LA-based The Skills is launching a MasterClass for athletes featuring Michael Phelps, Maria Sharapova and more

A new Los Angeles startup is betting that enough consumers are interested in paying between $69 and $149 per year to receive lessons in life and sports from celebrity athletes like Maria Sharapova and Shaun White to make a billion-dollar business.

That’s the gamble that Maveron, Global Founders Capital and 8VC are taking on The Skills, which launches today.

Founded by E. Omer Atesmen, a former renewable energy entrepreneur whose last company, Clean Energy Experts, was acquired by SunRun for an undisclosed amount. The Skills aims to bring coaching lessons from life and sports to subscribers in a MasterClass-style format.

With a roster that includes Sharapova, White, volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings, All-Pro football player Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Phelps, the former competitive swimmer who won 28 medals in his Olympic Games competitions, The Skills has managed to ink athletes that were among or at the top of the competitive field in their respective sports.

The idea that consumers are willing to pay for aphorisms, homilies and expert advice from the best practitioners of a particular craft propelled MasterClass to an $800 million valuation earlier this year, so The Skills’ pitch is not without precedent.

“There is so much research into the value of sports participation at an individual level. Sports is linked to improved mental health, enhanced social skills, better physical health and success in other aspects of life,” said Atesmen, founder and chief executive officer of The Skills, in a statement. “We launched The Skills because millions of people around the world want to learn from superstar athletes, but access is often limited to rare, offline opportunities. We want to share our athletes and their knowledge and skills they’ve learned from life experiences both on and off the field.”

The company’s course catalog contains over 20 sessions ranging in length from roughly two to five minutes and combines observations on life skills with lessons on technique. The more universal (or generic) advice covered by the sessions will include building confidence, leadership, mental preparation and self care, according to a statement from the company.

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