Joe Montana Finding Success in Venture Capital

During the 1980s, the San Francisco 49ers boasted arguably the best roster in football, led by quarterback Joe Montana, receivers Dwight Clark and Jerry Rice, running back Roger Craig and defensive back Ronnie Lott.

The Niners won four Super Bowls—XVI, XIX, XXIII and XXIV—between 1982-90 with Montana, a two-time NFL MVP, earning the Super Bowl MVP honors on three occasions.

Since retiring in 1995, Montana has surrounded himself with the best of the best in angel investing and venture capital.

“This was not on my radar (during my playing days) even being in the Silicon Valley,” Montana says. “Right after I retired, Ronnie Lott and Harris Barton came to me and said, ‘Let’s start a fund of funds. All our friends are all these venture guys running top-tier funds like Sequoia (Capital), Kleiner (Perkins), Accel, Greylock (Partners).’ We actually leveraged our friendships into access into those and then grew it.”

The trio co-founded HRJ Capital and helped grow the fund of funds’ AUM to more than $900 million before Montana’s departure in 2004. Between 2005-10, Montana co-founded Modern Bank, a commercial bank based in NYC, and served as a board member. Shortly thereafter, he began angel investing under the guidance of Ron Conway and his SV Angel venture fund.

At the behest of Conway, Montana launched Liquid 2 Ventures in 2015 along with founding and general partners Michael Ma and Mike Miller; Montana’s son, Nate, also joined as a general partner.

Liquid 2 Ventures will raise its fourth fund beginning next year, Montana confirmed. The firm’s third core fund, Liquid 2 Ventures Fund III, closed in December 2021 at an oversubscribed $80 million, while its first two funds in 2016 and 2018 are both over 3x and include 25 companies valued at over $1 billion.

“That’s the thing I learned from (49ers coach) Bill (Walsh) is how you assemble a great team,” Montana says. “I think when you look at my partners, we have a great team. We’re very diverse in our backgrounds of where we sit in the epicenter of the venture community, and knock on wood, we’ve had early success, and hopefully we’ll just keep going.”

The San Francisco-based Liquid 2 Ventures focuses on seed stage or pre-seed investing to help startups “get to the Series A guys.” Its portfolio includes 50+ companies including GitLab, Anduril, Rappi and Cloud9. 

“We love getting in early when you’re thinking about something,” Montana says. “We don’t go in to try to run your company. I always like to say we’re in the boat with you. You’re steering, but we’re just here to help.”

Million Hours Pledge

Not only is Montana and his venture firm helping entrepreneurs and founders, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee is teaming up with Guinness to urge others to lift up their communities via the Million Hours Pledge.

Together with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, the mission is to encourage Americans to join them in pledging at least 10 hours of service in their local communities. To support efforts to fight food insecurity nationally, Guinness is also donating $250,000 to the Joe Burrow Foundation.

“When you turn on your TV, it’s depressing to watch the news,” Montana says. “It’s one of those things you want to see but you don’t want to see. You watch it daily and think, ‘There’s got to be ways people can help others get through things,’ then there’s always a story or two of people actually reaching out and helping. 

“Most people probably have an idea of something they’ve been wanting to do and can do but it doesn’t take a lot of effort. When you think about that, just go do it. You can’t win the game if you don’t play.”

Super Bowl prediction

With the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams riddled with injuries and last in the NFC West at 3-9, this year’s Lombardi Trophy is up for grabs with plenty of teams establishing themselves as contenders as the NFL begins Week 14 tonight when the Las Vegas Raiders (5-7) visit the Rams at SoFi Stadium.

In the AFC, the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs are 9-3 with the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Bengals all at 8-4. The 11-1 Philadelphia Eagles are atop the NFC with the Minnesota Vikings (10-2), Dallas Cowboys (9-3) and 49ers (8-4) nipping at their heels.

With five weeks left in the regular season, who will be facing off at Super Bowl LVII on February 12, 2023, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., is still anybody’s guess.

“If I was picking right now, I’d probably go with Cincinnati or Kansas City, although Kansas City lost home-field (advantage) and would have to go to Buffalo and it makes it tough to win on the road even though they could do it,” Montana says. “(From the NFC) I’m going to say either Philly or the 49ers—I got a weird feeling.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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