By now most mainstream sports fans have heard about Kobe Bryant’s post-retirement tech ambitions. Those of us who pay attention to this kind of stuff know Steph Curry built a mobile app with his friend and Derek Jeter founded The Player’s Tribune. The world’s top athletes possess a level of talent that can be applied to any playing surface or boardroom. That’s why it’s no surprise to find out Paul Rabil sold his first company this offseason, at the ripe old age of 30.
So you’re saying Rabil, a guy who’s been regularly referred to as the “LeBron James of Lacrosse” throughout his pro career, somehow found the time to build a tech startup and achieved a successful exit? Yep.
Knowingly living at the forefront of digital media, Paul has embraced social media ever since his early days at DeMatha High School when he originally launched his YouTube channel. Fast forward over a decade and it’s no surprise his interests in tech led him to investing in it and even starting his company as he became the game’s first “Million Dollar Man.”
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Hearing that Paul’s startup business was recently acquired by TalentKode, a technology company with a multi-sport focus and global footprint, I wanted to learn more about how he built and sold the company. I wondered what this decision meant for the man behind the brand and where his career could be headed. Lucky for all of us, he was available to speak over the phone about the sale last week.
Paul’s Vision For P.R.E.
As a young aspiring player from the Northeast, Paul always loved attending lacrosse camps in the offseason. He’d seize the unique opportunity with instructors at each event to learn new techniques and improve his game. Like any committed player destined for greatness, he’d try to memorize all the drills and tips he learned each day by writing them in a notebook as soon as he got home.
When he attended Johns Hopkins and eventually entered the professional ranks, Paul later experienced the flip side of lacrosse education first-hand. He hit the camp circuit hard, actively instructing at camps and even speaking in front of large crowds at the US Lacrosse Convention. He loved coaching, but the travel was draining and maintaining personal connections with players was nearly impossible while keeping up the momentum of a budding pro career.
Paul’s founding of the annual Project 9 event for top boys lacrosse recruits followed. He knew the unique experience he’d offer attendees would make everything worthwhile, and year-after-year he continually proves himself right. But one event does not fulfill an eternal desire to coach.
For Paul, the real challenge quickly became scalability. How could he maintain his educational impact on the lacrosse community throughout his career? Ask any Major League Lacrosse player who has submitted himself to the grind of coaching camps and clinics all over the globe in order to “do lacrosse full-time,” and they’ll tell it’d be difficult to embrace the situation longterm. Life on the road will wear on anyone – even the greatest of athletes.
Drawing from his experiences on both sides of the table, Paul began to conceptualize an educational lacrosse product for the information age. Something that would help empower aspiring young players to learn on their own time while connecting him as a mentor to each player.
The Paul Rabil Experience (P.R.E. for short) was born in 2015 and now offers up hundreds of original videos dedicated to skill development, lacrosse IQ, fitness, and nutrition
Today, “subscribers get daily access to original programming and direct communication with Rabil.” Bringing everything together to make the P.R.E. platform a reality took strategy, effort, and ingenuity. It also took a whole lot of guts, teamwork and passion for the game.
Rabil’s Recipe For Success
Today Paul Rabil has arguably the most powerful social media presence in our game. While working tirelessly to build his business and career, he’s mastered the art of leaving the blinds open for his ever-growing audience on social media. He’s strategic and deliberate with every piece of content he shares, yet his delivery is consistently authentic.
Haters may hate, but there’s no need to change for their sake. That was the essential message from Rabil when I asked him what the experience had been like “putting himself out there” over the past few years.
From the sound of it, Paul’s work ethic and commitment level naturally rubbed off on his teammates. A familiar and comfortable position for Paul, who is without-a-doubt the pillar the New York Lizards have been built on. Paul attributes a great deal of P.R.E.’s recent success to Andrew Manning, his first full-time employee.
Other main ingredients? Hard work. Consistency. Learning from mentors and friends. You have to have a great team around you, and while that isn’t easy to build, it does pay off in spades. Paul mentioned many CEO’s spend up to 30% of their weeks interviewing, and he’s totally right.
The hardest thing in business is To Hire, And Hire the right people.
– Paul Rabil
Paul consults with his older brother on business matters regularly, while the guys from TLN help him plan out his content strategy. Knowing your audience is key, Paul says, and you have to be able to cater to it. He points directly to his YouTube channel as a living example of him being himself and having fun on camera without worrying about what his peers might think. After all, he isn’t speaking to them in his videos, he is speaking to (and with) his audience.
The secret ingredients? In regards to P.R.E. and why it was such an appealing acquisition, Paul points to the vast library of content he’s created as the company’s biggest and most valuable asset. Content, technical prowess, and a sophisticated sales strategy all exercised by a great team.
P.R.E. sold to TalentKode
P.R.E. was acquired by a technology company called TalentKode, makers the TopYa! video-based mobile app. According to Paul, P.R.E. will mold seamlessly into TopYa! as its lacrosse-specific learning system. They’re already in the process of introducing TopYa!’s “Challenge” functionality to P.R.E. subscribers.[mks_col] [mks_one_half]
The Buyer: TalentKode
Creator of the COPPA compliant TopYa! Sports and Physical Activity apps. TopYa! is the “video-based mobile app that motivates and inspires players to new levels of skill and creativity!”
According to TalentKode, athletes from around the globe have already logged well over 100K extra hours of training using the TopYa! platform.
- TalentKode acquired all assets and talent for an undisclosed purchase price
- 3 full-time employees from P.R.E. now report to TalentKode (President, Director of Web Development and Director of Memberships)
- Over 10,000 P.R.E. subscribers are now part of the TopYa! learning system
- Paul Rabil is now serving as the GM of TopYa! Lacrosse, and sits on TalentKode’s Advisory Board
- TalentKode will empower the P.R.E. team to focus on mobile app dev, sales, UGC and business development
Paul’s deep expertise in the sport will also bring insight to our industry leading Advisory Board which supports the TopYa! mission of getting kids active.
– Jason Keller, Managing Partner at TalentKode
Now bolstered by TopYa!’s robust app infrastructure and the backing of TalenKode, P.R.E. doesn’t just have a bright future in a budding lacrosse market. It has the upper-hand thanks to COPPA-compliance too. As a COPPA-compliant technology provider, TopYa!’s mobile apps meet all legal requirements necessary to be downloaded and used by children.
What Happens Next?
As the merger proceeds and P.R.E. gets fully integrated into the TopYa! platform, Paul and the team are preparing an aggressive growth plan.
Subscribers can expect a variety of interface improvements and new features to become available over time. Paul expects to release P.R.E. in mobile app form by January 2017.
Just like TopYa!’s other sports products, they’ll aim to make P.R.E. a lacrosse learning platform that’s truly accessible to athletes worldwide. India, where TopYa! Cricket already has a major presence, will serve as the perfect testing ground.
Instructional content will continue to roll out from Paul, and they’ll experiment with ways to build out the international subscriber base. Positional videos will be built out further with certified instruction. With more time to focus on the their product thanks to the sale, the P.R.E. team can now prioritize program-specific content and partnership discussions.
We want to determine a way to partner with the 56 governing bodies in our game so all new players can have access.
– Paul Rabil
Hearing Paul speak so passionately about what he’s built and his upcoming plans, there’s no question where his focus is at. When it comes to P.R.E., he’s just getting started. We can all expect big things.
Meanwhile, his infectious entrepreneurial spirit foreshadows another story to come: Paul Rabil may have sold his first company, but this certainly won’t be his last.