Kirby Porter, Founder of New Game Labs | Hoop Story #080

Kirby Porter, Founder of New Game Labs | Hoop Story #080

Kirby Porter is no stranger to the game; she grew up immersed in the world of basketball. She began playing as a child and continued her career into adolescence, where she played for the Harvard women’s basketball program.

Her athletic and academic excellence,  as well as her driven personality and passion for entrepreneurship and sports business, have led her to various successes. She was recognized in the Sports Business Journal's 30 under 30, Front Office Sports' Rising 25, LinkedIn's First 100 Creators, and named a LinkedIn Top Voice in sports.

On top of all these achievements, Kirby is also passionate about giving back to the athlete community. She does so through her company, New Game Labs, a marketing firm that connects athletes to startups that expand their brands beyond the game.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to sit down and talk with Kirby about her journey in the world of collegiate athletics and sports business. Here is what she had to share.

Disclaimer: This is a modified transcript. 

It’s so apparent that you have such a love for basketball and the world of sports in general. I mean, you played Division I basketball at Harvard and now you have an extremely successful sports business career. Where did your passion for sports and sports business begin?

I always had a mindset of wanting to be more than an athlete, so that transitioned into business. It was just figuring out a way to channel my passion for sports into a new avenue which I have done in my career.

I started in sports marketing at PepsiCo. I knew going into my first job that I wanted to replicate this sense of duality. Just like being a student-athlete, where you're both a student and an athlete, with school and your sport demanding your dedication. I wanted my job to be something I poured myself into as well as a passion that I could pour into. For me, that passion was content creation and helping other athletes successfully transition into the business.

 Having that structured approach, similar to the work ethic I had as a student-athlete, while also feeling like I was contributing to something meaningful, really allowed me to maintain similar routines, habits, and discipline. That really fast-tracked my career.

What was your experience at Harvard like? What made you choose Harvard and what makes the athlete experience at an IV school unique? 

I knew I wanted to play somewhere where I would be happy on and off the court. Somewhere I felt like I could thrive, both as Kirby the athlete, and also Kirby the person who had interests and passions outside of my jersey. And for me, that was Harvard.

During my four years there, I felt like I was able to pour into the basketball team and really get that DI athlete experience. I learned from an amazing coach in Kathy Delaney Smith. Also off the court, I felt like I was empowered to be a black woman on campus, to explore my interests in business and sports and all these things, and actually had the time and capacity to do it.

Many of the student-athletes at Harvard had multiple interests and were very big and audacious in their goals outside the court or field. They also wanted to maximize their Harvard experience.

That experience altogether allowed me to do things such as interning for the Patriots when I was a freshman or interning at Under Armour when I was a sophomore and all these other things that I felt were unique to the Ivy League athlete experience in general.

You have this mission of helping the athlete community and one of the ways you are doing so is through your company New Game Labs. Can you talk about the origin of New Game Labs and what it seeks to accomplish? 

With the NIL rule changes, I really saw how this new generation of athletes was coming to the forefront—athletes that are mostly hyphenated, being creators, entrepreneurs, and investors. I believed that they would need a new set of technology and solutions to help them reach their potential beyond the game. When I started New Game Labs, the idea was how to build in this direction.

 I work with startups that are building solutions that assist athletes in this new digital age. New Game Labs' mission is building the athletes' economy—an ecosystem where athletes and technology come together to support this new generation of players.

You've achieved all of this not only as a woman in the industry but also as a black woman. Could you discuss how you use your platform to empower and guide other women and individuals who view you as a role model?

I think a lot of that comes from people who have inspired me and my career and how they have been open, giving, and accessible. That's who I am at my core as a person. I love to connect with people; I love to help people. But especially in my career, I've always been building in public. I've always been very transparent about the journey and what I'm trying to accomplish, even if the goals are big and audacious. I think that has added a level of relatability to my journey. So it's always great that now when I connect with people, they're like, 'Hey, I've been listening to you since you started your podcast 'Court to Corporate' in 2019 and have been following your journey. I feel like I've known you.' So content creation has been a way for me to establish relatability.

Also, I’d like to highlight letting your results speak for you. I think there's something to say about really, really doing the work and going above and beyond and having that hard work pay off. 

I've always been someone who goes above and beyond, whether I'm in a company or whether I'm starting my own and running my own company. And those results have shown over time that repeated action leads to repeated results. At a certain point, you know, you have to be like, 'Okay, I think I know what I'm talking about,' and carry that into the rooms that you walk into. Don't make yourself feel small either or dim your light, and I think that has been something that a lot of my career role models have inspired me to do as well.

I would say the second thing is to carry that athlete mentality into your career, confidently knowing you've achieved and performed at the highest level. Entrepreneurship-wise, find something you're obsessed with. I don't know any entrepreneur who starts a business or goes through entrepreneurship without obsession. The earlier you find that drive, the better. You achieve this through a personal commitment to learning.

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