RENTON, Wash. — Doug Baldwin is a businessman now, however his physique nonetheless thinks he is a soccer participant.
The previous Seattle Seahawks huge receiver is greater than three-and-a-half years faraway from his final NFL snap and almost as far into his new profession within the tech and funding fields. As is the case with many former retired gamers, the passage of time has executed little to reset an inner clock that, as coaching camp approaches each summer time, tells him it is go time.
“My physique’s been conditioned to do that for over 24 years,” Baldwin, 33, instructed ESPN. “Your physique simply does not cease if you say cease. It is not simply the bodily a part of it. It is the psychological and emotional a part of it.”
With out soccer to expend that stress, Baldwin struggled when his eight-year NFL profession ended following the 2018 season. It did not assist that his physique was a wreck, requiring 4 surgical procedures after he performed via a number of accidents in his remaining yr. He wrestled with the retirement choice and even tried to remain in form after his surgical procedures, simply in case.
Baldwin made a reputation for himself as a Tremendous Bowl champion, a two-time Professional Bowler and the third-leading receiver in franchise historical past, as he caught 493 passes for six,563 yards and 49 touchdowns. And he made his cash — roughly $40 million in gross on-field earnings, per Spotrac. He had additionally simply develop into a father, with the primary of his three youngsters arriving that spring.
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Retiring was the correct choice, but it surely was exhausting.
“I am not a health care provider, however I’d say for the primary eight months after retiring, I used to be in a medical melancholy,” Baldwin mentioned. “I do know I used to be. You possibly can’t inform me in any other case. I used to be hurting.”
He is in a significantly better place now. And a a lot totally different one.
Baldwin is the founder and CEO of a enterprise capital agency known as Vault 89 Ventures. The funding car has a nod to Baldwin’s jersey quantity in its title and a mouthful of a mission assertion that, in his phrases, boils right down to this: “Cash just isn’t the purpose for us. We imagine that if we do issues from an empathic lens and we do it to affect folks’s lives for the higher, the monetary a part of it would come.”
Baldwin can also be the CEO of Ventrk, a Bellevue, Washington, startup targeted on well being and health. Its major providing is TheraCentric, a bodily remedy app designed to streamline residence train packages and maximize affected person engagement. TheraCentric has grown to greater than 1,000 energetic customers, principally from native bodily remedy clinics. Earlier this summer time, Ventrk spun out of Mental Ventures, a personal fairness agency that had been incubating it with mentorship and funding.
It’s no coincidence Baldwin’s present function has one thing in widespread with one other mission he has supported since earlier than his retirement: a neighborhood/well being heart for underserved youth that, after delays in development because of COVID-19, is slated to be accomplished in March. A masked-up Baldwin additionally appeared in a 2021 PSA for Washington Listens, a help program for these coping with pandemic-related psychological well being points.
“I am not going to do one thing if I do not imagine in it, if I am not obsessed with it,” he mentioned. “These items appear to all the time align in that house as a result of basically what I am making an attempt to do, I am making an attempt to create a greater well being and well-being mindset in society. Nevertheless it’s birthed out of me making an attempt to be as wholesome as I probably can popping out of the NFL.”
VENTRK’S NEW OFFICE in downtown Renton is a brief drive from Seahawks headquarters and The Household First Neighborhood Heart. It is a second-story house shared by roughly two dozen employees, together with the Ventrk workforce and several other different firms related to Vault 89. It is straight above the flagship retailer of a neighborhood Black-owned espresso chain known as Boona Boona, Vault’s first funding.
The workplace vibe is vibrant however laid again, with informal apparel and a noticeable lack of company touches. Baldwin’s apparel someday in July throughout a morning assembly consisted of a hooded sweatshirt, athletic shorts and Jordans.
CBO Jarid Adams and CTO Sam Bender are each from Seattle however by no means adopted the Seahawks, so the Ventrk co-founders had no thought who Baldwin was when Mental Ventures introduced him on board. It led to a complicated second at a team-building dinner, when Adams could not determine why different diners have been staring and why restaurant staff stored giving their desk particular consideration.
“I believe that is actually helped us have disagreements and agree on issues,” Adams mentioned, “simply because I see him as an on a regular basis person who’s working inside the firm.”
Adams appreciates Baldwin’s open-mindedness and level-headedness and guesses the latter comes from years of dealing with stress on the professional soccer stage.
“If one thing’s occurring and we’re sort of freaking out internally, he simply has a really calm perspective about all of it,” Adams mentioned. “He is like, ‘We’ll determine it out. Maintain going.’ Whereas Sam and I are like, ‘What the hell? There is a hearth, how are we going to deal with it?’ He is very calm relating to that. My greatest factor relating to management is supporting folks and trusting them of their space of experience, and I believe he does a extremely good job of that.”
Throughout his Seahawks days, Baldwin was the offense’s counterweight to the Legion of Growth’s ruthlessness, an intense competitor who would recurrently spar in apply with cornerback Richard Sherman — his finest good friend relationship to their days collectively at Stanford.
The enterprise world now offers him his aggressive repair.
“I do know what a championship-winning tradition looks like; it is folks all participating with one another,” he mentioned. “… We butt heads consistently. Nevertheless it’s a superb relationship as a result of it isn’t about being proper … or proving the opposite particular person improper. It is like, ‘How can we constructed one of the best empathetic platform for these sufferers and for these PTs?’ We disagree on issues, but it surely will get us nearer to that reply, and that is the tradition I am making an attempt to construct.
“It’s the identical factor when the DBs and receivers have been going at one another on a regular basis. It is not that we hated one another. It is like, ‘Nah, I am making you higher’ and I beloved that, and I’ve missed that. However I am additionally aggressive … I do not give a f— about something however successful. So if I can take that and put it in a service car and a enterprise that offers me the panorama to compete in, it is a win-win for me. In order that’s why I am right here.”
IN A WAY, Baldwin has come full circle.
Shortly earlier than changing into the primary undrafted rookie because the 1970 merger to steer his workforce in receiving, Baldwin was exploring one other profession. With signings disallowed throughout the 2011 NFL lockout that summer time, Baldwin interviewed with Dropbox and different Bay Space firms, making ready for a life within the enterprise world.
When he retired, it got here calling.
Jerome Hewlett, previously a part of the management workforce at Mental Ventures, was not a Seahawks fan however grew to become a Baldwin supporter late in his profession. Watching him on the sector and in postgame interviews, Hewlett noticed a sensible participant with a team-first perspective — and perhaps the potential to steer an organization.
The recruitment effort started rapidly. Hewlett reached out to a mutual acquaintance with the Seahawks, invited the not too long ago retired receiver to spend a while with him within the subject after which started laying what Baldwin now calls “a year-and-a-half lure.”
Hewlett was serving as Ventrk’s interim CEO and wished Baldwin to take over the function however knew he could not ask him straight away. Baldwin needed to construct the arrogance in himself, Hewlett figured, and had to make sure Hewlett wasn’t making an attempt to capitalize on his fame and use him as a fundraising figurehead. So he introduced Baldwin on as an advisor and had him sit in on each choice and transfer the corporate made.
“And because the months progressed,” Hewlett mentioned, “I’d be making much less and fewer choices and he can be making increasingly suggestions, to the purpose it was like, ‘You understand, it is best to actually be CEO as a result of I’m inferior to you.'”
It took some cajoling earlier than Baldwin grew to become Ventrk’s CEO in September 2021. He was reluctant when Hewlett lastly proposed it.
“You say you need folks to acknowledge you as a enterprise particular person, as a human, not simply as a soccer participant — however but you are going to stroll away from this chance?” he requested Baldwin. “I performed to his ego, however not the sports activities ego. It’s the enterprise ego.”
VENTRK’S SPINOUT from Mental Ventures offers Baldwin, Bender and Adams extra decision-making freedom. Nevertheless it additionally meant Baldwin needed to safe a lead investor — and take care of rejection till he discovered one. Getting a gathering was one factor, however getting cash wasn’t as simple.
“That was actually exhausting for me,” he mentioned, “getting all these nos.”
Baldwin took it as one other problem, overhauling an preliminary gross sales pitch that Hewlett jokingly calls “s—” as a result of it was too stiff. Just a few months later, Baldwin obtained his first chew.
Then got here the large one. Earlier this week, HBSI Capital introduced the finalization of a $1 million funding in Ventrk.
“The trade sees him as a enterprise particular person,” Hewlett mentioned of Baldwin, “or else they would not have given him the cash.”