NBA star Kobe Bryant collaborates with business tycoon Jeff Stibel to launch a $100million venture capital firm
From scoring 3-pointers on the court to writing checks and arranging files, Kobe Bryant - the big time basketball star has turned into quite the strategic investor. Kobe, who served his 20-year long shining career with the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring them many wins in the NBA- has recently announced that he will unveil his $100 million venture-capital fund for investing in tech, media and data companies. He professes to complete this mission with the help of long-time entrepreneur and investor- Jeff Stibel, which according to Wall Street Journal should take place over ‘the next few years’.
Although the two have invested in 15 companies since 2013 informally, they decided to put an official tag on their business relationship in the form of their new firm- ‘Bryant Stibel’, which will be based in the Los Angeles area. According to the same report, they don’t plan on bringing in a third player to the team anytime soon and are quite confident that they can pull off this venture based on their complementary skill-set.
"I have always had ideas and always had a vision of where I wanted to go going back to 2000, but they are just ideas. Now, once the Achilles injury took place, I'm sitting at home for months not moving, a couple things set in. One is that there is only so many Modern Family episodes a person can watch. And then two, what do I do now?" says Kobe, in an interview with ESPN.
In 2014, Kobe invested $4-6 million to buy more than 10 per cent of ‘BodyArmor’, a sports drink-based company. In 2015, he bought a major stake in Derek Jeter’s media platform- ‘The Players’ Tribune’, leading the list that contained all the individuals and companies that invested a good $15 million in it. In an interview with ‘DiMoro’, Kobe said – “There are three areas that pique my interest: media, technology and storytelling. The Players' Tribune is the perfect intersection of those personal passions. I believe we are at the start of a revolution when it comes to people owning their stories and using them to build their businesses. The Players' Tribune is just the beginning and I wanted to be a part of what Derek and his team have started to build."
Although this looks like its heading towards a one-man celebrity enterprise, Stibel is quick to step in and refute the idea in the bud itself. “We don’t want to be in the business of investing in companies so someone can use Kobe as an endorser. That’s not interesting,” he said to WSJ.
An entrepreneur and business executive, Stibel has started several technology and marketing companies and by the time he was 32, he became one of the youngest American public company CEOs and even opened up the NASDAQ stock market. Incidentally, he started his career as a brain scientist and is even a certified New York Times bestselling author. So it would make sense for Kobe to rope him in on his team, stating that a combination of Stibel’s experience building companies and his own creative flair for detailing when it comes to marketing, branding and storytelling would lead to their imminent success.
"I want to be a part of something and if you want to be a true entrepreneur you have to put skin in the game. At this stage in my life, I don't have the interest in taking on any more endorsements,” said Kobe. He also stated that he had the ability to immediately identify entrepreneurs with a robust work ethic. To this end, he says – “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.”
Although many have raised their eyebrows at yet another celebrity-status sportsman enters the world of business, some like Jon Sakoda, a venture capitalist with ‘New Enterprise Associates’ believes that it is more than possible. Stibel had also worked with Kobe in ‘Players Tribune’ and stated that athletes are always taken seriously by entrepreneurs. As for completing a successful venture, Stibel says it will happen as long as one remains consistent and driven.
“You have to have that passion that you can succeed. The business and idea will change over and over again. But the entrepreneur persists,” he says.