How my Adams Apprenticeship coach inspired my company idea

Sports have always been a passion of mine. I experienced the transformational power of sports as an immigrant child from Nigeria who lacked confidence in his new surroundings of the Bronx, New York. Playing organized baseball taught me discipline, perseverance, and how to deal with winning and losing.

My experience is shared by millions of children all around the world. Sports allow us to be who we want to be and unite us under the banners of competition and fandom.

Sports equates to passion.

As I’ve grown older that passion has blossomed into more than I could have expected. I’ve had jobs in sports ranging from company CFO to fantasy basketball expert to TV show producer. I am the “guy with the cool job in sports” within my network and have embraced that distinction like a badge of honor. I’ve been part of founding sports technology companies and came back to business school determined to start my own venture. UNC Kenan-Flagler seemed like the perfect fit because of its reputation for both academic and athletic excellence. During my post-acceptance visit, my conversations with Ted Zoller and Kris Hergert showed me a path forward as an entrepreneur, and I came in excited to access all the resources that UNC and the Triangle have to offer.

Without a doubt, the Adams Apprenticeship program has been the most impactful resource in my journey as an entrepreneur. The access it provides is immeasurable with Adams Advisors serving as sounding boards for me while at Chapel Hill.

The perfect example of this is Phaedra Boinodiris, (MBA ’08), senior strategy lead edtech K-12 at IBM, my Adams coach. Within our first few conversations, Phaedra helped me answer several key questions I was battling with during my first year at UNC Kenan-Flagler. Should I start a company in sports? Do I pursue one of my lifelong goals of engaging kids in academics through sports now or wait until I’ve built out another business?

Phaedra spoke to me about her experience building her own company, womangamers.com, and her experiences working at IBM. We instantly connected the dots that I should go deeper into preparing kids for the future. The future will be centered around machine learning, virtual reality and augmented reality – concepts that all have their roots in computer science.

And that’s when the idea came. Expose young kids to computer science through sports and gaming.

Phaedra and I have continued to work together since those early conversations. Over the summer I developed a pilot workshop that teaches the basics of data science through basketball, and I’ll use that experience to better understand the needs of students and to validate the teaching methods I will build into software. The workshop will also be part of the EdTech Ecosystem Program IBM is developing with the United Nations – which Phaedra is spearheading – to cultivate the next generation of new white-collar employees and entrepreneurs.

Phaedra and I are growing together professionally and it’s all because of the Adams Apprenticeship.

By Chijioge Nwogu (MBA ’18)