Like many Trine University students, Steve Jbara graduated and began a successful
career path, first working at R.L. Polk in Southfield, Michigan, and then taking an
information technology role at Ford Motor Company.
But it wasn’t what he wanted.
“People have had incredible careers at Ford, and they’ve made great lives out of working
at Ford and other big corporations, but for me, something was kind of missing,” the
2010 alumnus said.
During a presentation March 24 in Fabiani Theatre as the annual speaker for Trine’s
Center for Sports Studies, Jbara described how an encounter at a restaurant with Joe Dumars, former player
and, at the time, general manager of the Detroit Pistons, resulted in an invitation
to be part of a meeting to request an NBA Development League expansion team.
“My entire career has been asking other people if I can be involved,” he said. “I’m
not super smart. But I’ve asked to be involved in things.”
Though that effort failed, Jbara eventually became part of a group that purchased
a franchise from Springfield, Massachusetts, and moved it to Grand Rapids to become
the Grand Rapids Drive, now the Grand Rapids Gold.
That experience has led Jbara into other entrepreneurial pursuits. In addition to
starting and selling two companies, Jbara currently serves as CEO of Atomic Honey, a Detroit-based advertising agency, and chief strategy officer for WaitTime, a startup that has developed artificial intelligence software capable of providing
real-time insights into crowd behavior at sporting events.
He also is the chief strategy officer and a board member for Air Company, a Brooklyn, New York-based firm that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
to create products like jet fuel and alcohol. Jbara related how that opportunity came
about from a conversation with a classmate when both were struggling at Harvard Business
“No matter what situation you’re in in life, you can always be kind,” he said. “In
two years, I was the only human being who had a conversation with him, and I was the
one he decided to call. And so now, we have a massive business in New York City.”
He also encouraged students to develop their public speaking ability and to build
“Early on, I was a huge networker,” he said. “I went to every chamber event, every
young professional group. I wanted to meet people, know people. Sometimes those events
are a pain … but they are pretty necessary.”
The Trine Center for Sports Studies is a multidisciplinary teaching and experiential
learning collaborative at Trine University focusing on the study of sports and the
international sports industry. The Center draws from well-respected Trine University
programs and courses in business, health sciences and communication to provide the
broadest range of sports-related academic major, minors and internships to prepare
Trine students for this fast-growing, dynamic international marketplace.
Photo: Steve Jbara, owner and president of the NBA G-League Grand Rapids Gold, speaks at
an event hosted by Trine University’s Center for Sports Studies in Fabiani Theatre
on March 24. (Photo by Jessalyn Friederick)
Last Updated: 03/28/2022