Jamie Heaslip On Being A Tech Investor


Ireland and Leinster rugby player Jamie Heaslip says he is open to life as a venture capitalist after his playing career is over.

“If one were to come along and let me get involved, then maybe,” he said during a wide-ranging discussion on the latest episode of The Big Tech Show podcast.

Heaslip, who is one of Ireland’s most decorated international rugby players, has become one of Irish sport’s keenest tech investors, backing startups such as Stephen Smith’s injury-prevention analytics company Kitman Labs and the shop-stock ecommerce service Pointy.

On energy efficiency, he said, “I’ve got involved with a company, UrbanVolt. We started off with LED lights, Light as a Service. Now we’re doing solar.”

“The same way we do the lights, we’re doing solar now. We will install and retrofit at our cost, and repair at our cost. We then take a share of the savings generated, basically.”

His interest in tech even moved him to recently become an adult intern in Google’s Dublin office.

“I thought it was just going to be SME sales, but my first day was just in the engineering block. Those guys are incredible. I got a sense of the sales, engineering and stuff like data insights.”

In a broad discussion that also covered the struggles of electric cars, smart homes, switching to an iPad Pro and the business model of Netflix, Heaslip said that while his erstwhile rugby colleague Mike Ross acted as ‘tech support’ for the Irish rugby team when they were on the road, he has become the tech investment evangelist of the group.

“I’ve been the one who has put his head above the pulpit and gone this route of investing in different companies or helping to set up different companies,” he said. “I’ve been telling the other guys that this is the time they should think about doing that too.”

“Being a professional rugby player is weird. It’s like your whole career is inversely flipped, from an earnings perspective. You probably earn most of your capital now, in your twenties, and then it declines. So what do I do? I can put it in a bank. But that’s probably not the place for it.”

In addition to Kitman Labs and Pointy, Heaslip is also an investor in a restaurant, in Niall Harbison’s Lovin Group media company and in the Dublin-based ‘lighting as a service’ firm UrbanVolt.

However, he says that he can see a limit to the amount of investment activity he will pursue in the near future.

“I’ve invested in a couple of things and probably opened myself up to enough risk for the moment,” he said. “The portfolio is spread widely enough for my liking. Now it’s time to double down on what’s working and see what happens via an exit or a buyout or an IPO or something like that. Or maybe a company will go on and do really well and will have dividends.”

Heaslip says he recently had his “head blown” in exploring some of the potential around blockchain technology.

“Whatever about bitcoin taking a massive drop, or the other cryptocurrencies such as, Ether, Ripple and all the rest, some form of this is definitely staying. And the whole idea of blockchain technology is, I think, going to be really powerful going forward. I can see why a number of people aren’t comfortable with it, though.”

By Adrian Weckler

Anne James