Detroit-Born Serial Entrepreneur Quits Boston for Pro Hoops Contract
Yo, is there a ballplayer in the house? Well, there is a House playing ball—professional basketball, that is.
At the age of 33, Adam House, a serial entrepreneur (and shooting guard) who has successfully built and sold three companies—his most recent startup, Velocitude, was acquired by Akamai in 2010—has at least temporarily put aside the tug of entrepreneurship for his love of hoops. More specifically, House has decided to uproot his family from Boston to upstate New York to join the Rochester Razorsharks, a professional basketball team in the Premier Basketball League. Here is his player page).
True, it isn’t the NBA—but House describes the league as very competitive, with most players having come from Division 1 college teams, and several going on to the NBA’s D-League (development league) or playing pro ball overseas. So it’s pretty cool. I caught up with House by phone when he was with the team in Michigan, where they had finished a two-game sweep of the Lake Michigan Admirals. Here is a quick overview of his version of Hoop Dreams…
House grew up in Birmingham, MI, about 25 miles northwest of Detroit. He played basketball for nearby Brother Rice High School, a well-known Catholic school attended by the offspring of many of the Detroit area’s business leaders or auto execs.
But House also had a passion for entrepreneurship. He worked at Rock Financial, a Quicken Loans company, and was able to learn from Dan Gilbert who is now the main owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. So, bitten by the business bug, he left college (Centre College, a small liberal arts school in Kentucky) after his freshman year at age 19 to work for a direct marketing firm in Florida. He quit that after one year, and in 1998 formed a startup to do direct marketing for financial services companies with $500 of his own money. He built that into a multi-million-dollar business (an Internet lead generation startup he also founded merged with the company) and sold it in May 2007. A few years later, House launched his third startup, Velocitude, a mobile services platform company that enabled delivery of video and other content to mobile devices. He built that up as well, and sold it to Akamai in mid-2010 for undisclosed terms.
But let’s get back to hoops. As part of the Akamai deal, House and his family—wife and now three sons—moved to the Boston area. Among other things, he joined CommonAngels, the angel investor group that is the lead investor in Xconomy. After leaving Akamai, House was not quite ready for the grind of another startup, so he decided to train for a triathlon. “I saw myself in bike pants and a helmet, and I just looked in a mirror and said, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’” House recalls. He turned to basketball instead. He trained hard, and attended a Premier League showcase event in Ohio where hopeful players show off their talents. At 6′ 2″ he was good enough to be one of three players picked to come to the RazorSharks camp. (The RazorSharks are the cream of the crop of the Premier League, having won all three championships in its short history.)
But things didn’t quite go smoothly. When the squad was cut from 25 players to 14 this fall, in preparation for the season that began on New Year’s Eve, House was not among those kept. He went back to Boston, and was surprised to get a call a little while later from the coach who said he had rethought his decision. “When can you be here?” the coach asked. House moved to Rochester in the first week of January, and his wife and three kids followed a few weeks later.
House, by the way, must be a great salesman. His wife has gone from Miami Beach to Boston to Rochester—and in winter. “I had to sell my wife on how Rochester is just like Boston, without the universities and restaurants,” he jokes.
The RazorSharks are once again at the top of the Premier pack, at 7-1. House arrived shortly after the season started, and he hasn’t gotten into any of the first eight games, as he gets up to speed and in game condition. “It is very fast paced,” he says. (That’s putting it mildly—the RazorSharks have the league record for points scored in a game, with 176.) But the coach told him he should get into a game soon—next up are the Dayton Air Strikers on Thursday night.
I asked him how he made the team, against many who played in college at a very high level. And here he went back to the skills that made him a successful entrepreneur. “I think it is just bringing the same leadership that you do to a startup to a team.” And just like on the business side, he quips, “I think every shot I shoot is going in.”