INGLEWOOD, Calif. – When Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner was growing up, a lot of the talk was about sports and entertainment. While it was "amazing," Wagner said, it was not the only thing, because as he got older and got exposed to more things, he realized business was a big part of it.
"I feel like can use sports and entertainment to further do something that's not just sports-related," Wagner said before a group of high school students from Watts, South Central Los Angeles and Compton.
It's why Wagner – who has invested in different companies, is sitting on boards and has invested in venture funds – hosted those students Tuesday for his first Los Angeles-based venture capital and tech tour, giving them the early exposure to various organizations in those spaces he wished he had.
Students began the day stopping by Roc Nation and hearing from Vice Chairman Jay Brown, who co-founded Marcy Venture Partners with rapper Jay-Z and former Walden Capital VC general partner Larry Marcus. The venture firm has a "Consumer & Culture" investment strategy focused on "positive impact including sustainability, inclusivity, accessibility, empowerment and health & wellness," according to its website.
After that, they headed to Hilltop Coffee in Inglewood, where they stopped for lunch and heard from Austin Clements, co-founder and managing partner, and Brittany Crockett, head of platform, of Slauson & Co., an L.A.-based "early-stage venture capital firm rooted in economic inclusion," per its website, that is backed by Google, Meta, Twitter and PayPal, among other tech companies.
Wagner and the students then headed to SoFi Stadium and inside the Rams locker room, where it was all about tech. A presentation and panel discussion from Google employees kicked off the afternoon, and was followed by guest speakers from Snap Inc., StatusPro (sports technology and gaming company) and Genie (avatar ecosystem tools).
Each speaker shared their career journeys and also took questions from the students.
The day concluded with students getting to ask Wagner questions, Wagner giving them swag bags that included the book "Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall In Love With the Process of Becoming Great", and the students having the opportunity to spend a little time on the field at the stadium.
Much like the way the program began, it ended with Wagner emphasizing the same piece of advice, as well as the importance of networking. Wagner encouraged the students to reach out to the Google guest speakers, for example, then go down to their Los Angeles office and learn something, because they never know what that might spark in them and push them toward something they love.
"I knew I wanted to be in business, but I didn't know that this was out there for me," Wagner said. "And so it took me taking myself out of my comfort zone to find it. Even with this, my hope is that you guys get sparked and get inspired sooner than I got. I was about maybe 24 when I got inspired by something like this, so you guys are getting exposed to it at a way younger age. So I'm hoping you guys take away from it and then been able to take it, for sure."