Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant is teaming up with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel to launch a $100 million venture capital fund. Among their first investments is FocusMotion, a tech startup founded by two University of Michigan Ross School of Business alumni.
Both Bryant, who retired in April after 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Stibel will contribute to the fund — named Bryant Stibel — which they plan to invest in technology, media, and data companies over the next few years. In an interview Monday (Aug. 22) with the Wall Street Journal, Bryant and Stibel said their skills complement each other: Stibel brings his experience building companies, and Bryant contributes his flair for marketing.
“Age tends to give you perspective,” said Bryant, an 18-time All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist. “The most important thing I enjoy now is helping others be successful. I enjoy doing that much more, that’s something that lasts forever, and hope they do that for the next generation.”
INVESTING IN FOCUSMOTION
Already, Bryant Stibel has invested in at least 13 companies that range from Alibaba to Juicero, a company that makes at-home juicing machines. One of those investments, FocusMotion, is a motion-tracking technology startup that is breaking into the wearables market, which includes Apple Watch and Android Wear.
FocusMotion produces software, not actual wearables. The company’s software development kit can track, learn, and analyze human motion, according to its website, and will work on any sensor, operating system, or platform. Users can track their workouts and use the data to adjust their athletic form, among other things.
The Los Angeles-based FocusMotion was launched in 2012 by Cavan Canavan, MBA ’12, and Grant Hughes, MBA ’13, both Ross alumni. They have partnerships with health, physical therapy, and workforce safety groups, as well as with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers. On Monday, after the formation of Bryant Stibel was announced, FocusMotion’s co-founders posed with Bryant at the New York Stock Exchange.
Announcing @BryantStibel investment from the @NYSE with @kobebryant this morn. Excited to be in the portfolio. #tech pic.twitter.com/FQqiuxQavn
— FocusMotion (@focus_motion) August 22, 2016
ATHLETES BECOMING INVESTORS
Bryant is not the first professional athlete to invest in technology startups. Notably, his one-time fellow Laker Shaquille O’Neal has invested in everything from Google to Loyal3, a brokerage startup that helps beginners invest wisely. In 2013, another NBA star, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, started an investment firm similar to Bryant Stibel called Melo7 Tech Partners.
“Playing basketball, the focus is always on winning,” Bryant said Monday in an interview with CNBC. “Winning championships, winning championships, winning championships. Now, championships come and go. There’s going to be another team that wins another championship, another player that wins another MVP award.”
He told CNBC he’d rather be remembered for jump-starting tech companies than for basketball.
“If you really want to create something that lasts generations, you have to help inspire the next generation, and they create something great, and then that generation will inspire the one behind them, right? And that’s when you create something forever.”
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