Jeremy Lin combined his Harvard economics degree and his Silicon Valley upbringing to identify his new challenge guiding the revamped Brooklyn Nets — Lin likened joining the Nets to investing in a startup company.* The comparison sounds right as the Nets are starting over, if not quite starting up. The Nets, of course — being one of just 30 teams in the NBA — are already an established entity and don’t quite qualify as a newbie. The Nets are also in no danger of actually failing, as nearly 90% of startups do. They could win nine games next season and still not fold.
But Lin’s metaphor is accurate in other ways. The Nets won just 21 games last year, and they’ll need to “disrupt” the current NBA establishment to be relevant again. Most startups are designed to disrupt the status quo. It’s also true that the startup founders, a position Lin casts himself in, must have a vision first — then they execute on it. Lin isn’t investing in today’s Nets, but in tomorrow’s. Another difference is that startup founders often work for peanuts as they grow their enterprise. Lin’s $36 million deal isn’t peanuts. But every Nets fan hopes Lin is right — that they’re getting in on a ground floor investment that will pay big dividends — like with rings and parades. What kind of startup will Lin’s and Coach Kenny Atkinson’s Nets be? Facebook, Uber, Under Armour? Fast out of the gate? Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez have to build something that stands out. Because the major way that Silicon Valley and the NBA resemble each other is this: they’re hyper-competitive environments, where winner takes all.