There’s a new buddy-cop duo taking on the venture-capital world. One half is a five foot seven former brain researcher turned tech entrepreneur; the other, a six foot six former N.B.A. all-star who was drafted out of high school and retired earlier this year.
You’ve maybe heard of the latter guy—Kobe Bryant—who on Monday unveiled a new $100 million venture-capital fund he’s starting with his partner, Jeff Stibel. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the two said that the Los Angeles–based firm will invest in media, technology, and data companies over the next few years.
The two met through a mutual friend, according to theJournal, and immediately found much in common. Injuries, for example. I mean, can you believe the coincidence of both men getting hurt? Stibel stumbled over cobblestone in New York, resulting in a broken foot. Bryant tore an Achilles playing the Golden State Warriors. That kind of similarity has to be some sort of sign.
Since meeting in 2013, the two have invested in 15 companies, including LegalZoom, the Derek Jeter-founded sports website The Players’ Tribune, and Juicero, the $700 juicer that’s taken Silicon Valley by storm. Now, with the former Laker months into his retirement, the two are making their partnership official and settling into their distinct roles,the Journal reports. Stibel brings the entrepreneurial expertise, while Bryant is using his creative juice to come up with marketing and branding ideas, including the firm’s new logo, the inspiration for which he drew from piano keys (Bryant famously stepped into the music industry with a stint as a rapper, as well).
Bryant, of course, also brings his notoriously competitive, relentless perfectionism. Earlier this year, billionaire investor Chris Sacca told Bill Simmons that Bryant had become obsessed with becoming a successful investor. “He was bringing the same obsessive work ethic to learning about start-ups that he does to training. . . . This is a very unique personality type that I only see in some of our very best entrepreneurs,” he said, comparing Bryant to Uber founder Travis Kalanick. “I don’t think [Bryant’s] a pretender about that stuff . . . I think he can be great at this.”
There’s no shortage of former ball players with a similar drive and desire to spot a 10-bagger. But even as Bryant claimed age has given him the perspective to not need to win all the time (“The most important thing I enjoy now is helping others be successful,” he told the Journal), it seems like he hasn’t quite shaken that winner-takes-all attitude. “I think it’s interesting that the immediate reaction from people would be competitiveness between myself and others,” he said, before throwing some subtle shade at other N.B.A.-ers who have set up their own investment vehicles. “I’m more interested in how I can help Shaq, Melo [Anthony] or [N.B.A. player Andre Iguodala].”
Kobe Bryant, money man and altruistic helper of tall rich guys who’ve been at this for longer than he has, has found a new passion. “I enjoy doing that much much more, that’s something that lasts forever, and hope they do that for the next generation.”