February 25, 2022

Joe Montana Scored 168% More Than His Entire Career Football Earnings On This One Deal

By Casey Higgins

Joe Montana is one of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history. He made an estimated $25m throughout his professional football career. Not bad.

But when GitLab IPO’d back in October, Montana raked in $42m as an early investor — 168% more than his gridiron days. What happened?

The world’s first 3x Super Bowl MVP

A Hall-of-Famer, Montana won four Super Bowls. He made his biggest impact with the San Francisco 49ers, helping them win their first Super Bowl in 1981 by passing to Dwight Clark for “The Catch” – one of the most famous plays in NFL history.

After hanging up his cleats, Montana found his way into venture capital, where he spent the past six years investing in startups as a partner in the firm Liquid2 Ventures.

One of Liquid2’s early bets was GitLab — a DevOps platform where teams can collaboratively build and deploy software. Their $100k investment at a $12m valuation was worth over $42m at the GitLab IPO in October.

Building a franchise on an early stage GitLab bet

GitLab is a place for developers to collaborate on code, track project progress, and manage workflows. When Joe Montana invested in the company back in 2015, GitLab had already raised $1.5m and was growing rapidly.

Today the platform has 30m+ registered users and an active community of 2,500 contributors. Here’s some impressive number crunching on GitLab from our friends at OpenView:

  •  $233m quarterly run-rate
  •  69% YoY growth
  •  152% dollar-based net retention

Teamwork rules

Liquid2 has three partners in addition to Montana: startup founders Michael Ma and Mike Miller, as well as Montana’s son, Nate, who previously worked at Twitter.

These partners handle the deal sourcing and technical side, while Montana focuses on helping portfolios with the connections in his network.

To date, Liquid2 has raised $77.7m across 3 funds and has made 207 investments.

GitLab appears to be Liquid2’s first IPO of many to come. The firm has 10+ unicorns in their portfolio.

Liquid2 Ventures Portfolio

From sports to software

Joe Montana isn’t the only sports legend to make a move to the technology sector:

  • Former NBA star Shane Battier recently became a board member of New York-based software firm Yext, an AI search company that helps with data management.
  • This summer, tennis Olympian Serena Williams invested in Esusu, a fintech startup that allows renters to build and improve credit.
  • Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin made a joint investment into an esports venture capital firm founded by Mark Cuban and others.
  • Shooting sensation Steph Curry has investments in tech companies like Miro, Guild Education, and pay equity startup Syndio.

Investing within the tech community appears to be a trend among current and former pros looking to make an impact in the world (and their bank account).

Final thoughts

In a way, Montana’s first big win off the field is fitting. He was a team player who knew how to deliver. GitLab is a DevOps platform that allows engineers to deliver software faster.

Now, as an early investor in the company, Joe Montana can say he helped deliver a $42m touchdown.