Entrepreneurs

Chris Paul's unexpected investing passion off the court

Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports | Reuters
Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers

Most of the time when athletes back a project, it's only to lend their name for marketing purposes. But that's not the case with Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.

"One thing that I've learned since coming to the NBA and also being involved in business and with other businessmen is that anytime you put your name on something, you have to believe in it," Paul said.

The basketball star recently worked with neuroscience technology company InnoVision Labs to create "Game Vision by Chris Paul," an app that helps train the brain to increase image-processing speed to recognize objects faster. InnoVision's CEO Nimrod Madar said that the company anecdotally had heard Paul was very active in the companies he worked with, so it reached out to him because it wanted real feedback from an athlete.

InnoVision got exactly what it wanted. Originally, the team came up with the name Moonshot, complete with a specific design around that theme. Paul and his team suggested that the name wasn't really appropriate for what the app was focused on. Instead, Paul suggested that it should reflect what the app does. His brother and personal manager, C.J. Paul, suggested the name Quick Sight. From there, the InnoVision team redid the whole branding, design and name, evolving the name to "Game Vision."

"I was positively surprised, but it was also what we were looking for," Madar said. "We did our research. We knew he was a great player, but he was also really active in the projects he was doing."

Paul's passion for "Game Vision" is an extension of his love of finding ways to improve our health and fitness, especially with technology. In addition to working with InnoVision, he's also invested in Fusionetics, a system created to test, score and design specific programs to optimize athletic performance. He has an ownership stake in D1 gym in his hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as well as being a strategic investor in smart headphone company Muzik.

"Chris is an active investor in Muzik, so he's involved in every aspect — from marketing to working with us in the lab on product development," said Muzik founder and CEO Jason Hardi. "That's big, and it's pretty rare to see that level of commitment in this type of business relationship. But that's what makes Chris successful on and off the court."

Having his team target his investment focus on specific areas helps Paul concentrate on the projects he does care about. While he loves basketball for now and has no plans of retiring, he understands that his NBA career won't last forever. Investing now can set him up for the future, but with the number of pitches he gets, he wants to make sure it's things he wants to work with.

"You can almost get lost and start to spread yourself too thin," he said.

Paul said he reads publications like Business Insider every, as well as books about leadership to understand this new career path. He also considers The Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger as one of his business idols. The two previously discussed their careers in a January 2015 episode of the AOL On series "Win/Win."

"I'm just in awe of him because of how successful he is, how driven he is, and he still has time for his family," Paul said. "If you can be a family man and still be the CEO of Disney, I think that's probably one of the biggest things. I'm always watching and learning from him about time management."

As for the technology focus, Paul credits the sunny California weather and his kids for his passion. He said moving to Los Angeles from New Orleans five years ago made him more health conscious. It also made him aware that his kids should spend more time outdoors taking advantage of the weather.

"When I was growing up, I would eat Little Debbie's oatmeal cakes after school," Paul explained. "Now, when my son comes home, he asks for seaweed. My diet has changed because in the field that I'm in, as you get older, your body changes. I'm always trying to be more disciplined in how I eat and what I eat, and staying in shape and exercising is big."

Paul has become a member of the President's Council of Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, which helps kids live healthy lifestyles through exercise and play. He's especially concerned about lowering the levels of childhood obesity.

"Just because you grew up on the other side of town, doesn't mean you should be at a disadvantage." -Chris Paul

In addition, technology education is a focus of his Chris Paul Family Foundation. Paul said he pivoted to the topic after going to his son's school and seeing Macs, iPads and other smart devices everywhere. He wanted to make sure that kids everywhere had the same access to the newest technology.

"Just because you grew up on the other side of town, doesn't mean you should be at a disadvantage," he said.

Source: InnoVision Labs Inc.

For "Game Vision," specifically, Paul said he became interested in the product after trying to search for technologies that could help him improve in his 11th year in the NBA. Originally, he focused on topics like nutrition. He's moved on to ways to help him train better, including how to improve his reaction time to help him have a competitive edge.

"I'm so blessed and fortunate to have an amazing team around me who brings me meetings with interesting things," Paul said. "Obviously, not everything is appealing. I want everything to line up with who I am and what I believe in."

Madar believes Paul also tested out between five to 10 iterations of the app, giving feedback on everything from the speed of the target falling during the gamelike interface to the colors used. Paul confirmed that he played around with the app, using his son as a test subject.

"My (son's) first baseball game, he struck out," he continued. "This past Saturday, he actually got on base three times!"

"I don't know if it was the nerves week one, but we can just say it's 'Game Vision,' " he added laughing.

Though the process took about a year, Paul said it was worth it to get a product he was proud of.

"I'm in my ninth shoe now, and my 10th shoe (from Nike) comes out next season," he said. "During the process, I start out seeing this show is kind of bad, but a few months later, it gets better. The finished product, I'm so excited about it. To see what the app has become is really cool and puts it into perspective."

Correction: The story originally misstated Paul's hometown as Salem, Washington. It is actually Winston-Salem, North Carolina.