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Co-Founder/CFO: CSZ Network

Founder/Managing Partner: Steuart Ventures

John appears in the Top 100
Innovators & Entrepreneurs Magazine

Steuart, John-feat 1_edited.jpg

Slide 1: John Steuart  Slide 2: CSZ Co-Founders Jake Shipley (left) and John Steuart (right)

John Steuart

John Steuart is a Top 100 serial entrepreneur and venture capital investor. Over the last three decades, he has started or invested in more than 150 companies, from garage-stage concepts through successful IPOs or acquisitions including Natera (NTRA), Tanox Bio (TNOX), (ASK), Cybergold (CGLD), and Mypoints (MYPT). Currently, John serves as CFO and co-founder of County Sports Zone, an education technology and sports media company expanding nationally as the CSZ Network. The CSZ Network (CSZ) is a pioneering platform providing comprehensive coverage of high school sports – every game of every sport at every level, using patent-pending automation technology and unique fan-sourced content.

Since 1990, John has founded companies as COO, CEO, and CFO, and served on more than 50 public and private boards, often as chairman of audit and compensation committees. John is a seasoned venture capital investor in fast-growth projects. He held the title of managing director of three VC firms (Alafi, Claremont Creek and Prolog Ventures). In his spare time, John mentors and teaches at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Throughout his many undertakings, one theme has been consistent: “An important thread to my career centers on creating and starting new companies to support education and students. CSZ is the latest and most important chapter crowning my career,” John shares.

John has played instrumental roles in the founding and growth of several successful ventures. Notably, he co-founded the trailblazing, web-based loyalty and incentive marketing company, Cybergold in 1995, guiding the firm through its IPO and subsequent merger with Mypoints before its acquisition by United Airlines in 2001. Recently, John founded the early-stage investment company, Steuart Ventures, where he champions the ethos of embracing great entrepreneurial teams and out-of-the-box thinking as essential elements for success.

The CSZ Network demonstrates these traits of success. Noting that teen sports is a $21 billion nationwide market, he and his team are poised to lead CSZ to a dominant position across the 20,000 high schools nationwide. “CSZ is poised to become my biggest winner, with revenues, active users and schools in our ecosystem all accelerating. We cover 45,000 games each year currently and expect that number to ramp into the millions over the next few years.”

We spoke with John to learn more about CSZ and his latest investment firm, Steuart Ventures.

John, it seems entrepreneurship came naturally to you, at a very young age. Will you tell us a bit about your background and early endeavors?


Absolutely! Growing up in Baltimore with my mother, a teacher, I began my entrepreneurial journey at the age of 11 by delivering newspapers. By age 14, I had a team of four paperboys under my wing. Throughout my teenage years, I explored various business ventures, including snow shoveling and grass-cutting operations. After graduating from UC Berkeley, a classmate and I ventured into business without any capital, founding Savvy Properties. This endeavor focused on creating and managing student housing properties across Northern California’s rent-controlled communities. Since then, I often describe myself as an "investeprenueur," reflecting my dual identity as both investor and entrepreneur. My promise to my new entrepreneur partners: “I’ll coach you not to make any of the thousands of mistakes my prior companies have made--You get to make up your own.”

You see luck, good timing, and out-of-the-box thinking as big factors in your success. Will you share some stories from your career where this played a role?

I've been fortunate with timing and blessed with great mentors and early partners.  Working alongside Moshe Alafi at Alafi Capital, we invested in pioneering biotech companies like Biogen, Amgen, Qiagen, and Applied Biosystems. Moshe advised me to start my own venture, leading to the co-founding of Cybergold with Nat Goldhaber and Gary Fitts­. After our IPO in 1999, and subsequent sale to United Airlines, I co-founded Claremont Creek Ventures (CCV). Raising our initial fund proved challenging, with 256 meetings across the U.S. in 18 months. Eventually, we secured ten institutional investors led by the Harvard Endowment. Accelerating our second fund launch to Q1 of 2008 proved prescient, as the market crashed later that year. My early investments, notably Natera, boasting an $11 billion market capitalization today, showcased the power of our innovative model. Two of my other molecular diagnostic investments achieved great exits: Geneweave was purchased by Roche for $450 million, and Assurex was acquired by Myriad for $425 million. Now, I fund projects with a meaningful impact, leveraging both my own capital and expertise to make a difference in the world.  In these companies, I roll up my sleeves and join the management team as a manager reporting the CEO entrepreneur.

Tell us about the CSZ Network and your involvement in it.

I have three criteria for projects: working with exceptional people, making a positive societal impact, and believing my involvement enhances the project's probability of success. CSZ aligns perfectly with these principles--it combines sports media with engaging commentary and contests, covering 45,000 high school games each year in Maryland while rapidly expanding to other states. With our proprietary technology and a provisional patent in progress for our automated score reporting and verification system, CSZ aims to become the leading repository for high school sports content nationwide. By fostering school spirit and community connections, CSZ has the potential to keep students engaged in school, lower dropout rates, boost GPAs, and make a meaningful difference in families and local economies. That's why I'm committed to this project.

You have a handful of axioms that you live by. Let’s end with just a few of them, shall we?

First, humility: never assert genius when dumb luck is an equally valid explanation. I did an IPO at the height of the dot-com bubble, sold it to United  Airlines two months before 9/11, and raised a $175 million venture fund in 2008, a few months before the crash that touched off the Great Recession. Lucky timing has been kind to me. Second, kindness and openness are essential; valuable ideas can originate from unexpected sources. By fostering transparency and inclusivity at CSZ, everyone is encouraged to contribute ideas and improvements. This environment maximizes innovation for rapid growth.


John Steuart

Co-Founder & CFO: CSZ Network
Founder, Managing Partner: Steuart Ventures


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