By Vanessa Malone
Recently, we announced that Horizon has partnered with former NFL executives and players Ryan McNeil, Ray Farmer, and Garrick Jones to launch Global Fan Exchange “GFX,” a sports platform that will allow fans to invest and ultimately trade shares tied to a portion of athletes and teams’ income streams.
This week, we sat down with GFX’s newly appointed CEO Ryan McNeil so he could share more about his journey. For those who don’t know, Ryan McNeil is a former NFL player, philanthropist, and serial entrepreneur. Ryan earned All-American honors at the University of Miami and is a former All-Pro defensive back who played twelve seasons in the NFL. During his NFL career, Ryan founded the Professional Business and Financial Network, an organization designed to provide professional athletes with the fundamental tools they need to succeed in business.
In addition, he also published OverTime Magazine (OT), the business and lifestyle guide for professional sports. Ryan also founded SportsID, Inc., a sports technology company focused on lessening the fragmentation of the sports ecosystem while increasing the efficiency through data, analytics and statistics.
Please enjoy the interview:
Vanessa Malone: Hi Ryan, to start off what was your journey like in the NFL?
Ryan McNeil: This is such an interesting question being a two-time All-American, a two-time National Champion at the University of Miami and high round draft pick, it was expected that I would have success in NFL. I played for 12 years in NFL; I started out as the Detroit Lions first pick in 1993.
I was able to achieve some personal goals like being selected to the Pro Bowl twice and being All-Pro twice. But the one thing I couldn’t achieve was to play in or win a Super Bowl. I played for several NFL teams and had a lot of personal success. The development and coaching I received at the University of Miami helped prepare me and made an easy transition to the NFL possible.
Vanessa Malone: What was one of your favorite memories as an NFL athlete?
Ryan McNeil: My favorite memories as an NFL athlete revolve around people, my teammates, my coaches and the fans. But the most memorable times came from seeing my family. I have a large family and I was able to see a lot of them for many years during both my home games and many away games in different parts of the country, that was always cool. Especially my first four years in Detroit on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Day games were always big games because they were nationally televised, but I also had lots of family coming in and that was really, really fun.
Vanessa Malone: Your 12-year career greatly exceeds the average length of an NFL career. What resources did you take advantage of to accomplish this?
Ryan McNeil: Playing for 12 years in NFL takes a lot of hard work, a bit of luck, preparation, planning and a lot of dedication. Sports in its purest form is all about competition. You’re always going to have competition, from other teams, of their players and even those on your own team. Again, coming from the University of Miami we competed all the time and that prepared me for the competition that I was going to face and compete against in the NFL.
But an athlete shouldn’t just focus on getting better at his or her job but look to become well rounded in life as much as possible. Both the NFL and the NFLPA provided some invaluable resources to help athletes “stretch” themselves to become more diverse and openminded.
Vanessa Malone: How did your experience in the NFL drive you to create the Professional Business & Financial Network, an organization designed to provide professional athletes with the fundamental tools they need to succeed in business?
Ryan McNeil: Being an entrepreneur is in my blood. But starting PBFN in a way was a selfish mission in that I wanted to plan what my next step was going to be after the NFL. While doing research I realized that I wasn’t alone. There were many of my peers who were in the same position, wandering and trying to figure out what they were going to do next.
So, launching PBFN, a business organization for professional athletes, seemed like a logical choice and logical move that started out selfishly but ended up providing a lot of information for other professional athletes around the globe. Our primary focus was around entrepreneurship and business from vetting business plans to networking as well as having access to professionals who can help guide and counsel athletes in their business or their business journeys.
Vanessa Malone: What unique challenges do you see athletes facing today? Are they different than what you faced?
Ryan McNeil: The challenges that today’s athletes face are not as unique as one might think. They are similar to the challenges that athletes faced ten, twenty and thirty years ago. The only difference is a lot of those challenges or more transparent and public now.
During my playing days, athletes were trying to get exposure for what they were doing, how they were doing it, whether it was playing sports or in business. Today’s athlete have to be careful of not being overexposed, too transparent or too public.
With the advent of social media sometimes it can be a blessing, sometimes it can be a curse. I think most athletes now understand and realize that it can also be a tool that can benefit them in their endeavors, whether it’s philanthropy and or business. Today’s athletes have built relationships with their fans directly and that’s really interesting and great to see. Our GFX platform allows for a deeper and more meaningful connection.
Vanessa Malone: What initially attracted you to Global Fan Exchange?
Ryan McNeil: What initially attracted me and my team to the global fan exchange was the mission and the intent. We saw a few different opportunities but one of the main opportunities that we saw and felt good about was that GFX helps accelerate a young athletes financial independence. It allows him or her to get a head start in their career and compete on a level playing field.
Vanessa Malone: How does GFX work to support an athlete’s goals?
Ryan McNeil: It’s always surprising to me that people are sometimes surprised when a great athlete comes from a small school or seemingly out of nowhere. But I’m not really surprised when that happens. Most of the time it has to do with resources.
The GFX platform allows athletes to raise up to $1,000,000 from fans, kickstarting their careers and strengthening their relationship they have with their fans by giving them a vested interest in the athlete’s professional sports journey.
Vanessa Malone: What are you most looking forward to as CEO of Global Fan Exchange?
Ryan McNeil: My team and I are looking forward to the growth and the possibilities of GFX. There are so many different possibilities and different scenarios. But what we’re looking forward to the most is probably the growth of the direct engagement of our athletes with their fans to determine who, truly, are the most valuable players in sports.
Our athletes will have the opportunity to leverage their skillsets to generate funding, all fans over the age of 18 will have the opportunity to invest in the players they like and or the ones they see value in. Fans have the ability to buy, sell and trade. We’re not looking to stop until GFX is global and we have all sports accounted for and represented on our platform.
Vanessa Malone: What is your mantra that you live by?
Ryan McNeil: There are several mantras that I try to live by. But the one that I try to follow the most is “everything in moderation, don’t overindulge in any one thing”.
Vanessa Malone: What advice would you give to current and future NFL athletes?
- Take it seriously
- Compete hard
- Get behind a worthy cause
- Have fun
- Build relationships
- Read books
- Find a hobby
- Stay curious
- Enjoy the moment(s)
- Leave a legacy
Thank you Ryan for sharing your journey and what you’re excited for regarding Global Fan Exchange/ GFX is actively recruiting U.S. and international athletes to offer their branded securities to all eligible fans, 18 or over. Interested agencies and athletes can reach the management team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested sports fans can join the investor waitlist at https://www.globalfanexchange.com/.