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Talking with Jeb Terry

Jeb TerryOriginally from Dallas, Jeb B. Terry Jr. (BSBA ’03, MBA ’11) attended a military academy in Indiana before he came to UNC as a freshman. A standout on the football field and in the classroom, he lettered all four years that he played on the Tar Heel football team. After graduating, he advanced to the NFL and played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers before an injury ended his career in 2008. Terry returned to Chapel Hill to earn his MBA and ventured into the startup world, launched a business and remains actively engaged with the UNC Kenan-Flagler community.

What attracted you to UNC?

Dallas has a pretty strong connection to UNC, and I was always a fan of the sports programs. As an aspiring collegiate athlete, football had a big impact on my college decision. I attended football camps at UNC the summer before my senior year of high school and got on UNC’s radar. After looking at UNC Kenan-Flagler and weighing other options, I decided this was the place for me. Carolina offered the right mix of academics and athletics. Plus, it’s hard not to fall in love with the school once you get here.

How did your undergraduate business education help prepare you for an NFL career?

I credit UNC for a lot of things, including introducing me to my wife – we met in a business communications class. My business education prepared me very well for the NFL scouting combine, where as a prospect you literally stand in front of hundreds of NFL executives and doctors in your underwear. They poke and measure you like cattle, and you go through round after round of intense interviews. It’s a chance for them to determine how well you perform under pressure and gauge your analytical skills while they ask tough questions that stage.

Jeb TerryWhat prompted you to return to UNC Kenan-Flagler for your MBA degree?

I was especially interested in the real estate and entrepreneurship programs but also took a variety of classes focused in different areas. The quality of life that UNC and Chapel Hill offer, especially for a young family, was another plus since we had a daughter and knew we could put down roots while I was in school.

How did being a recipient of the M. Nixon and Josephine Taylor Ellis MBA Fellowship shape your experience in the MBA Program?

Receiving the Ellis Fellowship signified that UNC Kenan-Flagler valued my experience and understood my non-traditional background as a professional athlete. It meant a lot that the donor and the School made an investment in me, and demonstrated UNC Kenan-Flagler’s dedication to having a diverse student class. It gives me a sense of pride, as well as the responsibility to work hard and serve the School as an ambassador for the program.

What can you share about your latest business ventures?

I co-founded Straightcast Media with my former Tampa Bay teammate Ryan Nece. We have an app named GRIDIRON GRUNTS that enables athletes to create and distribute mobile video. We say this is “revolutionizing the way athletes talk to the world.” As professional athletes, we drew from our own experiences and created a platform the met the needs of the athletes, the fans and the media. We balanced the equation between the athlete and media by empowering the athlete and creating value for their content.

After launching as a purely mobile, consumer play, we tweaked the business to take advantage of our biggest strength – the ability to capture all-access, behind-the-scenes content that other people can’t get. We began offering on-demand, talent-generated content for the people who matter: the fans.

Jeb TerryNow we have athletes all over the world creating real-time content for clients like ESPN, NFL Network, Fox Sports and digital outlets. We stream the process of sourcing and managing talent, which enables us to deliver HD-encoded files from athletes’ phones to TV. Everyone needs more content – and exclusive content, which is the true differentiator. Fans have an insatiable appetite for more, and we’re trying to facilitate that.

Ryan is also my partner at HeelTop Capital LLC, a real estate investment company. I directly chalk up this venture to my UNC Kenan-Flagler experience. Our MBA real estate class visited the Franklin Hotel and met the Patel brothers, who own and operate it. We started talking with them and now HeelTop has a minority role in the development of The Graduate, a multi-family apartment complex the Patel brothers are developing behind the Franklin Hotel just off Franklin Street. Our development team reached out to the UNC Kenan-Flagler real estate center and we are looking for way to work together to leverage the professors’ and students’ collective expertise and give the town of Chapel Hill a beautiful building that will make everyone proud.

What advice do you have for other students or recent graduates who want to start a business?

Have key milestones to work towards. If you don’t reach that milestone in a reasonable amount of time, ask yourself if there is a reason to keep going forward. It is imperative to have self-checks in place along the way to determine whether you are making tangible progress. And ultimately, it’s about being honest with yourself about the viability of the business.

One of the most valuable things for me has been building a network of people I can work with going forward. I originally approached these people as customers and potential clients and now also call them friends and colleagues. I will be able to call on them for the rest of my life, no matter what I’m doing.

You stay actively engaged with the UNC Kenan-Flagler community and recently attended the Dean’s Speaker Series with Jeff Saturday (BSBA ’97). Why is it important for alums to remain engaged with the School?

It was fantastic to see Jeff Saturday speak. He is a guy I looked up to in college – a guy I aspired to be. To be able to see him give his Dean’s Speaker Series talk brought everything full circle. We both take pride in the School and our fellow alumni. Staying involved is a way to celebrate our community, give back and make valuable connections to leverage our alumni network.

For me, the real value of the School is having instant connectivity to our network of current students, faculty and fellow alums, whether you are their mentor, boss, friend or employee. As a global business school, UNC Kenan-Flagler provides access to fellow Tar Heels worldwide who you can pick up the phone and call, and who may also call on you. And when you call on a UNC grad, there’s a shared sense of pride and immediate connection.

There are so many ways to give back – it doesn’t have to be just monetary. Be a coach to students or speak to a class. That’s how we can make an impact as alumni.

The next big idea might come out of UNC Kenan-Flagler. Your protégé might be a fellow Tar Heel. But you won’t know unless you are involved. Students often think they are going to conquer the world – and with support from Tar Heel alumni, they just might.