At the same time the Los Angeles Dodgers are blitzing through one of the most dominant regular seasons in baseball history, Shawn Green — a former All-Star for the “Boys in Blue” — has quietly reinvented himself as one of the city’s rising tech executives.
But even the most passionate baseball fan might have missed his latest swing. Green’s new venture, Greenfly, specializes in helping brands share their content across several social media platforms, from Instagram to Twitter. The Santa Monica-based company — only about 15 miles away from Dodgers Stadium, where Green pelted 49 home runs in 2001 — works behind-the-scenes, a tool you’ve probably seen in action for a number of pro football and baseball social accounts.
A 15-year MLB veteran with 328 homers to his name, Green caught the tech bug long before he hung up his cleats.
“I always loved tech and was really into it — in spring training I’d always buy some book on coding or Final Cut Pro or Adobe, and then I would get through half a chapter and I’d be so tired I wouldn’t get past that,” said Green in an interview with TheWrap. “But I always had this love of tech and always had to get all the new Apple products and was really into it.”
Green dabbled in a few projects following his retirement from the New York Mets a decade ago, but didn’t have to look far for a co-founder when he decided to launch Greenfly in 2014. His cousin, Daniel Kirschner, had been a close ally since the two grew up in the Bay Area together, before Green headed south to Orange County for high school. A graduate of Harvard Law School and a former Senior Vice President at Activision, Kirschner told TheWrap their strong connection has been a “crucial aspect” to their success.
“Shawn and I have been incredible partners on working together and really articulating and refining the vision [For Greenfly]” said Kirschner.”In the startup environment, it’s incredibly high stress, incredibly fast paced, we’re building every aspect of the company together, and to be able to have a partner that I can really work with, that he can really work with, [that] we can work together, is an incredibly powerful thing.”
The teamwork is paying off so far, with Greenfly raising more than $6 million in funding last November and focused on building its team of about two dozen employees. Today, Green looks the part of a Silicon Beach tech exec — albeit one who is still capable of smashing a few hardballs into the right field bleachers — trading in his jersey for a light-blue v-neck and jeans. But he admits building a sustainable tech company is a lot harder than it looks.
“It seems a lot easier, and I still hear players coming out of their careers and saying ‘oh, I have this great idea, I’m just going to build this app’ — that was kind of my thought process in the beginning. And I realize now how hard it is,” said Green. “There’s a lot more to being successful than just having a good idea and spitting up an app in six to eight months that you can get through iTunes.”
The challenge has been “satisfying and energizing,” according to Kirschner, because their past accomplishments have little impact on their new business. “The customers that are buying Greenfly, don’t care that Shawn was a professional baseball player or that I was the President of the Harvard Law Review. None of that stuff matters.”
Many former athletes have a difficult time transitioning to a life outside of professional sports. Beyond the money and fame, finding a competitive outlet that rivals their playing days is often a lost cause. But for Green, the grind of a 162-game baseball season translates well to the uneven startup lifestyle.
“In a startup, it’s very easy to get caught up in the waves of ups and downs. The earlier stage you are, every deal, every moment is really crucial and it’s easy to get high and low on those rides,” said Green. “But I think in baseball I learned that you’re never as good as your greatest streak, you’re never as bad as your biggest slump, and it’s completely analogous to this type of experience.”