The Viva! Vision: Former NFL Players Create ‘App Enablement’ Firm for Athletes, Celebs

From the cut line to the command line

Joe Tafoya wasn’t ready for his NFL career to end. But after being cut by the Arizona Cardinals during the 2008 preseason, he went to New Orleans for a tryout with the Saints. During that tryout, Tafoya fractured his foot — and just like that, his 6-year career was over.

Even though the Tafoya had made a decent salary for most of his tenure playing defensive end for the Chicago Bears, the Seattle Seahawks (who he played for in Super Bowl XL) ¬†and the Cardinals, it wasn’t retirement dough. He was scheduled to make $625,000 the year he was cut, and didn’t see any of that salary. According to USA Today the most Tafoya ever made was $1,025,000 his rookie year, a $375,000 salary and a $650,000 bonus. Most of his yearly salaries were in the 500k-600K range. He didn’t spend it all, but it wasn’t like he was buying private jets. When football was over, like many former players Tafoya couldn’t afford to simply retire.

“I’m not sure that anyone is truly financially prepared for their NFL career to end,” Tafoya said. “You come into a significant amount of money in a short period of time and like most 24-year-olds you don’t really think about the future.”

Some of Tafoya’s cash went in predictable directions: risky investments that didn’t pan out, and real estate. It wasn’t enough.

“When my career ended I gave myself a nice cushion to land on but eventually needed to find work again,” said the now 33-year-old Tafoya. “It was nice enough to have the luxury to spend some time learning business and I was fortunate enough to have some good mentors.”

One of those connections was a friend who was the CEO of a company (called Viva Vision) embroiled in a messy financial snafu. Making the story short, Tafoya’s friend was head of an Internet media company that was owned by a financial conglomerate that was being broken up by the SEC. (If you want to hunt down details of the lawsuits you can start here.) Tafoya and his friends saw the opportunity to grab a firm with marketable assets and an existing revenue stream at a fire sale price. But initially Tafoya was frustrated in his attempts to contact the lawyers who were selling off the conglomerate’s assets. So Tafoya executed a blitz.

“I had called and emailed and never got a response” from the receivership lawyer, Tafoya said. “Then I heard he had another offer on the company, so I got on a redeye from Seattle down to San Diego, where his offices were.”

By 7 a.m., Tafoya said he was at the receivership lawyer’s office, walking past the receptionist “like I knew what I was doing.” Tafoya walked down a hallway until he saw a door with the lawyer’s name on it, and waited. When the lawyer showed up he was looking down at something — and when he got to the door he looked up at the 6-4 Tafoya. “You must be Joe,” the lawyer said to Tafoya.

“I asked him if the other offer was signed, and he said no,” Tafoya said. “I told him that I wasn’t leaving until he sold the company to me and my partners.”

For a price of $1.3 million, Tafoya and his team got the deal. On Aug. 12, 2010, they became the new owners of Viva Vision, and their new careers had started.

Next: Building a team

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  1. I am truly honored to have this article written. Paul really does a good job on capturing our journey to the mobile industry. We have a great story and I am happy to be sharing it on Mobile Sports Report!

    • Thanks Joe. Readers note that Joe says while he played six years in the NFL, he was an active player for eight years. Believe some of that was on the practice squad. Plus for those keeping track he went to college at Arizona.

    • David Burbidge says

      Congratulations on Viva! Visions and this excellent article. All the very best

      Dave Burbidge

  2. This was a great article indeed. I want tho also thank Joe Tafoya and Team/Viva! Visions for seeing talent in the Smallest places and empowring them to see opportunity in a smarter way like he did with our companies and the Architeckz his team created a TURFIN App Tool for Urban Street Dance Culture to Market a promote our popular style of dance from Oakland,Ca

    Hopefully we can be part of the hackathon at the upcoming SXSW Interactive conference as well?

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