Dontari Poe: Veteran Kansas City Chief, rookie tech investor

Bobby Burch

Quarterbacks know the Kansas City Chiefs’ Dontari Poe as the hulking 346-pound defensive lineman that’s planning to smash their offensive aspirations.

But the tech community may want to acquaint themselves with Poe as a forward-thinking investor that is starting to evaluate deals around the nation. The two-time Pro Bowl selection recently invested in Lab Sensor Solutions, a company based in Redwood City, Calif., that created mobile sensors to track the temperature and location of laboratory samples.

While Poe is still learning the Xs and Os of tech investing, his first startup investment was spurred on by his vision of the future.

“Tech is all around us,” Poe said. “The top companies in the stock market are all tech companies. I’m investing because that’s the way that the world is moving. Everything we do now is based on technology. The younger generation is all about tech. I feel like there is growth everywhere in tech.”

So what prospective investment opportunities pique Poe’s interest? He said that he eyes companies that help people. And if the firms can’t easily communicate what they do, Poe added, there’s little chance he would back it.

“What it comes down to is how easily the company can explain what they do — nothing is that complicated that you can’t explain to someone like your grandmother,” Poe said. “The companies that I like are the ones that can explain what they do in a language that I understand. … That’s how we do it on the field. Break it down into simple pieces that everyone can understand. Tech is no different. Companies are no different.”
Poe said that a quality team is also an important component to his investment decisions. While it must solve a real problem, the team must believe in the company mission beyond just making money.

Adaptability is a key attribute as well, he said.

“Like in football, things can change and a good team can read the offense or defense and adjust their game,” Poe said. “That’s important. Teams need to be open to change when it makes sense. Be flexible.”

Poe isn’t the only high-profile or former athlete that moonlights as an investor. He joins the likes of LeBron James, Roger Federer, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods as athletes that also make investments.

Beyond an interest in tech investment, Poe also is hoping to make an impact in the Kansas City entrepreneurial community. In addition to educating himself on the area entrepreneurial community, the 26-year-old is launching Poe Man’s Challenge, a competition that pairs up 8 area startups with 30 high school students to “sell” the founders’ company to celebrity judges.

Set for Dec. 13 at Think Big Partners, Poe said the challenge aims to educate and inspire.

“Startups are everywhere,” he said. “It’s important that kids get exposed to what startups are all about. It will put them in a good position. I feel that they’ll be ahead of me, at my age, if they start now. … Even if they never do a startup, learning how to pitch is an important life skill. We are always pitching ourselves for all sorts of things.”

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