaboration with startups at Vantage Ventures.

“I have been able to network with many driven and open-minded individuals who are not only motivated to create successful startup businesses, but to also do so while enhancing the economic development of the state of West Virginia,” said Berry.

“Through my year-long experience with VEEPIO, I have been able to learn the highs and the lows of being an entrepreneur in a new emerging industry.”

Chambers College