French Entrepreneur and Founder & CEO of LAB FIVE Sebastien Abonnel
LAB FIVE is an LA based full-service organization, supporting the installation and operations of the new state of the art five aside soccer sport. Soccer players deserve better and LAB FIVE created something truly unique! LAB FIVE has grown into one of the world’s preeminent sports entertainment companies, working in every aspect of the modern soccer/entertainment field including; the latest technology to serve the game with data tracking systems, high performance analysis equipment and video system analytics. We recently spoke with founder and CEO Sebastien Abonnel, about his background and love for sport and here is what he had to say:
Please give us an introduction as to when you first got into the sports industry. What was one of the first experiences you had in the industry and in soccer?
I have always been involved in sport and in soccer especially as I was a soccer player when I was younger, on a national level. Then my passion for sports led me to study sports management. During my masters degree in sports management, I worked for NIKE France in the marketing department and during this period I learned a lot about the sports business (more than having just a “passion” for sport) as I worked on the Monte Carlo tennis tournament, NBA tour Paris, several soccer champions league finals and a lot of sport events. It was my first experience not as a fan but in the business aspect of sports, which is very different. After this period, I decided to turn my skills into an entrepreneurship career, in sports of course!
What has been one of your most favorite projects to work on so far?
At 22, I started my career as an entrepreneur and I decided to launch my first five a side business in France. It was my first one and although it was not perfect, I learned a lot by having the hands on experience. It was special and a real adventure with a lot of pressure to not fail in my hometown, where everyone had seen me grow up — thankfully my family supported me all the time. So for all these reasons, it was really special for me.
What has been one of the biggest highlights/achievements of your career?
Jumping on the plane to achieve something here in the US is probably one of the biggest highlights up until now. I gave up my comfort zone in France, going towards the unknown, looking at my dreams as I always wanted to achieve something in the US, which has always attracted and inspired me. The opening of the first LAB FIVE in the City of Angels was really special to me. The first center opened in Los Angeles and now I am focusing on creating something even bigger.
What has been one of the biggest challenges for you?
In addition to the move itself, and coming here with without my family speaking English, I think the biggest challenge that I had to face is probably convincing people that soccer — and LAB FIVE especially — is one of those sports that can gather people together, even more than they think. It puts the community together which is the power of soccer and also part of our DNA. US decision makers (landlords, politicians, etc) didn’t believe in soccer until they realized that the population asked for more soccer infrastructure and showed a real engagement in the sport. It took lot of time for all these people to understand that soccer is not on the bottom tier of sports anymore. Soccer has a voice, and LAB FIVE is one of them. So we had to break down the walls to highlight soccer here!
What other projects do you have coming up?
LAB FIVE has an ambitious plan for the next years, thanks to some investors who believe in us and our ability to deliver and achieve good performances in the long run — among them a bay area pioneer tech, an engineer and a French retail investor. More LAB FIVE centers are opening up in the coming months in California (Another location in Los Angeles, San Jose/the Bay area) before we scale up and also expand out of state. Right now, we are focusing on the infrastructure to support our developments, as we want to build from a solid base.
Our company has also invested in MCES, a French based e-sports team which support the e-sport development of mixing sport and e-sport with academy camps for kids. They also train a competitive team to perform on the international stage. So we will continue to support the development of e-sport.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Work hard, be resilient and never quit. Whatever the situation, keep the focus on what you are doing. Look ahead without being disrupted by what is happening around you. You will face many problems down the road which can impact your project or your dreams but it’s part of being an entrepreneur to face them and to solve them.
Anyone can do it, I didn’t go to any prestigious business school like Harvard, but learned from experience, which probably gives you the best training to overcome the problems and to be stronger as an entrepreneur. Sometimes the answers are not always in the books!
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