Oct 11, 2019

One VC's path from Silicon Valley to Hollywood

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata

Illustration: Image: New York Daily News Archive/Getty; Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In Silicon Valley, Paul Martino is known as a serial entrepreneur who later founded Bullpen Capital to invest in such startups as FanDuel, Ipsy, and SpotHero.

The other side: In Hollywood, he's the guy making a movie about his cousin Tommy, who served time for his key role in the NBA's game-fixing scandal.

"When Tommy got out of jail he got offered a really bad life rights deal and I told him he shouldn't sign it. But he needed money, so as a favor, I bought them," Paul Martino tells me. "Then it became kind of an intellectual challenge of trying to do something I'd never done before. I went on Amazon and filled my cart with three books about how to make a movie."

  • The result is Inside Game, which hits over 150 theaters nationwide in November. Trailer here.

What's next: Expect a major media blitz to begin late this month, including appearances by the real-life Tommy Martino (played in the film by Scott Wolf) and disgraced referee Tim Donaghy (played by Eric Mabius).

"It's the startup rule about how you need a lucky break no matter how smart or qualified you are. Mine was at my 15th high school reunion, when I met a friend's husband who was a Hollywood screenwriter. He told me his team had beaten Kobe Bryant's team twice in high school, and wanted to write it."
— Paul Martino

But, but, but: Martino was on the board of FanDuel. The NBA also was an early investor, with the league's general counsel serving as its original board observer.

  • Martino resigned from the FanDuel board once Inside Game went into production, believing that the dual-roles could bring unwanted scrutiny to the company, which already was under all sorts of media pressure.

"I don't think there's a pure cause and effect between the NBA scandal and sports betting startups, but it's in the same pond... Once [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver came out publicly in support of legalization, you'll remember he said they'd also want integrity fees. That was so there wouldn't be another Tim Donaghy."

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