From Denver Startup Week
Jeremy Bloom talking to a star-struck room full of entrepreneurs and prospective entrepreneurs at Denver Startup Week:
“See if you can change the lens you’re looking through.”
It could be his motto. World Champion skier, college football All American, NFL player, professional model and now successful entrepreneur—Jeremy Bloom has changed lenses many, many times.
In his life, Bloom has explored all options, taken risks and sidestepped obstacles he couldn’t simply jump over. His life is a lesson in agility—one that the entrepreneurs at Denver Startup Week ate up.
An Anecdote in Agility
This sums Bloom up pretty nicely…
At the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, Bloom was the favorite for gold in freestyle mogul skiing. He’d dominated the 2005 FIS World Cup in freestyle, winning a record six straight races and finishing ranked number one in the world.
Bloom was ready. It was his second Olympics, so he was relaxed. He was having a stellar season, and he was well prepared. He was everyone’s lock for the win.
Yet he didn’t win. Midcourse, he had an ever-so-slight bobble.
“One inch. One inch was the difference,” he told the Denver Startup audience. “That small little break in the middle section.”
The bobble cost him the gold, dropping him to sixth place and out of medal contention altogether.
“That was the single lowest moment of my life,” he said.
However, rather than let it sink him, Bloom changed tack. He flew straight back from Italy and, a couple days after losing gold, participated in the NFL Scouting Combine (the NFL’s tryout session for potential draft picks).
At the Combine, Bloom ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard-dash (fast), despite coming right off skis. He was impressive enough in his workout to win a draft spot with the Philadelphia Eagles.
One minute losing gold. The next getting drafted. It’s a roller-coaster episode, but it’s not all that surprising.
After all, this is the guy who juggled college football (as an All American at the University of Colorado) and professional freestyle skiing (as a World Champion). And that was just the half of it.
Bloom also started a successful non-profit organization for seniors, modeled for Tommy Hilfiger and Abercrombie & Fitch, done some TV analyst work, narrated a Warren Miller film and earned a business degree at the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), among other things.
NFL (Not For Long)
Bloom’s plans were to play football after his skiing career, but like most other pro football players, Bloom’s time in the NFL was short-lived.
According to the NFL Players Association, the average NFL career lasts about three and a half years. According to ESPN, 78% of former NFL players are either under financial stress or bankrupt within two years of retirement.
Bloom understood this, and while playing for Philadelphia in 2007 he enrolled at Wharton as part of the NFL’s education program.
“My biggest fear was that I was going to be worthless to society after athletics,” he told Entrepreneur in an interview earlier this year. “It kept me up at night.”
Bloom turned to academics. Through the NFL program, he took classes on real estate and entrepreneurship at Wharton while interning for economist Peter Linneman.
“I noticed a big shift in my life,” Bloom told Entrepreneur. “I found myself more interested in reading stories about entrepreneurs like Larry Page and Sergey Brin than in working out.”
The Agile Entrepreneur
When he left football after just two injury-plagued seasons with the Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers, Bloom needed a new purpose. He was debating a third Olympics attempt at the 2010 Vancouver games, but entrepreneurship was calling his name.
Bloom skipped a third Olympics and instead started Wish of a Lifetime—a non-profit that helps seniors realize life goals.
“I’ve found my purpose,” he told his mother at the time.
He then turned his attention to for-profit and founded Integrate, a tech company that developed an advertising platform for unifying paid advertising campaigns.
In the last three years, Integrate has grown rapidly, while Bloom has grown as an entrepreneur along with it. Integrate received the Fastest Growing Company award at the 2012 Business Excellence Awards. Meanwhile, Bloom landed himself on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of rising business stars.
When others speak of him, they talk about how “coachable” he is, how he throws himself into learning something new, absorbing every bit of information he can.
“He’s one of the most coachable people I’ve ever worked with,” The Foundry Group’s Seth Levine told Entrepreneur. “Despite being the best in the world, he’s used to asking people for coaching, accepting that coaching, thinking about it and acting on it.”
In other words, he’s agile.