Visiting Dignitaries

Breakfast With Tiki: Retired Football Star Has New Radio Show, Startup to Help Jocks Cash in on Fame

“It’s the long-tail popularity of talent. Once you retire, you’re left with this fame which can’t be monetized anymore.”

The unlikely pair “went to Club Macanudo, smoked a cigar and talked about how to solve the problem,” Mr. Barber said. “Every week, we’d have lunch at Club Mac, have a cigar, and talk about it.”

Thuzio was born, and before long the two had raised $1.5 million in funding from Manhattan real estate tycoon Steve Ross, who also owns the Miami Dolphins. In the early days, the new company focused its energy on recruiting talent for the platform. Mr. Barber, meanwhile, offered himself up as a guinea pig, taking lunch dates and invitations to join games of flag football to help the company develop data used to set price points.

Around the same time, Mr. Barber was invited to try out for the CBS Sports Radio gig. The prospect of two jobs didn’t faze him. Hadn’t he managed an engineering course-load at UVA while dedicating day and night to the football team? “I’ve always been ambitious,” he said. “Maybe I should have been on Wall Street and been a hedge fund manager.” When he finishes the show, Mr. Barber rides the PATH train back home to Jersey City, has breakfast with his new wife, then heads back into the city for a day of work at Thuzio’s offices in his old stomping grounds on the Upper East Side.

As for where his media career is going, Mr. Barber isn’t sure. Over breakfast, he regaled The Observer with fond memories of the stories he covered during his NBC days, not just sports fluff, but pieces on South African shantytowns and African immigrants in the deep South, and another about divorce in same-sex marriages called “Through a Child’s Eyes.” “Wherever it goes, I give him a boatload of credit for getting back on the horse,” Mr. Lepselter said.

And Thuzio? The company launched in the Los Angeles market this past weekend and is signing up new talent every day. “We want to have every piece of talent in the world on our platform,” Mr. Gerson told us. “Tiki always says, everyone we meet is either talent on the platform or a potential customer.”

pclark@observer.com

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