Soccer Mom to Sports Magnate with Kara Nortman





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Have you ever had a Hollywood A-Lister casually say, “Hey, let’s start a sports franchise?” Probably not, but today’s guest has.

Immerse yourself in the world of investing in sports as Greg Dowling sits down with prominent American venture capitalist, Kara Nortman. Kara, shares her journey in becoming the visionary founder of Monarch Collective, a gender-equality group of venture capitalists in effort to increase diversity and the co-founder of Angel City FC. All of which started with a quest to purchase a U.S. jersey at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Discover investment strategies, challenges, and triumphs that shaped these groundbreaking women-led sports ventures. Kara breaks down underwriting, expanding media rights, commercialization, and maximizing returns, providing insight for investors. Kara provides raw and unfiltered insights into the dynamic world of sports investing. Join us, we hope you get a kick out of it.


Episode Chapters
0:00 Introduction
0:36 Episode Introduction
1:15 Introduction on Kara Nortman
1:50 The Rise of Angel City FC
8:07 Bringing People into the Fold
13:10  Connecting with Athletes
14:57 HBO, Dreams, and Raising Capital Pre-Covid
21:15  Behind the Brand “Monarch Collective” and Building Community
25:17 Underwriting a Sports Franchise Investment
26:55 Expanding Media Rights
29:24 Commercializing New Leagues and Revenue Streams
33:12 Maximizing Returns as an Investor
33:59 Kara’s Background at InterActiveCorp (IAC)
40:05 The Story of “All Raise”
42:15 Fund Progression




Greg Dowling, CFA, CAIA

Chief Investment Officer, Head of Research, FEG

Greg Dowling is Chief Investment Officer and Head of Research at FEG. Greg joined FEG in 2004 and focuses on managing the day-to-day activities of the Research department. Greg chairs the Firm’s Investment Policy Committee, which approves all manager recommendations and provides oversight on strategic asset allocations and capital market assumptions. He also is a member of the firm’s Leadership Team and Risk Committee.

Kara Nortman

Managing Partner, Monarch Collective and Co-Founder, Angel City Football Club

Kara is Managing Partner of Monarch Collective, an investment platform dedicated to accelerating equity in global sport. Kara is a co-founder and Board Member of Angel City Football Club, which has quickly risen to become the most valuable women's soccer team in the world.

Prior to Monarch, Kara was a Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures, where she worked for eight years. Before joining Upfront, Kara spent close to seven years at IAC where she co-headed the M&A group and later served in operating capacities as the SVP and General Manager of Urbanspoon and Citysearch. She served on the board of IAC's mobile technology incubator (Hatch Labs), where she incubated Tinder in their seed round. Earlier in her career Kara worked at Battery Ventures, Microsoft and Morgan Stanley. Kara is also a founding member of All Raise, a VC-led Nonprofit dedicated to increased diversity in funders and founders, and she advised the Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association during their pay equity fight. Kara earned an AB in Politics from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University. Kara resides in Los Angeles with her husband and three daughters.


Greg Dowling (00:05):

Welcome to the FEG Insight Bridge. This is Greg Dowling, head of research and CIO at FEG, an institutional investment consultant and OCIO firm serving non-profits across the U.S. This show spans global markets and institutional investments through conversations with some of the world's leading investments, economic and philanthropic minds, to provide insights on how institutional investors can survive and even thrive in the world of markets and finance. Today on the FEG Insight Bridge, we welcome Kara Nortman. We caught up with her recently at the FEG Investment Forum where she was one of our featured speakers. Kara is one of the Angel City FC owners and Monarch Collective founder. Have you ever had a Hollywood A-lister casually say, "Hey, let's start a sports franchise?" Well, me neither, but Kara has; hear her amazing story. She'll also share her vision for the Monarch Collective, a private equity firm focused on women's sports, and she will share her experience of being a woman in the venture capital business. Don't miss a minute. We really think you'll get a kick out of it. Kara, welcome to the FEG Insight Bridge.

Kara Nortman (01:18):

Thank you, Greg. I'm thrilled to be here.

Greg Dowling (01:20):

Alright, before we get going, would you introduce yourself?

Kara Nortman (01:24):

Sure. I'm Kara Nortman. I'm the co-founder and managing partner of Monarch Collective and the co-founder of Angel City. Monarch Collective is the first and hopefully one of many women's sports funds. We invest in sports teams, leagues, and rights. And Angel City is the first majority female-owned, female-led professional sports team in the country.

Greg Dowling (01:45):

This is going be great. We're going do a little bit of everything and wanted to first start out with Angel City. This is such a cool story. You've told it to me now a couple of times, but for our listeners, how did this happen?

Kara Nortman (01:57):

I would say it just started with, curiosity and passion. If I ever were to write a book someday, I think one of the titles might be the joy of the side hustle or the hobby. Because it did just start as something that seemed wrong in the world that felt like, we should, I should maybe look to make right. And then it became a, we should make it look right. But basically I was at the 2015 World Cup Finals with my three girls face painting. My little one was on the ground, you know, like a hoodlum. She actually took her shirt off. I have a picture of her. She was three. So it was okay. It was okay.

Greg Dowling (02:29):

This is not Europe.

Kara Nortman (02:31):

Two, actually, I think she was two. And it was just the time of my life and I felt like a kid again. And I wanted more of that. And so I went to nine stores to find a Meghan Klingenberg jersey. I was very proud to be raising a daughter who wanted the defender's jersey, not the forward's jersey. And anyway, I couldn't find one. I went to a bunch of stores. I came home, I looked for content. It looked like it was being streamed. There was this league called the NWSL, I had never heard of. It looked like it was being streamed from Outer space. I love this analogy, but it's sort of like you think about a consumer product you like, or a beverage you like. I always say Budweiser or Heineken, if you have 90 minutes and it's, you're like living in the best 90-minute experience of that beverage. And then it's not in the stores for four years, which is what we had with the World Cup. And so, you know, we now have many billions of people watching the World Cup, but there was no product to buy in between those four years. And so that started my, what I now call my market research. I you might say I was irritated, joyfully, irritated.

Greg Dowling (03:25):

Well, I just love this, this side hustle thing. I mean, a lot of people, their side hustle, they'll sell their tchotchkes on Etsy. You, you started a soccer team.

Kara Nortman (03:35):

You know, as a working mom of three. I formally started it with Julie Uhrman and Natalie Portman in 2019. And at that point in time, my youngest daughter was six. It sort of felt like I came down from altitude and I had more oxygen. And so there was time for side hobbies at the time. But yeah, I think it's one of those things, if you find a thing you love to do and you're doing it at two in the morning and weekends and you're doing it with people you love, it doesn't actually need to turn into a business. It's, it's just looking for that joy. And then occasionally it can change your life.

Greg Dowling (04:06):

So there was this interest that turned into a passion, but how did this actually happen?

Kara Nortman (04:12):

I mean, you know, like all things, well not like all things. The Queen of Star Wars said to me, that would be Natalie, said to me, we have the text stream every occasion, I scroll way back and try to find it because it kind of blows my mind that it started with this text stream.

Greg Dowling (04:28):

Maybe tell a story of how you guys connected.

Kara Nortman (04:31):

I was involved in starting a nonprofit called All Raise on Gender, Equity, and Diversity. One of the people who also started something similar in Hollywood called Time's Up. And we were at a big gathering for Time's Up and I was asked to go on stage and present tech for two minutes. And so at the end of those two minutes I said, this is a special room. Our job is to expand this room and bring more women in every day. But while we're here, you had women from all different industries. I said, go to a woman in a different industry who you're probably never going do business with. Do you just want to meet and get to know and give them your number and go meet for a meal? And if they're weird, block them. I mean, I literally said that. It's still in my phone, I can show you when we're done, when you let me turn my phone back on.

Kara Nortman (05:09):

She put her name in as Natalie P and I think we did our first call when I was driving in my minivan through the Mojave Desert. Six months later we met for a meal. And at the end of the meal, I think in the last 15 minutes of the meal, like I often did, I would talk about the pay equity fight for the US Women's national team. So I got involved in the pay equity fight, I became an advisor to the union and she said, how can I help? I'm super interested in that. And I said, you are? I said, you're interested in soccer? She said, yeah, because my son wears a Messi jersey one day and a Rapinoe jersey the next day. And he just wants to watch great football. You know? I know. Not American football, global football.

Greg Dowling (05:43):

Messi is playing in the MSL right now

Kara Nortman (05:46):

At the MLS. We need to get...

Greg Dowling (05:48):

MLS Yeah. I'm sorry.

Kara Nortman (05:49):

Yeah, no. Has he come to Cincinnati yet?

Greg Dowling (05:51):

Yeah, he has. It was quite an ordeal.

Kara Nortman (05:54):

Yeah, it's incredible. So anyway, that's how it started. And we built a little bit of a friendship and that friendship sort of blossomed through the World Cup and other things. And one day we were actually throwing an event together for the players when they came back from the '19 World Cup. And I was texting with her on the way either to or from that event, and I kept waxing poetic about how to get the union funded in different NIL or name and likeness revenue streams. And she just kept writing back, let's start a team, let's start a team. And she said it three times. And so by the third time, I called her when I landed, I remember I was sitting next to my husband. He likes when I tell this part of the story

Greg Dowling (06:30):

Is that, so he's in the story?

Kara Nortman (06:32):

Almost always gets edited out. So here we go. Let's see. He was doing his first Iron Man triathlon because apparently when you have three daughters and a wife, you like to...

Greg Dowling (06:42):

Solitude. Lots of solitude.

Kara Nortman (06:43):

Like to train alone. And I showed it to him and I got off and I called her and she said, don't you know how to do this? And I said, well, what do you mean? Don't you start businesses and fund them? And I said, yeah, I know how to raise capital, I know how to hire management teams, but I've never had to build a stadium or go get a license to a unique IP entertainment platform. But anyway, that's where it started. And I think it was more somebody who thought something was possible. She dreamed bigger for me than I allowed myself to dream. And then I believed it was possible. And so actually I started by going to the men's teams. I said, okay, well what's the quickest path to getting this done? And so I went to men's teams. I remember I sat with one of the presidents and you know, he was interested but not that interested. And so, so I was doing a bunch of work to come back to him to grab the capital to start building the team. And she said, is this, how is this how it works? You do all the work for somebody else? And I said, well, it's a good point.

Greg Dowling (07:39):

A lot of great stuff there to unpack. But one of my favorites is that you truly are a soccer mom in a minivan.

Kara Nortman (07:46):

The cliches are real

Greg Dowling (07:48):

I love it. I love it.

Kara Nortman (07:49):

You know, we also have an electric, couple electric vehicles.

Greg Dowling (07:53):

Well, you are in California.

Kara Nortman (07:54):

Yeah. The minivan was definitely a moment when we had the third child and we got the minivan and I said, this is actually happening.

Greg Dowling (08:01):

Well, you couldn't be an official soccer mom without it. So it's very fitting. You had this struggle, like when did it come to fruition and then how did you get other people into the fold?

Kara Nortman (08:12):

Yeah, it's a true hero's journey. And, some days the hero's journey continues. But, you know, we started in earnest probably August, September of 2019. And so it was Natalie and I, and then I was looking to bring in a president to work with us. And so I recruited Julie Uhrman in to work with us and she's the current president. She's extraordinary. And then, you know, we really were iterating on the plan, the stadium, the how to bid for a license. And we started with obviously the revenue streams and understanding our stadium options. And actually I looked at our numbers the other day and I think we're three to four x our revenue in the first year of what we put in our initial pitch deck.

Greg Dowling (08:51):

Wow, because if you actually put that in there, people would've been like, this isn't right.

Kara Nortman (08:54):

So this is the interesting thing about women's sports and in general, everyone looks at past data. And so if you're looking at past data to think about what's possible, you're never going get there. I mean, it's one of the reasons Angel City has really changed the way people look at women's sports. And now you have Nebraska volleyball. And one stat that just came to mind in Australia when the Australian national team was playing England in, I think it was the semi-finals, the Matildas against the lionesses, 9 out of 10 TVs in Australia tuned into that game. Right? And you have the same thing for the black firms in New Zealand. Bigger audience shared than the All Blacks at a primetime slot. And so, but back then there wasn't any data. And so I remember there was a team in LA called The Soul. There were a bunch of defunct teams as well in defunct leagues.

Kara Nortman (09:39):

And that was the biggest, these were the biggest questions we were getting. You could succeed, but the league could fail. I think I didn't look at the underlying assumptions for that first model when I went back last week, but I think it was something like 8 or 9,000 tickets. We went back to the soul data and we sort of built the plan with what are people going believe, not what do we think we can do? Because when we went to our sponsors, we said we were going do a ton more to get, you know, we got a $10 million jersey sponsor in place, which was unheard of before we sold a single season ticket or named a single player. By the way, one other thing that was interesting is there were high profile players that we were considering bringing in. And we brought in one named Christen Press.

Kara Nortman (10:14):

Christen got injured and tore her ACL in our first season. So what ended up happening is we didn't have a single known player on the Angel City team before that season. And we're still, you know, 16,000 season tickets, selling out multiple games. While I really want Christen to get healthy. Please get healthy, Christen, we want you back. It's interesting because you can't say it was the Christen Press effect or the Alex Morgan Effect or something like that. It was just an incredible in stadium experience that people love and want to come back to and honestly harass me for the schedule so they can plan their vacations and their work travel around not missing it, which has been terrific.

Greg Dowling (10:52):

I think we've already proven that for the Women's national team, you may get better viewership for that because they're better than the men. They have proven that out. I mean, everybody like stops what they're doing. I want to watch the Women's World Cup. You know, I think the question probably was initially was, okay, we get that. Will they watch two games a week, three games a week? Will they follow a season? And I think that is something you're trying to prove, like yes, they will.

Kara Nortman (11:18):

Yeah. I mean, everyone go check out We are Angel City. So it's the Instagram account. You'll see the quality of the content, the player profiles. You guys have FC Cincinnati here, right?

Greg Dowling (11:29):

In first place, FCC.

Kara Nortman (11:31):

First place? I've not been to a game, but I imagine it's incredible, right? The environment.

Greg Dowling (11:34):

It is an incredible environment.

Kara Nortman (11:36):

I think there's kind of, you know, maybe three things I'd bring up. One, is it fun to watch this sport in general, right? We spend so much time talking about who's the best at X, Y or Z. We know men's soccer in the United States is far from the best, right? But I was at the MLS Cup last year, the finals. It was one of, if not the most fun game I have ever been to. And so do you like watching the sport? And you know, why are we so obsessed with it being the best? I mean, we are obsessed with it all being the best, but that's number one. It's, you know, it's a beautiful game.

Greg Dowling (12:06):

It's a beautiful game.

Kara Nortman (12:07):

Football is life. I agree. You know, we got to do some Ted Lasso there.

Greg Dowling (12:10):


Kara Nortman (12:12):

Everyone go watch that scene with Hannah, with all the owners when they were trying to do the Super League.

Greg Dowling (12:16):

Oh, that's great. Yeah.

Greg Dowling (12:18):

It's kind of like you.

Kara Nortman (12:19):

Well, a lot of people sent me that scene in the final scene. I'm still determined to meet her because you know, you see those characters on television and it actually does mean something to people. But the second is, is the experience incredible? And do you want to go back, you know, why do people go to Disneyland? Why do they go to, I don't know, Coachella, why do you go to these experienced Burning Man?

Greg Dowling (12:42):

Maybe, not this year.

Kara Nortman (12:43):

Maybe not this year. I've never been, it seems very dusty.

Greg Dowling (12:45):

It seems like they have flooding and mud.

Kara Nortman (12:48):

Just yeah, I don't, don't apocalyptic. The whole, you know, Passover

Greg Dowling (12:53):

Maybe that's, yeah, maybe not. That's probably not the experience that you want in Angel City.

Kara Nortman (12:57):

Yeah, let's go with 15 years ago before it jumped the shark there. But anyways, the experience is incredible. And then do you connect to the players and to connect to the players you need distribution. And actually a big part of what fed my fuel around Angel City in those first four years, '15 to '19 was the only content channel I had was Instagram. So I could follow Crystal Dunn and Ashlyn Harris and Ali Long, and a bunch of players you guys maybe don't, haven't heard of. Hopefully you've heard of some of them. But having that distribution, you know, is like, these players are fun, they're interesting, they're cultural icons. You know, I remember Ali Long, like she was a gamer and she was like challenging male players to gaming duals. So anyways, that is I think how you connect to things and you know, it's amazing.

Kara Nortman (13:41):

We have of course little kids show up though. I like to debunk that this is a family thing. This is like, you know, we have big men who have Angel City tattoos on their shins show up. I think we're close to 50/50 from a demographics we're wow, heavily 17 to 34 year olds. But we do have, it's obviously a family friendly thing. And people comment on that all the time relative to football in other countries, that it's safe, it's communal. Our players, and this happens in women's sports everywhere, stick around and sign autographs and take pictures. And you just have hundreds of people who stay after the game to do that. And every one of them has a different player they love. And honestly, they usually look like that. You know, that girl if it's a blonde girl she used to love, like Tyler Lussi, if she's a black girl, she'll love Simone Charley or Jasmyne Spencer or Sarah Gorden. And so these girls and boys see themselves in these players and they see these virtuoso athletes sweating and kicking butt on the field and they become their heroes.

Greg Dowling (14:40):

Yeah, I can imagine too, depending on the position you play too, right? Like if you're the sweeper or you're a midi.

Kara Nortman (14:46):

Our keeper, people love our keeper. Oh yeah, there's a lot of keeper. Goalie energy. I'm raising a goalie. There's never goalie jerseys. There's a lot of petitions happening. I mean, it's very exciting.

Greg Dowling (14:57):

This all happens and then HBO gets involved. I'm sure that the Hollywood A-listers that, that you have kind of help, but talk about that process and is it weird to have cameras around all the time? I have not experienced cameras around all the time.

Kara Nortman (15:10):

You kind of get used to it. You know, the docuseries turned out really well, so it's a fun one to watch. I think it's maybe two and a half, three hours in total, but they had a hundred hours of footage. And actually, so, you know, I think at some point in that first year, we basically raised, you know, our first less than million dollars, we ended up raising it three weeks before Covid. And so sometimes I think about, gosh, what if it was three weeks later? But that actually allowed us to think differently. I remember having one conversation with Julie where I said, this gives us the, I forget. Is it concave or convex thinking? I said this allows us to have concave thinking. What if we never go back into stadiums?

Kara Nortman (15:52):

What if we're playing in media as our only distribution and we're figuring out how to engage with players in different venues? Like what if we could just imagine a completely different future, what would we do differently right this second? Not knowing when this is going to end and not owning a stadium, being a tenant. It was pretty interesting because we got to go through these just very different thought exercises and we sort of were like, okay, we're going to show up digitally far before we show up on the pitch and we wanna build community in the real world, but how do we do it? And so we started like getting people together in drum circles, and we had this big community we built on Slack and kind of gardening days. And I mean, you know, motorcycle rides. I mean, we had like the whole shebang. I remember I was in a motel in Utah wearing an Angel City mask.

Kara Nortman (16:39):

And it was early days, you know, it was definitely pre-documentary. And my sister was there with us and she was wearing masks and she's like, there's some people outside freaking out about Angel City. And I'm like, what are you talking about? Nobody knows about Angel City. And they were part of our first many hundred supporters group who were on Slack. And it was in the middle of COVID and I sat outside at a motel and that's when I think I realized, wow, this is going to be something. But, so anyway, at some point in that first year as we were gathering, and obviously we do have a lot of high profile athletes, actresses, etc, Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Billie Jean King, Lindsay Vaughn, Eva Longoria, you know, we have this Jennifer Garner, Glennon Doyle, etc. But, I think we realized something special was happening and we have some people, you know, who know a thing or two, and they said, maybe we should start filming our meetings. And I was like, okay, this is weird. Our hair definitely looks very COVID-y, you know, or I mean, I should say, obviously it was a very difficult time, so I don't want to diminish that. But you, you can kind of see in some of the opening scenes, we all look a bit unkempt .

Greg Dowling (17:47):

So I love, you told me the story that someone came up to you and was like, hey, you're my favorite character. And you're like, I'm not a character. This is reality tv.

Kara Nortman (17:56):

Yeah, that was really, that was very funny.

Greg Dowling (18:00):

I don't know if you'd be my favorite character.

Kara Nortman (18:02):

I mean, you know, I'm totally cool with that. There's a lot of really good characters in there. I don't wanna put you on the spot and ask you if you've seen it, but have you seen it?

Greg Dowling (18:10):

I have seen it. I thought it was great. I thought it was just fun to see the journey and even if you're not a sports fan, I think it helps, right? But, I think you'd enjoy it. So a plug for it.

Kara Nortman (18:25):

Thank you. I mean, it really, it should be about the players, the staff, the team. And so the beginning, you know, the first episode and a half is really about the making of the team, but then we really transition into the players and we have extraordinary players just as human beings. I mean, Ali Riley, our inaugural captain, you know, she's just one of the best people out there in terms of her values, how she shows up, what she cares about, how she leads that team, watching the team onboard rookies. Alyssa Thompson is 18, right? She's one of the first to skip Stanford and come over to Angel City. Strangely enough, she goes to my old high school.

Greg Dowling (19:00):

The Stanford of high schools, I'm sure?

Kara Nortman (19:02):

I mean, it's actually my middle daughter is there, so she's like, mom, what am I? A kid who goes to my school is playing professional soccer, right? And these things start to blow your mind. I say it all the time. It's like, I never grew up, even with like the smallest wrinkle of a thought that I could be a professional athlete or president of the United States. Those two ideas, I never allowed myself to even consider them. But every, you know, every boy I knew wanted to be a professional baseball player. A lot of them wanted to be president. And so just this idea that this new generation grows up thinking they can kind of be anything, and very few of us will become those things. But I really think the dreams are important. And being able to dream that big allows you to dream bigger in other areas and just feel the, you know, the power of potential and then the power of your body and what it's capable of. It's awesome. And I love, my favorite emails are the ones I get from people about how their 15 year old son, it's their favorite thing to do, and they're walking away from their x, y, z male sports season ticket to become Angel City. And of course, they should keep all of them. But, um, it's pretty cool.

Greg Dowling (20:05):

That's awesome. Hey, before we switch gears and talk about the Monarch Collective and some of your other backgrounds, I mean, you've done a lot of great things. What makes you more nervous watching your daughter play soccer or watching Angel City? Your daughter is a goalie, right?

Kara Nortman (20:20):

That's a really good question. It honestly depends on the day. It depends on how much sleep I've had. If I've had sleep, I'm zen. I mean, right now we're on the bubble of the playoffs for Angel City. And so as an example, we were up two to one and we had sort of a somewhat, you know, kind of a goal that shouldn't have happened in the very end of the game. And so we went from three points to one point, and we went from in the playoffs to out of the playoffs. So I definitely, right now I'm like doing a lot of, you know, sending energy through the television things when it's not a home game. And I'm not traveling to it. So I'd say right now it's probably Angel City, but I feel pretty nervous at my daughter's soccer game last weekend too.

Greg Dowling (21:00):

Yeah, goalies are tough.

Kara Nortman (21:01):

Soccer parents are intense.

Greg Dowling (21:02):

They are intense.

Kara Nortman (21:03):

But you know, it's amazing to watch your kids do this. You have to have a certain mentality to be a goalie. And so I really respect whatever goes on in my daughter's beautiful brain to be able to love that. I would not.

Greg Dowling (21:14):

Yeah, that is tough. So, Monarch Collective, where's the name come from?

Kara Nortman (21:18):

Yeah, so you might see I'm wearing my butterfly here. So I now collect butterfly necklaces. So if anyone roams the world and finds a cool butterfly necklace, let me know.

Greg Dowling (21:26):

For the holidays, right?

Kara Nortman (21:27):

Yeah, I break 'em on occasion too. So I have like a broken pile and a non-broken pile. And I actually usually also wear a basketball my grandmother gave me that she got playing in the Bronx in 1930. But the name comes from, actually, you know, a lot of what I thought about as Angels City was taking off our, yeah, it took a lot of skill and hard work, etc. But there also were all of these butterfly effect moments. You have to, you know, we've timed the market really well. If we'd done this five years ago or five years from now, you know, it would've been very different. And so there are all these kind of butterfly effect moments. So I just think about chaos theory, butterfly effect, lean into your energy. Should I go to that dinner or not?

Kara Nortman (22:05):

I mean, you kind of know. And sometimes you should go for no reason. And you might sit next to someone who changes your life. And sometimes you're sitting there and you say, why am I here? You know, so that's the first thing. Just chaos theory, butterfly effects. And then the second is I love the double entendre of just sort of this idea that through women's sports we can build new institutions or new monarchies, right? And the yin and the yang, the male and the female, the black, brown and white, the gay and the straight. And you just can bring together communities in ways where in women's sports and in sports in general, you have a Republican and a Democrat sitting next to each other and you're an hour into a game with a common connection and having a lot of joyful fun before you realize you might hate each other, right? And once you get there, you might not hate each other and you might find a way through. And so this idea that we can role model how to bring collaboration back and different people into leadership and into organizations is, you know, the thing I think could be really the lasting effect. And I hope other institutions will copy it at some point in time.

Greg Dowling (23:02):

We have a friend in common, and we were talking about you the other day. By the way, this is like, I figured out this is your only non-famous friend. I could have had you like, could I have been friends when you're in famous people? No. But it's your one.

Kara Nortman (23:15):

I have a lot of non-famous friends. I'm very close to my friends from childhood.

Greg Dowling (23:19):

All right, so we were talking and you're just like, you are meant for venture, private equity, growth, equity. Because you just ooze optimism. And you know, she comes from more of a credit hedge fund background. You're always thinking about the downside and you're all upside.

Kara Nortman (23:36):

I married downside. So we have like a downside management team in the house. My partner Jasmine Robinson, and we were talking about this the other day, I believe in polarity. And we're interviewing our first set of investment hires for our first fund right now. I think everyone we're hiring is a deep cynic. And I'm going to have to hold onto the optimism for everything. But yeah, I mean, I guess what I would say is I have optimism in trends and what's possible, but I have a lot of pessimism when I look at working capital and income statements. You know, it's obviously if you're looking at credit, you're just looking. I mean, if you're looking at credit or you're a corporate attorney, that's what you're paid to do. We hope to have a very low loss ratio because we're going into assets with Monarch that really are capped by the downside is capped by franchise value, the value of rights, you know, it's more of a growth equity to private equity risk profile.

Kara Nortman (24:30):

But you know, I think we should constantly be challenging where we're spending our time because it's such a dynamic market. The market should, you know, I mean who knows how anything grows, but it should grow, you know, 5x, 10x, even more in the coming years. So it does feel a little bit like tech to me when I started in the late nineties where it feels like this very small part of the ecosystem and it's less than a billion dollars compared to a half a trillion for men's sports. And that's all revenue stream, sponsorships, ticketing, media, NFTs, anyone remember those? Oh my gosh. I would say the market is more of a venture growth equity market, but you can actually find some really interesting, almost like arbitrages on risk if you're focused on the right assets that are going to grow with media revenue right now.

Greg Dowling (25:15):

When you invest, maybe tell us how this works. I know how to underwrite a stock or a bond. How do you underwrite an investment in a sports franchise?

Kara Nortman (25:23):

Yeah, well we just announced our first investment for Monarch. It's an investment in the NWSL expansion team in Boston. A terrific group of women leaders, great sports town. They have a stadium that they're building out in downtown Boston. It'll only be the second one after the Red Sox. And real estate assets, as you guys know, are quite valuable in terms of additional sponsorship revenue and the like. We underwrite it like any investment, we model it out. We look at the P&L, we look at the revenue streams, we look at the cost basis, we look at the key components of the cost basis and how are they changing. We look at the structure relative to the amount of time we're gonna put in and look at whether we should be pricing this differently than more passive capital. And then, you know, we're underwriting the fund too, a 3x net fund and you know, hopefully we'll exceed that.

Kara Nortman (26:05):

The core franchise values I can come back to, but it's unique real estate, right? So to some extent they trade a bit more like hard assets. You know, it's uncorrelated, it's a great thing in your portfolio, but you underwrite it like you underwrite anything else. And then you look at major risk factors, which are very different now. I mean, it was venture capital when we started Angel City and it was venture capital for a bunch of reasons. Like the core drivers of the revenue streams along with the stability of the league. And now you can underwrite this to 15-20 million in revenue before media revenue. Angel City does quite a bit more than that. And you know, even with Angel City, I think we've dramatically underpriced tickets. And so we're trying to be thoughtful about that because we want to make it accessible to everyone. But the all-in sort of, you know, revenue per fan is trending up right now, but you model it out the way you do any investment. We have a 15 page memo, Greg, if you want to sign an NDA.

Greg Dowling (26:53):

So you mentioned earlier that you're trying to watch women's soccer and it felt like it was broadcast from outer space watching out on Beta max. Like how do you improve the media rights of this and how do you get it on a major channel? Like Apple just did, you know, it partially goes to Messi, but they've kind of gone all in on soccer. Like, is there enough room? Is an ESPN, is it a local cable network? How do you kind of expand media?

Kara Nortman (27:18):

Obviously there's a lot of changes happening in the media industry right now. And so you have sort of the big platforms that have direct distribution who you know, are likely to continue playing a very big role in being able to bid differently. Amazon, Google, Netflix, who isn't participating in sports right now, Roku, you know, players like that that have, you know, kind of strong digital distribution. Then you have traditional players like Discovery, you know, Scripps is actually making a play, etc. Like there's a bunch of other traditional distributors, Apple, etc., on the modern side. And so I think what's interesting is it's a moment in time where you have to decide if there are trade-offs, which trade-offs are you going to take? And so for emerging sports like soccer, men's soccer and women's soccer and all women's sports, you really do have to think about am I trading off reach versus revenue? And is there something I can do with my rights?

Kara Nortman (28:10):

This is my love language here. If you were to go back, if you were to ask Roger Goodell and Adam Silver and I've gotten a chance to ask a couple of them, what would you do if you went back 20 or 30 years? I'm not saying that this is what they would say, but, and what would you do differently? And that sounds crazy, right? The NFL is doing 125 billion in media rights over the next 10 years. But you want to own the relationship with the fan. You want to understand the value of the data and the value of being able to have a service. And I believe it's important to have a free service to hit reach and to build out for the modern fan. And so if you can take a step back, you would think about new company structures, you would think about near term distribution reach over broadcast, where is that going if everyone is on a streaming platform?

Kara Nortman (28:53):

And so it's a complicated topic, but I think the easy way to think about it right now is every single major platform is thinking about this or has overtly said publicly they're not. Netflix is the one who said not. And then every one of them, you know, is looking at where do I test and where do I test in a big way versus a small way. So Apple, you know, we could talk about the MLS and Apple for a long time. I think Don Garber is a commercial genius. A genius in general. The way he's built the MLS, you know, a flexible mindset, really assessing upside versus risk. I study early days of MLS a lot in terms of ownership. The people who are there, Ivan Gazidis, Mark Abbot, like these are the heroes of commercializing a new league, which is really interesting to study.

Kara Nortman (29:34):

Because it was only 20 years ago. It was only 20 years ago and the team values were like close to zero, right? There were three families that owned all the teams and now you have LA FC at a billion dollar valuation. And by the way, Angel City's revenue is higher than some of the lowest tiers of the men's team without media revenue. So that's where you look at like where is this going? And they all should be sustainable financial assets. But so the media revenue really drives enterprise value. And so I think you want to, I want all of us and we have really smart owners around the table who own teams in other leagues to just be thoughtful about reach versus revenue, length of contract. What we can do directly. Can we get creative on the deal structuring front, not for the faint of heart, but it's such a fun and exciting opportunity.

Greg Dowling (30:16):

Alright, so I'm a cynic.

Kara Nortman (30:18):

Love it. You like credit?

Greg Dowling (30:19):

I'm jaded. Sceptical. I mean I love this story. Tell me why, other than it feels good. Why to focus just on women's sports. Can I make more money?

Kara Nortman (30:30):

You can make more money. Why? Think about it this way. I was trained at IAC, you know, which is a parent company to a hundred consumer brands, many of which are separately traded now like Expedia and Ticketmaster and people like that. Match, etc. I ended up running M&A there, that was my first chapter and we had to underwrite everything to EBITDA. And so right now, you know, I got into this because I want to pay players more for what they do. But right now our salary cap is $1.8 million and we have the exact same asset for everything other than media rights right now. So the core three revenue streams are ticketing, sponsorship, media revenue, right? Then you have merch and other things. And so you're starting at $1.8 million. And yes, we should pay players a lot, but what if we pay them in line with being able to actually be great at business, right?

Kara Nortman (31:15):

And I have these conversations a lot like we need to be great at business. Then you can look at franchise values in the NBA and NFL. At some point in time if there is a media deal that goes south for one of the major men's leagues, I assume it will impact valuations everywhere. And actually, listening to podcasts probably like this one and Capital Allocators and some of the others, which you know, I'm a student of or you know, just prepare for when that happens because it'll be a buying opportunity. But ultimately if you underwrite this to scarce asset value and then like a performing business, there's just tremendously more upside. It is like venture in the late nineties when you were investing in tech and there just wasn't a ton of revenue. Whereas the men's side, you know, I'll pick on Europe for a second now.

Kara Nortman (31:57):

I won't pick up on Europe. Problem is when you're trying to do deals all over the world, you don't want pick on anyone. On the men's side, you know you have the Warriors doing close to a billion dollars in revenue, right? They're one of the highest revenue teams. They're throwing off a lot of cashflow. NFL teams are throwing off a lot of cashflow and there's a lot of liquidity on both sides. A lot of people want to own them. It's a much more efficient market with fewer growth drivers. So we're very focused on media revenue oriented sports. So soccer, basketball, golf, tennis. We would look at racing, cycling, you know, there are other sports that you could see this happening. But women's sports, there are fewer people focused on it. You have to show up and do real work for much smaller checks.

Kara Nortman (32:37):

You know, $10 or $15 million checks. Most of the funds out there investing in men's sports are multi-billion-dollar funds and they don't get out of bed for that level. We're purposeful, passionate, we can make people a lot of money with fund sizes that are couple hundred million to a half a billion dollar fund sizes and maybe even do some co-invest, right? And I think about stakeholders, and I think about how to show up with the right size fund to do the work we want to do. I know if we do this right we can have net 3x but we should have some outliers that are significantly north of that. I should temper my optimism because I think people will be pretty happy with 3x net.

Greg Dowling (33:11):

I think so. If you're an investor, how do you make money? Can you make money along the way, or is it when you sell the asset?

Kara Nortman (33:17):

Yeah, I mean that's one of the fun things. So the short answer is yes, right? Because if you're cash flowing and in particular if you're doing creative things around rights, but also potentially on teams, things like continuation funds will be very interested in what we're doing. You know, there are a lot of people we spoke to in our first fundraise who only want to write hundred million dollars checks, you know, across blah blah blah. And that doesn't make sense for us, right? In this first fund and we have a really wonderful LP base. I'm really trying to be thoughtful about how to really appreciate and love all parts of this ecosystem, have real relationships with our LPs, scale them over time. And you get to a point where continuation funds, things of that nature will make sense too. And it's an interesting thing because when we were fundraising, some of our LPs wanted to know if they could hold forever, right?

Kara Nortman (33:59):

For family planning purposes or planning purposes. Like this is the kind of multi-generational asset that a lot of people want to hold. And then others really want to understand liquidity. And so I was trained at places like Morgan Stanley and Battery Ventures and DPI oriented places. And what I know is if you give people money back, you tend to get more. And then I think the thing I love about this part of the asset class is it's not just a standard, here's how you price it. It's always a preferred. You can get really creative on how you structure it, the front end and the back end. And so it very much, I get to put on more of my M&A IAC. You know, we did really creative things there. My boss was a guy named Victor Kaufman who was Barry Diller's right hand.

Kara Nortman (34:39):

I mean we would put call options in place with baseball arbitration. We would do very creative structuring things. We spun out five public companies while I was there. I sat with him in the beginning and he said, you know, you should set this up legally so this fund can go public. And I said, I'm not thinking about taking a fund public, I'm thinking about starting a fund. But that's the way the brains kind of work there. And so yeah, there should be an opportunity to do that. But also it's really important we get alignment with our LPs and make sure they understand how we plan to operate. We're a north of a hundred million dollar fund right now. And so we're gonna be very thoughtful about exiting in the right way. And I think most importantly, one of the reasons we get into these investments is because of how we'll thoughtfully exit.

Kara Nortman (35:20):

Because these are community assets and it stands for something more than just making money. And that's why they actually do make money. Because they're part of the community where diversity in the cap table, in the C-suite drives outcomes. My partner Jasmine, was at the Boston launch yesterday. Her dad played in the NFL in the late eighties when peak salary for someone in the defense was hundreds of thousands of dollars. She's a black woman. It matters to people, you know, she doesn't talk about that, but she doesn't not talk about it, it's just her identity. It matters to show up and have all sorts of backgrounds, representations, etc, to a community that sees themselves in this team. And so being thoughtful about exit is important.

Greg Dowling (35:58):

You kind of hit on it with IAC, but just kind of a fun fact. Probably a lot of singles who are happy or angry with you. Because you said Match and Tinder were all part of your process. Talk about IAC. What'd you learn there?

Kara Nortman (36:12):

IAC was such a fun job. I mean it really was fun. I think I was 30 and I was sort of like in the M&A department and then very quickly was promoted to run it and it was very intellectually honest and creative and so very creative deal making and then very financially disciplined. And so we would lose a lot because we would be looking to buy. I mean, I remember when we tried to buy Facebook, right? Who didn't try to buy Facebook back then? And you know, we were much more disciplined in how we would price Facebook, sometimes to our disadvantage, right? But Facebook and Reddit and Dig and Siri. I remember when I brought Siri to Barry and I said, you know, we have this search engine called Ask and it has a great AdSense deal, but actually what do we think is the future of search?

Kara Nortman (36:56):

And then you had to underwrite those things to, is it going to drive more EBITDA, what period of time? And then Victor Kaufman is a deal genius, a structuring genius, and they've moved across many different chapters. So I think I really learned what I'm employing now more than anything, which is how do you be creative and optimistic about what is possible? How do you put your thumb on the scale? And this is really important there and now in women's sports, which is if you just show up waiting for the deal to land on your lap, it might, but people call us all the time, we're happy to talk to people about how to look at women's sports. But at that point in time, everyone's seeing it. There's plenty of deals to do where it actually requires you going to these distribution companies and trying to see if you directly can change the way media rights are doing.

Kara Nortman (37:36):

So I think I really got that understanding of how to make deals happen that are more proprietary and then underwriting them to real returns. And I mean, we created a lot of value there. I mean I did a lot of different things there. I ended up running M&A with Joey Levin. I mean, it was a while ago. He's now the CEO, he's amazing, has been the CEO for a while. I ran dying brands. I was given City Search to run the day it crossed Yelp on the downslope. And that is actually you know, I got to run fun emerging brands. So one of the last acquisitions I did before I moved into an operating role was Urban Spoon, which you know, grew while I was running it. It started, when we bought it, it was a million unique users.

Kara Nortman (38:16):

It grew to 30 million and it covered close to 2 million restaurants nationally, but with like a three or four person team. And we obviously grew that. We built out a Salesforce, we built out an iPad reservation system to compete with OpenTable. We ended up selling that to OpenTable. But the most fun one was City Search was hard to turn around. It reported into an ad network. The data set was challenging to work through. And so I joined the mobile incubator to incubate something off balance sheet that we could potentially merge back into City Search. And that thing was called Cardify. And I recruited in this guy Sean Rad, to run it, gave him our best engineer from City Search. And in a hack-a-thon, he came to me and he said, hey, Cardify was connecting people in places with social data. So it was built on the Facebook API. So like the idea was if you walked into your favorite restaurant with your phone and this was like revolutionary back then, or maybe not, but it was interesting. Revolutionary might be extreme.

Greg Dowling (39:09):

That could have been, yeah.

Kara Nortman (39:10):

If you walked into your favorite restaurant and you had your phone on you when you're, you know, a half a mile away, they would have your table ready. You didn't need to speak to anyone. So it was like this kind of social loyalty program. And the same backend could be used for dating. You go to, in LA. I would say a Clippers game one night, and the woman that you wanted to go out with never went to Clippers games, but she'd go to Lakers games. You'd never know that. You'd never show up at the same place. But Tinder...

Greg Dowling (39:36):

No, go for it. This is interesting.

Kara Nortman (39:39):

So basically we took the backend and that data and Sean came into my office one day and he said, hey, instead of matching people to places, why don't we match people to people? And Tinder was born. I mean, the crazy thing is Tinder was born out of a City Search project. You know, it went on obviously too. There were three different mobile dating projects at the time. And the one that became Tinder started out of a dying web brand called City Search.

Greg Dowling (40:03):

That's crazy. Talking about your venture days, your private equity days, you mentioned already, All Raise. What is that and what are you hoping to achieve?

Kara Nortman (40:12):

All Raise is the gender equity nonprofit in the venture space. And I started it with 14 other women. It was started by a woman named Aileen Lee. She sent out an email. She was a partner at Kleiner. Many of the female led venture funds, actually the partners started at Kleiner. They did a very good job of getting some great women in. And then most of them left. And she sent a note out basically in the wake of sort of some bad stuff happening in tech around sexual assault and things of that nature saying, hey, I counted up the number of female partners in venture. You're all on this list, or I don't have your email. And it was something like 40. And they said, why don't we all, I know we're all feeling terrible sitting alone. Why don't we get together and try to double that?

Kara Nortman (40:52):

Why don't we try to do something positive and make it 80? And 15 of us showed up, just started working on project. You know, if I knew I was showing up to start a nonprofit, I don't know if I would've shown up, but it became a community. I was one of the two people who flew there. Everyone else was local. Another was a woman named Eva Ho at Fika Ventures. We launched four projects, female founder office hours, a representation pledge to bring diversity into the cap table, a data project. And I started working on female founder office hours. And the idea was that, I mean, it sounds crazy now because this sounds obvious, but we'd create office hours and mentorship programs for founders who are looking to figure out how to pitch and get more capital. And so that's where it started.

Kara Nortman (41:33):

And then, somehow, we ended up on the cover of Forbes and it was, you know, a moment in time where women were gathering in different industries and it seemed more and, and that helped us go raise capital and really turn it into a full non-profit. And so I was very involved in the early days. I'm kind of a zero to one person when it comes to non-profits and it's sort of off and running, you know, with others. But it is, you know, I ended up doing the partnership with the Hollywood Group. And so then that was part of what led to Angel City, right? Because it was the first time that I had a reason to create the time to become friendly with women in entertainment in my hometown. And the power came from, you know, women and men from different industries coming together. And so that was that was the All Raise story.

Greg Dowling (42:15):

That's great. So, what is next?

Kara Nortman (42:18):

Monarch. We just closed our first fund, building relationships for the second one. We think it's the beginning of the big opportunity here. We just made our first investment. We're just about to make our first investment team hires. And I'm putting all my energy into doing that because, you know, obviously Angel City is important. I talk to Julie and Natalie every day. I woke up in the morning and we were all texting about media rights this morning, right? And so it's sort of a petri dish that we can open source and it's the way we're all wired, which is just how to kind of replicate this model. And it's now happening in Kansas City and, you know, Arsenal and all over the place. We're going to make some great investments. I think the thought leadership around this is important. I hope to continue meeting other people who are launching women's sports funds.

Kara Nortman (42:59):

I've now talked to a couple, so you're going to see more coming out. We have the opportunity to be very collaborative with both men's funds and women's funds. And I think each fund should really know what they're extraordinary at and be really extraordinary at that. So, we're building a talent pipeline of operators that we can bring into teams and we already have a huge pipeline and database and we're doing that, bringing over playbooks. We're going to start, you know, more outbound thesis generation. I think this is a thesis driven industry, but, you know, I mean, this is my baby along with my partner Jasmine Robinson, who's amazing. And then occasionally I want go sit with my children and take a jog. And I like to ride bikes and ski down mountains. I like downhill mountain biking and skiing. Haven't done any of those in a while, so maybe I'll take a nap. But no, it's really, Monarch is my full focus.

Greg Dowling (43:50):

A lot of dangerous things. So maybe, make sure there's a good key man or key person in the docks.

Kara Nortman (43:55):

I do it with an appropriate wrist profile. I have the full face mask and I mean, I look very cool. I like hanging out with, you know, the Metallica boys as I call them, riding down the mountain. It makes me feel much younger than I am.

Greg Dowling (44:08):

Well thank you so much for spending time with us. This was fantastic.

Kara Nortman (44:12):

Thank you for having me. And thank you for having me at your event, FEG has been wonderful. Such a great group of down to earth, smart people, and those two things together are rare in our industry. So it's been wonderful to spend time with you guys.

Greg Dowling (44:27):

If you are interested in more information on FEG, check out our website at And don't forget to subscribe to our communications so you don't miss the next episode. Please keep in mind that this information is intended to be general education that needs to be framed with the unique risk and return objectives of each client. Therefore, nobody should consider these to be FEG recommendations. This podcast was prepared by FEG. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed in this podcast constitutes an offer or an invitation to make an offer to buy or sell any securities. The views and opinions expressed by guest speakers are solely their own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of their firm or of FEG.

This was prepared by FEG (also known as Fund Evaluation Group, LLC), a federally registered investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended, providing non-discretionary and discretionary investment advice to its clients on an individual basis. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply a certain level of skill or training. The oral and written communications of an adviser provide you with information about which you determine to hire or retain an adviser. Fund Evaluation Group, LLC, Form ADV Part 2A & 2B can be obtained by written request directly to: Fund Evaluation Group, LLC, 201 East Fifth Street, Suite 1600, Cincinnati, OH 45202, Attention: Compliance Department. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed constitutes an offer, or an invitation to make an offer, to buy or sell any securities. The information herein was obtained from various sources. FEG does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information provided by third parties. The information is given as of the date indicated and believed to be reliable. FEG assumes no obligation to update this information, or to advise on further developments relating to it. Past performance is not an indicator or guarantee of future results. Diversification or Asset Allocation does not assure or guarantee better performance and cannot eliminate the risk of investment loss. The views or opinions expressed by guest speakers are solely their own and do not represent the views or opinions of Fund Evaluation Group, LLC.


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