Entrepreneurs

How this ex-NFL player turned tech CEO reinvented himself when he had to quit sports at 27

Jeremy Bloom is known for his accomplishments in athletics: he skied in the Olympics twice, was an 11-time World Cup gold medalist and played football in the NFL for the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

But, Bloom, host of CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists," says he always had a nagging uneasiness about what the achievements would amount to.

"My biggest fear in sports was not winning that Olympic gold medal or losing a football game, it was, 'Is my life going to have purpose after this is all said and done?'" Bloom tells CNBC Make It.

Eventually, that question led him into another career far away from the ski slopes and football fields — as a successful technology entrepreneur and founder of marketing software company Integrate.

"That fear drove me to to plant a lot of seeds," he says. "One of those seeds led me to the the Wharton Business School through an NFL program where I could take M.B.A. related classes at Wharton. That program changed my life."

Bloom says Wharton, "opened my eyes to this great big world of tech and inspired me the same way that the 1992 Olympics did when I was 10 years old."

As a kid, Bloom was talented at sports. At 19, Bloom became the youngest moguls World Cup champion and skied in his first Olympics in 2002, according to The New York Times. That year he also played his first football game for the University of Colorado and later broke a team record for touchdown receptions.

Jeremy Bloom
CNBC | Mike O'Hara
Jeremy Bloom

He participated in the NFL combine (where college players perform for scouts) just seven days after skiing in his second Olympics in 2006, according to the Times. Bloom then played as wide receiver for one season of football for the Philadelphia Eagles and three for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"The NFL stands for 'not for long'" Bloom jokes to CNBC Make It. "If you go in there thinking that this is going to be your lifelong job and you're going to retire in the NFL like Brett Favre did or John Elway did, you're foolish."

That's why Bloom made sure to always spend time on projects outside of sports.

In 2006 he took the classes at Wharton. In 2008, he founded non-profit Wish of a Lifetime, which grants lifelong wishes to seniors. The organization has worked on wishes for over 1,000 seniors in 46 states. The experience reinforced for Bloom that he needed to use his limited time on Earth wisely.

"We're not here that long on this planet," he says. "We only have a finite amount of time and when you serve seniors as much as we do at Wish of a Lifetime, you gain the perspective that it goes really really fast."

And it did. Bloom retired from football in 2009 at 27 years old due to injuries, then retired from skiing the next year.

"I really wanted to reinvent myself. That was my goal, that was the word I just kept using — reinvention," Bloom tells CNBC Make It. "I didn't want to go to coaching, I didn't want to go into commentating, kind of the well paved paths, I just wanted to do something new and interesting and hard."

While at Wharton, Bloom had realized, "Gosh maybe [business] is the new frontier for me. This is the new football and skiing," he says. So in 2010, Bloom co-founded the marketing software company Integrate. He got the idea while working a job in marketing after retiring from sports.

"Nine months into that role, I was looking for software to solve my biggest problem in running customer acquisition marketing," he says. "I couldn't find it anywhere, so that was my moment of truth." Bloom decided to create the product himself. "I left and started Integrate. Really in those early days, I was just building a solution that would have worked for me as a marketer."

He says he used money saved from his sports career to start the business and has now raised investments from Comcast, Foundry Group and Liberty Global.

"We've raised about $40 million in venture capital," he says.

Now, he's found a way to mix his passions for sports and business. Bloom's latest challenge is tackling another season of "Adventure Capitalists" on CNBC, where he is a host and investor. On the show, entrepreneurs showcase products designed for outdoor adventures and Bloom and co-stars Shawn Johnson East and Dhani Jones, as well as guest judges like Bode Miller, decide whether to invest.

Bloom says he was drawn to the show for the unique combination.

"My whole life is outdoor space," he says. "It combined that love of mine with start-ups and entrepreneurs and people who are visionaries and starting the next product that's going to make my experience and the outdoor space more enjoyable," he says.

This season, he says he's excited for entrepreneurs to take on pitching their ideas on snow covered mountains: "That's my domain."

Season two of CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists" premieres October 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

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