Our Team

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The Power of NEXT VENTŪRES

NEXT VENTŪRES was founded by Lance Armstrong and Lionel Conacher, who bring together a powerful combination of deep sports and fitness knowledge as well as proven financial investment experience.

The expertise of this team has been strengthened by the addition of Mel Strong, whose entire career has been focused on sports marketing, including 17 years with Nike.

NEXT VENTŪRES’ competitive advantage is its ability to leverage the expertise of NEXT VENTŪRES’ Managing Partners and its Advisory Board to effectively identify and assess potential investments, and meaningfully contribute to the product development and brand marketing of its portfolio companies -- helping these companies achieve mindshare and market share sooner.

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Lance Armstrong

  • MANAGING PARTNER
  • A globally known cyclist and endurance athlete, Lance remains passionate about the benefits of an active lifestyle. Through his decades of competitive racing, Lance has developed extensive worldwide contacts in the sports, fitness and health markets, regularly being invited to review early stage companies.

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Lionel Conacher

  • MANAGING PARTNER
  • Lionel is a life-long multi-sport athlete and outdoorsman and proud member of Canada’s first family of sport. His financial experience spans senior positions in public companies in both Canada and the US, investment banking, and most recently private equity.

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Melanie Strong

  • MANAGING PARTNER
  • Mel has spent most of her life in the sports marketing industry, including more than 17 years working at Nike as a leader in global brand marketing, where she has driven an agenda focused on innovation, inclusivity, sustainability and access to sports.

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Lionel Conacher

Managing Partner

Lionel is a life-long multi-sport athlete and outdoorsman and proud member of Canada’s first family of sport. His financial experience spans senior positions in public companies in both Canada and the US, investment banking, and most recently private equity. He understands what it takes to create a highly successful start-up having co-founded Westwind Partners Inc., a specialized Canadian institutional investment bank. As Chief Executive Officer, Lionel grew Westwind to $100 million in revenues over 5 years after which it was sold to Thomas Weisel Partners (TWP) for $145 million. Post-sale Lionel served as President of TWP until the sale of TWP to Stifel Financial in 2010. For 7 years prior to co-founding NEXT VENTŪRES, Lionel was a Senior Advisor and Operating Partner at Palo Alto based private equity firm, Altamont Capital Partners, LLC. He currently sits on the boards AMP Human Inc., Kinetyx™ and DXL Group (NASDAQ: DXLG). Lionel is also actively involved in various non-profits including serving as a Trustee of SFMOMA, Council for Canadian American Relations and Surf Canada.

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Lance Armstrong

Managing Partner

A globally known cyclist and endurance athlete, Lance remains passionate about the benefits of an active lifestyle. Through his decades of competitive racing, Lance has developed extensive worldwide contacts in the sports, fitness and health markets, regularly being invited to review early stage companies. His extensive connections have resulted in highly successful early investments in Docusign and Uber that reflect his strong investment insights. In this digital age Lance understands the importance of digital brand building and the power of influencers. He currently hosts THEMOVE, a podcast that provides analysis of stages of the Tour de France and other cycling and endurance races; this podcast has had millions of downloads and has been ranked in the top 10 in the sports and recreation category on Apple's iTunes. He also hosts a podcast called THE FORWARD where Armstrong interviews authors, musicians, athletes, politicians and influencers from all walks of life. These form the cornerstones of WEDŪ MEDIA, part of his WEDŪ brand, a budding community of endurance athletes who go Forward, Never Straight.

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Melanie Strong

Managing Partner

Mel has spent most of her life in the sports industry, because she believes that access to a healthy and active life can transform culture. She spent over 17 years at Nike, leading international marketing teams across running, women’s, soccer/football and training. She worked on all of Nike’s digital sports and tracking products, and was most recently vice president and general manager for their skateboarding business. Today Mel is managing partner at Next Ventures, a VC fund investing in innovative health, sports and wellness companies. She serves as an advisor to Nike’s accelerator Valiant Labs, sits on the board of performance brand PowerDot, and is an advisor for photography app VSCO. Mel and her husband also run a mountain bike tour guiding company in Hood River, Oregon.

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Advisory Board

NEXT VENTŪRES’ Advisory Board Members have been selected for their domain expertise in the sports, fitness, wellness and nutrition markets, their proven business acumen, and for their industry connections. They ensure that NEXT VENTŪRES and our portfolio companies have access to resources that will help us succeed in today’s competitive environment.

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Pam Alexander founded Alexander Communications, a technology-focused public relations firm that launched tech disruptors such as WebMD and Mindspring/Earthlink, and represented market leaders such as News Corp, Hewlett Packard and TED. After building her firm into one of the largest independent technology communications firms in the U.S., Alexander Communications was acquired by WPP, the world's largest marketing communications company. Today Pam consults with technology and media companies and serves on the boards of the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, Aspen Community Foundation and Aspen Valley Ski Club.

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Billy is one of the founding family members of the Blue Buffalo Company, makers of the BLUE line of natural foods and treats for dogs and cats. While at Blue Buffalo, Billy served as CEO, President, and Chief Operating Officer, and helped build BLUE into the country’s largest natural pet food brand. In 2015, Billy helped take Blue Buffalo public, and in 2018 Blue Buffalo was acquired by General Mills.

Before BLUE, Billy helped start SoBe Beverages, a line of natural herbal-ized teas, juices and sports drinks. At SoBe, Billy was the VP of Marketing, where he led their grass roots marketing efforts that included sponsorships with the SoBe/Cannondale Headshok mountain bike racing team, mobile marketing events with Lizard vehicles, and a line of Lizard Gear merchandise. SoBe was acquired by PepsiCo in 2001.

Billy and his family were also involved with the start-up of Major League Lacrosse featuring the best field lacrosse players in the world; and were owners of the Long...

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Dylan is a retired professional cyclist, who rode for The US Postal Service Cycling Team alongside Lance Armstrong. His 15 year professional athletic career included competing in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and success as a four-time national champion. Today Dylan is the Chief Product Officer of the Engineering Division at Goldman Sachs. His extensive innovation technology experience includes leading product management teams at Fair, Yahoo, Path and Google, where he was a founding member of the Google+ team focused on driving growth, engagement and personalization across Google and YouTube. Also, while at Google he lead Realtime Search and the MyTracks Android app which was the #1 fitness and health app for 72 consecutive months and was made an official Google product. Dylan is a member of the Product Council at Kleiner Perkins and an advisor to FishBrain and RewardStyle. He’s also a co-founder and board member at WEDŪ.

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Charles is Chairman of Teneo Sports. Prior to joining forces with the Teneo team, Charles spent 34 years with Nike Inc., retiring in January 2014 after serving as President of the Nike Brand for 13 years. At Nike Charles developed a deep expertise of the athletic consumer products industry, and he was instrumental in growing Nike to become one of the world’s biggest brands. During his tenure as Brand President, Charles helped grow Nike from $9.8 billion to more than $25 billion in global revenues. He has strong experience in advising athletes, corporations and organizations on effective and efficient strategic growth strategies.

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Stacey is a senior finance professional with a career spanning two decades. Stacey worked in investment banking and research at Citigroup, RBS and Goldman Sachs. Moving onto senior executive in-house positions, Stacey developed the Investor Relations function for three high-growth technology companies, and played a pivotal role in two IPO processes, including Square’s IPO in 2016. During her tenure at Square, Stacey guided the company’s listing, and also led its value narrative with investors during a period where the market cap tripled to over $30 billion and the company was recognized as the Company of the Year by Yahoo Finance in 2018. She is currently the Vice President of Investor Relations at PagerDuty, a leader in digital operations management that empowers organizations of all sizes with real-time and data-driven insights to drive better business results. In her role Stacey works closely with the CEO, CFO, and multiple key internal and external audiences to articulate the...

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Mitchell is a retired US Navy SEAL and he currently consults and produces for various companies in the entertainment, athletic/outdoor, and defense industries. Over the span of 21 years, Mitchell’s career included nine deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and numerous other locations. Mitchell is a highly decorated SEAL and Silver Star recipient, the third highest combat award. Since retiring from the military, Mitchell's entertainment projects include Zero Dark Thirty, Lone Survivor, Homeland, Six, and Call of Duty. He has also partnered with Nike, Under Armour, and Nixon to design and develop various products. Mitchell also pursues his passion of endurance sports, which continues to be a staple in his life.

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Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of The Obstacle Is the Way; Ego Is the Enemy; The Daily Stoic and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the New York Times to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as multiplatinum musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He has invested in many startups, including Thrive Market, MeUndies, Beme, Meetup, Bonobos, 15Five, Spar! and Vinyl Me.

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Mark is considered one of the greatest players in the history of the National Hockey League. In an NHL career that spanned a quarter of a century with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks, Mark achieved six Stanley Cup championships and scored the third highest points in NHL history. He is the only professional athlete ever to captain two different franchises – the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Rangers – to championships. Since retiring as a player in 2004, Mark has taken on numerous executive roles. He is currently the CEO of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center, a development project that plans to convert a former National Guard armory in the Bronx, NY into the world’s largest indoor ice facility. Mark has also served as an executive with the New York Rangers and Hockey...

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Darren Phelan, MD is board certified Emergency physician, health tech investor, consultant, and lifelong athlete.

He developed and ran a medical practice in the heart of Silicon Valley with greater than 10 billion dollars in assets under management; where devices, technology, and patients interfaced for better results.

His extensive health and wellness experience helped develop and implement the integrated care models and platforms now used by companies including Facebook, Square, LinkedIn, Symantec, Intuit and Microsoft.

He currently sits on the board of Likemoji, the Customer Experience platform and remains active in patient care and healthcare delivery projects at AC Wellness (Apple Inc.) in Cupertino.

Darren continues to pursue his passion in Open water sports and Masters swimming. He holds National records in some of their most grueling events.

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Michael had a very successful athletic career representing Canada internationally in the sport of decathlon, where he was a three-time Olympian as well as a World Championships and Commonwealth Games medalist. Over the span of his 13-year track and field career Michael had the opportunity to partner with many large domestic and international organizations, representing their brands on and off the competitive field. Michael has spent more than 15 years in the capital markets and financial services industry with domestic and international experience working for public and privately held investment banks.

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Robin Thurston is the CEO of Pocket Outdoor Media, a company building the world’s content and events home for runners, triathletes, and cyclists. Under his leadership, Pocket Outdoor Media is reinventing how athletes consume content, participate and engage, increase knowledge, find gear, and ultimately perform in their sport.

Before joining Pocket Outdoor Media, he ran a consumer genetics company called Helix in Silicon Valley before returning to his home state of Colorado. Prior to Helix, Robin co-founded and built MapMyFitness into one of the world’s largest open fitness tracking platforms. Following the acquisition of MapMyFitness by Under Armour, he joined the innovative sports apparel organization and served as Chief Digital Officer, where he led the overall strategic direction of the company’s Connected Fitness and eCommerce business.

Robin spent the first ten years of his career building a mutual fund classification and ratings platform at Lipper (a Thomson...

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Elizabeth Weil is a technology investor, operating executive, startup advisor, and entrepreneur. Previously, she was a Managing Director at 137 Ventures and prior to that, a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Elizabeth was an early employee and executive at Twitter during the time it scaled from 50 to 3000 people. Elizabeth has invested in more than 40 companies across all stages, including Slack, Coinbase, Envoy, Branch Metrics, Birdeye, Brightwheel, Digits, and SpaceX.

Elizabeth graduated from Stanford University with a BA In Economics and a Masters in Engineering. In the years since, she has taught classes at Stanford in both the engineering department and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. She is a competitive ultra-marathon runner, a letterpress printer (paperwheel.com), and a mom to a LEGO-obsessed 5-year old and 3-year old boy/girl...

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Alexa is a successful high-tech executive having founded HireTECH, a recruiting and consulting company focused on high-tech start-ups as well as Recruiting Labs, a web-based recruiting venture. Following her successful entrepreneurial career, Alexa shifted her focus to politics and founded Be One Texas, and she proceeded to lead multiple organizations focused on activating civic engagement and driving voter empowerment and voter turn-out. Under President Obama Alexa was appointed to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, and later as the U.S. Ambassador to Austria where she was awarded the “Grand Decoration in Gold with Sash" by the Austrian government ”, the highest decoration for services to the country a non-national can receive. Alexa’s philanthropic passions and board seats have included organizations in the arts, homelessness, women in technology, film, girls and women’s empowerment, and under-served populations. She is currently on the board of the Salzburg...

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