Kobe Bryant rang in the New York Stock Exchange yesterday and unveiled his new career: heading up a $100 million venture capital fund. Along with Jeff Stibel—a former Web.com CEO—the creatively named Bryant Stibel will invest in “technology, media and data companies.” Apparently, the fund will succeed because Bryant can uniquely identify “entrepreneurs with a robust work ethic,” and apparently that’s what makes a business financially successful.
Mr. Bryant, who is known for his painstaking preparation and training, said he also brings the ability to identify entrepreneurs with a robust work ethic.
“Sometimes you can spot it right away, other times not so much,” said Mr. Bryant. “It’s the inner belief that a person has that he will endure no matter what the obstacle may be. It’s that persistence, the entrepreneur doing what he or she truly believes in and truly loves to do.”
Among other investments—including in Derek Jeter’s press release publishing service—Bryant has already invested in Juicero, a company that has so far raised over $90 million to manufacture home juicers that cost $700 and require a $5-to-$7 proprietary packet to make a single glass of juice.
Bryant might be the basketball player investing most heavily in tech, but he’s far from the first. Andre Iguodala hosts tech summits, attends TechCrunch, and spent his summer palling around Silicon Valley; Steph Curry invested in something called Slyce, which allows users to “manage every aspect of content distribution to your talent partners through one easy to use platform”; Carmelo Anthony is a partner in M7 Tech Partners, which has invested in 20 companies; Shaquille O’Neal famously owns pre-IPO Google stock.
The back drop of NBA players investing in tech, of course, is the fact that most players soon go broke: 60 percent within five years of retirement, according to the best piece on the subject. Kobe Bryant: Venture Capitalist is a title that comes with a glossy shine, but the games VCs play are really no less risky than more classic versions of athletes investing poorly. Venture capital funds are high-risk by design, hoping for huge returns on the next Facebook or WhatsApp to offset the vast majority of what are losing investments.
Actually, they’re not unlike Kobe Bryant’s shot-selection in that way.