Venture Capital: The Kobe in “Bryant Stibel & Co”
How one man straddled sport, business, finance, tech, media and venture capital
Kobe Bryant was a legendary basketball player and star. Until his untimely death in a helicopter crash on Sunday, it was not commonly known that he was also a successful businessman who ran a venture capital firm.
Bryant Stibel & Co, the VC firm Kobe founded in 2013 with Jeff Stibel, is said to hold more than $2 billion in assets.
How does a person make the leap from the sports field to the conference room, and excel at both?
Absolute devotion. Period.
“For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning…he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability…he was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players…(Extract from the statement from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver)
Billionaire Chris Sacca, who once gave Kobe a list of resources to beef up on VC investing) says:
“Over the next couple of months, he kept calling and texting me at all hours of the day and night wanting to discuss his reactions to specific chapters and ideas and relate it to other stuff he was reading that I hadn’t assigned. Literally, at 3 a.m., he would be on his physical therapy treadmill and call me. His obsession with learning this stuff was so 24/7.”
Bryant and venture investing
Kobe himself on VC investing in a September CNBC interview:
“You’ve got to have strong entrepreneurs, that’s really the key for us is looking at the people. Yes, it’s important to see those returns, right? But it’s also important to have great opportunity, great relationships with our investors, great opportunities with our entrepreneurs to help them grow and put them in situations where they can be successful.”
In fact, in 2016, Kobe famously said he hoped to be remembered more for investing than basketball in 20 years.
He was certainly on track.
Bryant Stibel & Co invested in included Dell, Alibaba, Fortnite creator Epic Games, payment company Klarna and household products outfit The Honest Company.
Kobe’s personal investment of $6 million in BA Sports Nutrition, a sports drink startup, became worth $200 million when Coca-Cola bought a minority stake in the startup.
But Kobe never really lost sight of first-love basketball.
His Kobe Studios production company created a 5-1/2 minute animated short that Bryant wrote called “Dear Basketball.”
The film won an Academy Award for the best animated short in 2018.
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