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James Torvaney

James Torvaney

Managing Director

Pulse Africa logo

Best pitch presenter you’ve ever seen:

I’m not one for big flashy presentations, as I find often that is a substitute for lack of substance. My favourite speakers are usually the older, quieter investor-types. They tend to be the ones with the real insights, rather than empty buzzwords and jumping on bandwagons. I remember seeing Right to Dream founder Tom Vernon (below) speak in Kigali last year, and that stuck with me. You could tell from listening to him that he’s been on the ground and put in some serious hustle.

 Tom Vernon

Best sports marketing campaign (that wasn’t yours):

I’m a sucker for a good kit collab. All of Nike’s recent Nigeria kits have been dope but the 2018 World Cup Kit was special. It was so different from everything else at the tournament, it felt like the designers had a lot of fun with that one. And it became a cult classic as a result. I still bump into people wearing that kit who likely couldn’t name anyone from the 2018 Nigeria squad, and that makes me smile.

Best agency (that isn’t yours):

Abimbola Ilo is doing fantastic work at Integrale, who are far ahead of other agencies I’ve worked with in Africa.


Best young industry talent:

There are lots of young British West Africans doing great things who will be big names in the years to come. Kenny Annan-Jonathan at the Mailroom, Deji Akande (below) at Gateway Sports, and Mayowa Quadri at VERSUS are just a few.

Deji Akande

Best sporting event attended:

I barely have time to go to live sports events these days, and spending so much time in Nigeria I have limited opportunities to see the big global events. The NBA has upped the level for live sports events in Africa and the just-concluded AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire was exceptionally well done.

Best sporting event on TV:

Hmm… I don’t watch much rugby but the Six Nations is something special. For more regular events, the UFC always put on a great show.

Best brand ambassador:

I guess in terms of brand impact you would have to say Michael Jordan! And everything Snoop Dogg touches seems to become viral…

Best industry event or conference:

Leaders in Sport was exceptionally well done. I haven’t been to anything that came close yet.

Best film containing a scene depicting the sports business:

I’ll have to pass as I haven’t watched a film in years!

Best book recommendation:

Sports-related? Shoe Dog by Phil Knight or West of Jesus by Steven Kotler. More generally - anything by Haruki Murakami. We all need more Japanese surrealism in our lives.

Best bar or pub:

Ha! I’m very boring and I don’t do pubs. Just take me someplace warm with a rooftop or private beach and I’ll be happy!

Best restaurant:

These questions are really tough… Don’t know about ‘best’ but I recently ate at Mangal II in Dalston and it stirred some deep emotions inside of me.

Best holiday resort:

The one that I own with my wife on the East African coast. Unfortunately, I’m still single and not yet rich enough to retire.

Best box set:

What’s a box set? I think I’m too young for this question

Best influence on your career:

Not a person but a place. Spending two and a half years in Lagos Nigeria did bring about some grey hairs but it taught me all sorts of useful business lessons, and I’m a better person and better leader because of it. I think everyone should work there at least once.

Best dinner companions (min 4, max 6):

Life is already serious enough as it is, so I think I’d prefer a light-hearted meal with close friends. I was a big Norm Macdonald fan but I have a feeling that he wouldn’t be such good company these days.

Seeing as it’s obligatory to name a world leader, maybe Barack could pop by for a digestif after the meal. In fact, let’s invite Donald and Bernie too. I feel they’d have plenty to talk about. That or we would just sit in awkward silence.

Best job in the sports biz:

Non-executive director! I love strategy and talking about ideas is fun when you are not the one who has to implement them.

Best professional regret:

Whilst it was fun moving off the beaten path and leaving a well-paid job to live in Sierra Leone for more than four years, it was horrible career-wise. It’s good to try new things but you can also disappear so far out of the box that no one knows what on earth you are doing.

Best skill you most covet:

Focus! My mind is always on a hundred things at once. I wonder what’s for lunch…

Best trait you admire in others:

Machiavellian ruthlessness. It’s a trait I’ve noticed in most of the richest, most successful business people I have encountered.

Best overrated virtue:

“Move fast and break things” and any other similar startup-y vibes. Maybe it works well in some areas, but my world is very relationship-based and I’d prefer not to leave a trail of destruction in my wake.

Best ambition:

I’d like to eventually raise an investment fund focused on sports ventures in emerging markets (Africa, Asia, Latam)

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