The fourth episode of The Structured Start-Up podcast focuses on the importance of finding your entrepreneurial story. As Mike Goodrich, the principal of First Avenue Ventures, says, “If you don’t have a compelling narrative that people will buy into, your organization is not going anywhere.” And there are few who understand how essential a narrative is than this episode’s guest: Jim Cavale, founder and CEO of INFLCR.
In this episode, Cavale shares the story of founding INFLCR, an app that allows college and professional athletes to build and manage their brand, in 2017. Cavale listened to his customers and adjusted to fit their needs – a method that most certainly helped INFLCR grow, and fast. In 2019, Teamworks, an athlete communications platform, acquired INFLCR. As part of the deal, Cavale stayed on as CEO. Now, more than 100,000 college and professional athletes use INFLCR to manage their NIL (Name, Image, and License) business. Cavale and his wife, Yazmin Cavale, also serve as co-founders of GLOW, an app providing beauty services on demand.
Here’s a preview of the knowledge we gleaned from Cavale’s inspiring story:
What inspired you to found your business can inspire customers to pick your business.
Cavale’s inspiration? The Ed O’Bannon case. O’Bannon, who played on a National-Championship-winning team in the mid-nineties, discovered that his name, image, and likeness had been used in a video game – without his approval. Nor did he receive any form of payment from the game. O’Bannon soon discovered that college athletes essentially signed their rights to their name, image, and likeness away in exchange for scholarships. In 2015, O’Bannon sued the NCAA, successfully stopping them from using an athlete’s likeness without fair compensation. As Cavale learned more about this case, he also learned how important it is for athletes to be able to control – and profit from – the way that their likeness is used. Is it any wonder, then, that so many athletes choose to use an app designed with their best interests in mind?
Behind every great entrepreneur is a great story.
After hearing O’Bannon’s story, Cavale learned everything he could not just about O’Bannon’s experience but about college athletics in general. Drawing from his own experience as a student athlete, Cavale wanted to help athletes build – and later monetize – their brand. He also wanted to empower athletes to use their college experience as a way to “make the most of their influence and what it can be on this world.” In this way, Cavale drew his inspiration from his own story to develop a business that inspired and enabled other college athletes to do the same.
To build a successful product or service, make sure it becomes part of your customer’s life story.
“I love helping young people look at the moment they’re in and learn how to make the most of it,” Cavale says in the podcast, “especially young athletes who are on a stage that’s temporary.” Cavale designed INFLCR as a way for student athletes to build a bridge to the rest of their lives – which means that the product itself will follow them after their college career is over.
INFLCR allows athletes “to build a brand that can last forever” by “creating connections that will lead to your career after sports.” By building a business that helps athletes authentically tell a story, Cavale created a company that will be a long-term part of their life story.