On a sunny March afternoon in LA, we caught up with the British-born, co-founder of Ivy Venture Partners. James Williams has partnered with or advises Floyd Mayweather, Beyoncé and a number of NBA, NFL and NHL athletes on their respective business endeavors. And in his spare time you might find him kite surfing with Richard Branson.
“James embodies what XPT is-he has the ability to work hard, and live a high quality of life,” says XPT’s Gabby Reece. “He is bright, fun and kind.”
As a co-founder of XPT, James walks us through the genesis of the founding team and explains that if you think an XPT Experience isn’t for you, you’re probably wrong.
XPT: How did you first get involved with the whole XPT crew?
JW: Two of my great friends, Alice Bamford and Anne Eysenring, have an amazing ranch in Malibu called One Gun Ranch. Several years ago, Laird and Gabby visited it to talk to them about potential opportunities they could all do together; and I was part of the meeting. Through that conversation, Laird and I started talking about other business opportunities; and I became involved with Laird Apparel. I started working with the co-CEO’s, William Cawley and Tim Garrett, to help develop the business plan, raise money and launch the company. Over time, I started spending more and more time up at Laird and Gabby’s pool, talking through business ideas and training. Naturally, I became more involved with everything they were doing with the underwater workouts and ice and heat recovery. Together with Brian, Gabby and Laird, we started talking through the opportunities to grow what they had created with XPT into a real, scalable business. So, it evolved from those friends and then through Laird Apparel and then pool training; and ultimately Brian, Laird, Gabby and Jenn had this business vision in mind; and we started working together to build it out in a bigger way.
“James is the perfect fit for Laird, Gabby, Brian and I,” says XPT co-founder Jenn Meredith. “He is courageous, adventurous, funny, serious, able to laugh at himself, ballsy, and smart as all hell. He is a key piece of the puzzle for us and he will help guide XPT to the next level.”
JW: Coincidentally, I had spoken with Laird briefly back in 2010. I was kite surfing from England to France for Richard Branson’s 60th birthday. We actually never ended up making it, as we got turned back by the English Coast Guard because of some heavy swell in the channel (despite RB putting in a call to Nicolas Sarkozy to get us permission!). But Richard actually did it a few years later with a few of his friends. We wanted Laird to be part of that original team. A friend of mine, Gene Smith, knew Laird and put us in touch. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t work with his schedule, but that was my very first interaction with him.
XPT: Now I know why Brian and Laird call you the Most Interesting Man in the World. Is that true?
JW: (laughs) There are definitely a lot more interesting people out there – and I think if they call me that it’s most likely because of my overly self-indulgent Instagram posts! I like to travel a bunch and find fun adventures and activities and things like wild animal interactions while I’m doing it. Although I have no doubt that more often than not Laird has a somewhat less complimentary term for it than “most interesting man!”
Laird & Brian have fun imitating James on Instagram.
The Most Interesting Man in the World, courtesy of his Instagram account
XPT: You’re a former college rugby player. Has fitness always been a big part of your life?
JW: Yes, for sure. I played rugby for a long time but nowhere near the level of our boys Danny (Cipriani), Max (Evans) and Thom (Evans), who come to XPT. But I love the sport and have always played it.
James with his rugby team at Wharton School of Business, where he recieved his MBA
I’ve always tried to keep fit, but I think it changed a lot with being introduced to Laird, Gabby and Brian, in that I was quite old school in my modalities. It was plain running, hitting the gym, lifting weights and doing outdoor activities. Being in and amongst the XPT environment with true pioneers and innovators in health and fitness has changed the way that I think of everything that I do. Right from the way that I breathe and the food and energy that goes into my body, the way that I move while working out, my recovery and mental preparation: all of it has been adapted and improved through learning from Brian, Laird and Gabby and our XPT advisors.
XPT: What does your daily fitness regimen consist of now?
JW: Well, we joke about this now. But the first thing I do every morning is get up and run. I do a 20-minute, two mile run around the Hollywood Hills before eating anything. Then I have my Postmates fruit smoothie, waiting for me on return. For lunch, I have my fish or chicken with vegetables; and then a couple more protein shakes throughout the day. I basically have two seasons now — I have the when-Laird-and-Gabby-are-in-Malibu season and I have the when-they-are-in-Kauai season. When they’re in Kauai, I miss my pool training, which means I have to make up for it with running some of the canyons in LA with buddies; or joining Laird’s great friend, Don Wildman on one of his bike rides or other workouts. In the evenings, I lift weights, typically fairly late, around 10 or 11pm. I have a gym in the office so whenever I can get an hour off I’ll head down.
But then in the summertime, with the Laird and Gabby Malibu schedule, I will do pool training three times a week, getting stuck into the awesome XPT regime, with underwater weights, ice bath and sauna with our Malibu crew. In Laird’s words, it ‘feels like gravity doesn’t exist’ and allows you to go to another dimension, which is both an incredible way to work out and an amazing place to have as an alternate reality.
I’ve done pool training for the last two or three years now; and I can feel the difference when it’s followed by the ice and heat recovery. I haven’t gotten myself set-up with the ice and heat recovery facilities in my house yet, but I will. I can really feel the difference from the summertime when I have that as part of my routine and in the winter when I don’t. (For more articles on XPT Ice & Heat Recovery Click here)
James Williams on the rocks
XPT: You also travel a lot. How do you stay fit when you’re on the road?
JW: It’s definitely tougher. I’m lucky that I go to relatively fun places: New York, London, Vegas, etc.; and Hawaii for XPT, obviously. I’m diligent in getting those morning runs in; and I use it as an opportunity to see the cities or towns that I’m in. So, I use those morning runs as a sightseeing tour of wherever I am. Then it’s either banging out push-ups in the hotel room or if the hotel has a decent enough gym, getting exercise in there.
Don Wildman gave me one piece of advice. Consistency. Stay consistent. Since he told me that, I have a target of 10 workouts per week. No matter what, I’ll make sure I hit that target. Even if every one isn’t a massively tough workout (e.g. a quick run or push ups), I’ll always make sure I get my 10 in per week.
XPT: Are you going to be hitting all the XPT Experiences this year? Is there one in particular that you’re looking forward to?
JW: Hopefully, I’ll be at all of them. (Laughs) If I can sell it to my partners that it’s ‘work’. It’s certainly the most fun ‘work’ I’ve ever done. I love them all. Kauai and Malibu are always my favorites because Kauai is such a magical place and I’m so lucky to have Gabby, Laird, Reece, Brody, Kenna, Keradin, etc. as my hosts there. . They make me feel like family and just show me the most incredible time.
And then Malibu is amazing because we have a bunch of our friends and advisors who are in the area come along. Navy SEALs, pro athletes, Malibu friends who’ve been part of XPT since before it was even XPT all come by to help and support. Having all of these familiar faces there within the broader setting of a full XPT Experience is amazing.
XPT: What’s the most important thing for XPT Experience participants to bring with them?
JW: Well, I don’t know how cheesy this is going to sound but – an open mind and a willingness and excitement to learn. I think, almost without exception, pretty much every single person who has come to an Experience has come with that; and it serves them so well. It’s been an incredible set of people, who all come with exactly that mentality, which makes each Experience so valuable not only for them but for us as well.
I think the biggest piece of advice I’d offer is for people who are looking at an XPT Experience who might have an initial reservation that you have to be an elite athlete. We have so many amazing athletes who come through; and it’s truly incredible to have them at the tip of the spear, as it were. But XPT is a modality that can be applied to any level. It’s potentially even more beneficial to those people who don’t train so much. The people that we’ve had come through so far have ranged from the elite athletes and special forces guys, to the guys who used to be super active but haven’t trained in many years – all the way to people who feel like they are completely out of shape or they don’t eat right and feel like they’re stuck in a rut. It’s such a personal experience in the way that each participant immerses themselves in all of the things that XPT has to offer. So, it isn’t an elite athlete modality or platform. It’s a workout program that’s been so carefully thought out and developed to benefit everyone in their own unique way. And it’s not just in fitness, but in overall health and the way they manage their own lives and bodies and ways of dealing with everyday issues. I think that’s what’s really special about what you get out of an XPT Experience.
XPT: Is there a particular highlight out of the Experiences that has inspired you?
JW: Doing the breathing with Brian and Laird is a complete game-changer for me. The first time I ever did it I was hooked; and it’s only gotten better since then. And now seeing how all the participants respond to it and how good it makes them feel is incredible. We have so many people now who have finished an Experience and come up to one or all of us and say that their time with Gabby Laird and Brian has genuinely been life-changing. That, for me, is a highlight every time.