Ndamukong Suh, the All-Pro defensive tackle and likely future NFL Hall-of-Famer, has made more than $150 million in career earnings playing for the Lions, Dolphins, Rams, and the Bucs, when they won the Super Bowl in 2021. Along with his heart-stopping athleticism, Suh has also been focused on business and on what he’s going to do after his storied football career comes to an end. (He is a free agent at the moment.) On a recent Zoom, he shared that he has been “looking at companies,” their profitability and their future prospects, ever since he was an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska—the last truly great player in that program’s legendary history.
To that end, we also spoke about his recent decision to invest in Animal Capital, a newfangled venture capital firm that relies on its investors’ social media prowess to improve the fortunes of the early-stage companies in which the firm invests. As a gifted professional athlete, Suh was an instant believer—and investor, alongside the likes of Anthony Scaramucci and The Winklevii, the noted investor Paris Hilton, and Christina Aguilera, joining a group that knows it can improve the fortunes of a company with a well-timed Tweet or TikTok video. “This is kind of the tip of the iceberg, to say the least,” Suh told me.
I became fascinated about a year ago by the growing phenomenon of how celebrities and social media influencers of all stripes were suddenly joining the venture capitalist ranks. That’s when I first met Marshall Sandman, an ex-Goldman Sachs investment-banking analyst and a former director of strategy at WarnerMedia, who had teamed up with a group of young social-media celebrities such as Josh Richards, Griffin Johnson and Bryce Hall to start Animal Capital. Sandman’s key insight was to recruit social media influencers to accomplish the dual mission of getting them access to early-stage investment opportunities (like the big boys) and then for his celebrity partners to help make those portfolio companies more valuable by harnessing their vast social-media followings. And then for everyone to get really rich.