Three lessons for entrepreneurs from Lionel Messi


Fivethirtyeight recently published an article titled Lionel Messi can walk better than most player run. While I’m no die hard soccer fan, I realized just how much of Messi’s game can be applied to the world of Entrepreneurship and management.  

Messi, for those unfamiliar, has won more Ballon d’Or (best player) trophies than anyone else ever, has the most goals in a calendar year, and is the top scorer of all time in Spain’s La Liga, one of the premiere leagues in the world.  

Messi, like other sports greats such as Wayne Gretzky and LeBron James, has the ability to see not where the ball is, but where it is going to be.  Messi also understands the movements of the players on both sides of the ball, and can predict which spaces will open up as the play progresses. Once that occurs, even when he doesn’t have the ball, he gets himself in the right spot so as to have the best chances of scoring.

So when fivethirtyeight says that Messi walks better than most players run, what they mean is, even when messi doesn’t have the ball, he’s identifying which spaces are opening up and walking into them to set himself up for the best possible opportunity, once the ball arrives at his feet.

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from Messi about how to approach emerging markets.


1: “look where others aren't looking.” – Anjali Sud, CEO Vimeo

Entrepreneurs too often find themselves swept up in a wave of new tech and lost in the undertow.  One of the most difficult things any entrepreneur can encounter is a crowded market. These industries are difficult to not only innovate in, but market, and gain customers as well.  They tend to have razor thin margins and ask far more than they return. Instead of entering a market already full to the brim, find the open space on the field and setup where no one else is.  


2: “The obstacle is the way” - Ryan Holiday

This quote comes from a tale of Eisenhower in Normandy during WWII.  When he came upon a Nazi fortress, it initially seemed impossible to defeat, but what Eisenhower realized is that because the enemy was sitting in a static position, this allowed him to maneuver around and develop the best tactic he could.  As with Messi and his ability to predict the movement of both his teammates and the opposing players, work to understand your dynamic market as a static market, move your company in best direction that will open up space in the future, as your play or market develops.  


3:  “Instead of first mover advantage make the last great development in a specific market and reap the fruits of a mature ecosystem.” – Peter Thiel

Messi often exemplifies that in his play – he can break into an opponent’s side quickly and efficiently, but more often, he’s the one who ends the play with a goal.  Messi’s true talent is in his ability to asses a dynamic play as though it is static and understand that as it continues to develop, it will become more static and predictable, this allows him to become the x-factor and end the play all together.  As your market develops, develop strategies for how to become the final, lasting player in the field, the one who has their name next to the goal on the board.


Tl;dr Treat your industry like Lionel Messi does soccer field: watch the play develop, get open, execute when the time comes.