Former AT&T CEO Glenn Lurie: From Soccer to Venture Capitalist

March 4, 2023

Glenn Lurie, a groundbreaking thought leader in the technology, media, and telecommunications sector, has served as a venture partner with Stormbreaker Ventures since 2021. An early-stage capital fund, Stormbreaker supports a variety of promising TMT startups, including the smart wireless networking company Teal Communications.

But long before he was a force to be reckoned with in the business world, tackling leadership roles in major corporations like AT&T and Synchronoss Technologies, Glenn Lurie excelled in the sports field. “I played everything,” he recalls. “I was naturally athletic, but I was a little guy. I played baseball until I was 15 and I ran track and played soccer.”

The business world came this close to losing this innovator to the stadium. “I went to college in Seattle and, at that time, my whole life was focused around soccer,” Lurie told Authority Magazine. “It shaped me and if I hadn’t played soccer, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

A Natural Athlete and a Gifted Soccer Player

Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Lurie was introduced to soccer when the city established the North American Soccer League team, the Portland Timbers. “It became a massive thing back in those days,” said Lurie. “We became Soccer City USA.”

By the time he entered high school, soccer had become his primary sport. He received numerous accolades and many awards in his high school and soccer club and led the state in scoring in his junior and senior years.

Beyond his deep love of the game, Lurie knew that soccer offered his best chances of obtaining a college scholarship and attending college. He ultimately attended Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, where he competed in four consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship Games, winning three, making him a triple NCAA National Champion.

“I ended up very fortunate, making the decision to go to Seattle Pacific University,” says Lurie. “I had three or four offers. Luckily for me, I not only fell in love with the school and the coach but also fell in love with the business school … and I was so competitive as a human being anyway.”

Glenn Lurie: Transitioning From the Professional Sports Field to the Corporate Boardroom

Glenn Lurie has a love for business that dates back to high school when he participated in the marketing, finance, and administrative competitions of the educational club DECA. Although he took his studies quite seriously at Seattle Pacific University, he was determined to play professional soccer. “That was my goal,” he recalled. “My college career was very good. The team was incredible.”

His collegiate performance made him a valuable asset to many professional soccer programs. So it came an as little surprise to his coaches and teammates when he became a first-round Major Indoor Soccer League draft pick upon graduation.

Lurie played soccer professionally for teams in his hometown of Portland, as well as Cleveland, Atlanta, and Milwaukee. However, he always retained his passion for business. “I really knew I wanted to have a business career,” he said, “but I wanted to live out the soccer thing first.”

While he was incredibly successful as a soccer player, the financial rewards left a great deal to be desired. Although his wife had patiently allowed Lurie to live out his athletic dreams, a professional shift was needed if the couple was going to afford a proper home and support a family.

So he opened the newspaper. “People hear newspaper, and they laugh,” he said. “But that’s all there was back then.” At the beginning of the smartphone revolution, he had the good fortune of coming upon a sales representative job vacancy for McCaw Cellular Communications.

Challenges and Opportunities in the Business World

At first, Glenn Lurie was reluctant to take the job with McCaw Cellular. He recalls that consumer penetration in the cellphone market was around 2% or 3% and that cellphones cost “a couple of thousand bucks a pop.” However, his dad insisted that he try the mobile communications sector. “Go there for three months,” he told him. “Don’t sell anything, go back and play soccer.”

It was a fateful decision that ultimately placed Lurie at ground zero of the smartphone revolution. His work with McCaw brought him into partnership with the wireless service team at AT&T. He eventually transitioned after the sales role and marketing product manager role toa market manager for its Columbia River markets in Oregon. Over the next several decades, he would accept a series of promotions with AT&T, ultimately parting ways with the company in late 2017 as president and chief executive officer of AT&T mobility and consumer operations.

Over his long career with AT&T, Lurie played an integral role in bringing the iPhone and iPad to the commercial market. He also built three AT&T subdivisions: the Internet of Things (IoT) networking business, the Digital Life home security and automation business, and the Aio Wireless (now Cricket Wireless) prepaid phone service brand.

“I went in and found that the Wild, Wild West of selling wireless phones in those days was just a blast,” he says. “That’s what got me in the business world.”

After leaving AT&T, Glenn Lurie began overseeing the creation and marketing of mobile networking products as president and CEO of Synchronoss Technologies in Bridgewater, New Jersey. His massive presence in the world of mobile technology places him on the cutting edge of ongoing developments in life-changing digital interconnectivity among people and machines.

Beyond his current involvement with Teal as a venture capitalist, Lurie sits on the company’s board of directors. His other board positions range from the mobile travel arrangement provider Avis Budget Group to the communications equipment manufacturer Pivotal Commware and BlueLink Wireless.

Like many elite athletes turned business leaders, Lurie says that the life lessons he learned from sports have driven his success in the boardroom. He’s noticed many critical parallels between the world of athletics and the world of business. “I believe decision-making, leading — all the aspects of being able to work with other people — are enhanced by athletics,” he said. “The best people find a way to make it work no matter what. In sports, you have to do that.”


You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}