The Road to a Billion with Trevor Booker
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The Road to a Billion with Trevor Booker

Many may know Trevor Booker from his days playing basketball for the Clemson University Tigers. Many may know him from his nine-year tenure in the NBA, playing for various teams such as the Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and most recently, the Indiana Pacers.

While he has had a tremendous basketball career, what many do not know is that Booker is also a venture capitalist, owning his own firm JB Fitzgerald with partner Jonah Baize. I was able to catch up with Booker to learn what he had to learn about finance prior to starting his firm and what motivated him to seek to become a billionaire.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

AfroTech: So, what was your knowledge level of finance and investing prior to the NBA?

Trevor Booker: My knowledge level prior to the NBA — ooh, I would have to say, it was definitely not as high as it is now. I knew a little bit from going to college and taking classes, you know, about investment and finance, but it wasn’t much. I was the kind of guy that if I heard about something and it intrigued me, I wanted to learn more, so that’s what I did. Once I heard about finance and investing, I started researching myself and talking about it to other people. Mostly with my best friend Jonah Baize. We had similar interests and it’s one of the things we talked about a good bit. Just with investing and how would I invest my money if I ever had any money and things like that. It really started for me, probably later in my college days.

AT: At what point in your career did you decide that basketball wasn’t going to be the only way you were going to become a billionaire? When did you really hunker down and say “Hey, I have to find other avenues to get to this,” goal that you had?

TB: I think my goal wasn’t to become a billionaire until probably like my fifth year in the NBA. I didn’t really start taking entrepreneurship serious until probably about my second year. The first year and before that, all I knew was basketball, and that was the only thing on my mind since I made it to the NBA. I was like, “I got my money now,” but I would always hear my veterans [talk] in the locker room and in meetings about how they invest their money, and so that really intrigued me. They just kept talking about how they kept building their money, so I was like man I want to do the same thing. I want to keep building and have some generational wealth; and so that’s what I started doing. Learning more about investing and really taking it seriously and looking for different avenues to grow my money.

AT: Okay, and what did you have to learn from that point on about finance before you started your venture capital firm and who helped you with that?

TB: The thing that I mostly had to learn was that depending on what you got into, it’s super risky. So, I had to build up my money first, build that safety net, because after I got some real money, if I wanted to make it to a billion, I was going to have to take some risks to get there. So, I had to make sure that I had the safety net first for me and my family, and that’s what I did. After that, I started taking more risks. Right now, I have a few businesses with my best friend Jonah Baize, we pretty much do everything in business together, and that’s where it all started.

AT: Would you say that he helped you learn, or did you find other sources to help you learn about it?

TB: Yeah, he helped me learn, we talked to different people, we networked and learned from our network. Different things on tv, reading articles, things like that; it was a lot of ways that we learned.

AT: How did you start your firm and then how did you choose your partner?

TB: The partner was easy; it was my best friend Jonah and that was pretty much the only one that I fully trusted in business. Other than that, how did we get started, we just had a great network, we do a great job with networking and deals come across our desk all the time. So, we were like, you know, “Why not start our own firm and raise money for these deals?” So, that’s what we did.

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AT: What’s the vetting process like for the businesses that you invest in with your firm and with your partner now?

TB: Well, we have a whole team that gets all the opportunities, and we have an office here in Charlotte. The deal comes in, and we send it down a pipeline. It starts off with one person, and it goes through the chain of command. It takes roughly about two months to vet because we try to be super careful. At the same time, we know anything is going to be a risk, but we try to eliminate as much risk as possible.

AT: What are you looking to add to your portfolio that you might be missing from your current lineup?

TB: There’s nothing in particular; we just, you know, try to see [what] good deals come our way. Right now, we are super heavy into real estate and that’s something we’ve been focusing on a lot lately.

AT: How do you feel about the shift in more African American’s receiving funding from venture capital firms and how have you been contributing to that shift?

TB: I mean it’s cool to see African Americans get funding for their ideas because it’s probably a little more difficult for them to find funding than it is for people of other races. For them to have their ideas funded, it means a lot to our community, our culture, and I think we are going to capitalize off of it.

AT: In your “CloseUp 360” documentary you said, you’ve accomplished a lot in the NBA, but you’re more than an athlete. I think that we can all see that you’ve exuded that. When it’s all said and done, what do you want to be known for most?

TB: Well, basketball is where I got my start, but I look to build a legacy off the court. A bigger legacy off the court than on the court, that’s my goal. I want my family to be well taken care of when I leave here, but that’s not the only reason, I do what I do. I want to become a billionaire just so I can help more people out and be big in the community; that’s one of my goals with my money. So, that’s one of the main reasons I’m working on what I’m working on now.

AT: Do you have any advice for other millennials that may want to venture into venture capitalism or angel investing? What advice would you have for just the working-class millennials or even young athletes?

TB: Go for it. A lot of people probably try to discourage them, but if you see something that you want, just go for it. You have one life, just be careful with it, just know what you’re getting yourself into. Really do your research. You really don’t know who to trust, so be careful with that, but if you see something you want to do, you know go for it.

Booker has definitely proven that once you set your mind to achieve a goal, with the right mindset, you can definitely accomplish it. He wanted to become a billionaire, even though his knowledge of finance and investing was minimal, but he still sought out to learn all that he could and utilized his network. Now, he has his own venture capital firm and is closer to that billionaire goal than ever before. He has proven he is more than an athlete through many of his ventures off the court. We can’t wait to see what new deals come his way that could turn into the next conglomerate business of our generation along with the  legacy he continues to build.

This piece originally appeared on Melanin Investor.

Carmela Hawkins, Founder of Melanin Investor, is a licensed financial services professional. She inspires and educates minority millennials and youth on the importance of investing to create a life of financial freedom by highlighting the financial stories of professional athletes.