Kobe Bryant Launches $100 Million Venture Capitalist Tech Fund With Jeff Stibel

Retired NBA player Kobe Bryant rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange Monday after unveiling his venture-capital fund with partner Jeff Stibel. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
Retired NBA player Kobe Bryant rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange Monday after unveiling his venture-capital fund with partner Jeff Stibel. (PHOTO CREDIT: Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Meet Kobe Bryant, venture capitalist.

The retired NBA star today unveiled his venture-capital fund, a $100 million vehicle for investing in technology, media and data companies.

Mr. Bryant, who turns 38 Tuesday, isn’t going it alone: He is partnering with 43-year-old Jeff Stibel, a longtime entrepreneur and investor who was introduced to Mr. Bryant by a mutual friend. They have named their firm Bryant-Stibel and will be based in the Los Angeles area.

The two have been invested in 15 companies since 2013, but only after Mr. Bryant’s retirement from basketball have they decided to formalize their relationship and fund.

The two men are contributing the $100 million—which they expect to invest over the next few years—and aren’t seeking outside investors yet.

Current investments include sports media website The Players Tribune, videogame designer Scopely, legal-services company LegalZoom, a telemarketing-software firm called RingDNA and a home-juicing company called Juicero.

In an interview, the two men said their skills complement each other, with Mr. Stibel bringing experience building companies and Mr. Bryant contributing a creative, if obsessive, flair for details around marketing, branding and storytelling. He, in fact, designed the company’s new logo with inspiration from piano keys.

They even bonded over shared injuries. In the case of 6-foot-6-inch Mr. Bryant, an Achilles rupture during a 2013 game against the Golden State Warriors; and in the case of 5-foot-7-inch Mr. Stibel, a broken foot in a mishap with a Manhattan cobblestone.

“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,” said Mr. Stibel, who began his career in brain research and later founded and developed tech companies. “The point is to add real value.”

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.

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SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal, Dennis K. Berman