Venture Capitalist Kobe Bryant weighs in on new fund, eSports and failure

Venture Capitalist Kobe Bryant weighs in on new fund, eSports and failure.
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“Are you ready to shoot five percent as a good venture capitalist?”

“No, I’m going to shoot higher than that,” Kobe Bryant chimed back.

Such is the demeanor and attitude of the still newly-retired Los Angeles Lakers star, who discussed his new $100 million firm, Bryant Stibel, among other things at the recent WSJDLive Conference in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Bryant, who partnered with the serial entrepreneur Jeff Stibel earlier this August, has invested in a handful of companies including LegalZoom, sports media platform The Players’ Tribune, video game designer Scopely, home juicing company Juicero and software firm RingDNA.  The most recent public announcement came in late August as he and Stibel backed a Chinese education company called VIPKID.

On Tuesday night, Bryant appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Live account, first weighing in on the difference between being a VC and competing on the hardwood.

“From an investment perspective, it’s a different ball game because in basketball and sports, you’re used to having immediate gratification,” Bryant explained. “You come to a game and you play that night, you either win or you lose. There’s not so much of the patience game that takes place on the surface. The way that I approach it is I’m used to having this patient approach. When I start training camp, you’re building the tools necessary to win a championship. You have to have the patience.”

When asked by the moderator about how far he was willing to fail as a VC, Bryant said that failure is just a “part of the process of succeeding.”

“I’m not one to really believe in failure,” he added. “I believe in setbacks, and you have to learn from those. You have to learn what are those land mines that can be avoided next time. What are those pitfalls.”

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He then described a time when he was 18 years old playing on national television in the playoffs and air-balled five consecutive shots.

“I think my tolerance (for failure) is pretty high. I think I’m alright,” Bryant said. 

The five-time NBA champion said that he started looking at what was next after basketball a few years ago, especially around the time when he ruptured his achilles in April 2013. He had always heard financial planners telling him and his fellow athletes about saving money and being mindful of the lifestyle you are currently living. Eventually that money would end, they told Bryant.

“What is the counter to that? How can I use the influence I currently have now to build something of value that won’t dwindle over time?” he said. “… Hopefully it can be a great example for other athletes. Right now, the way the model is set up is athletes get endorsement deals and you get the cash. … Eventually that money runs dry. How can you use the influence you currently have and create somewhat of a hybrid model of endorsements and liquidity but also building something of long-term value?”

When it comes to business and the technology and media companies he is looking to align with, Bryant expressed that he wants to relay some of the key building blocks he learned on the hardwood such as focus and teamwork.

Additionally, Bryant weighed in on eSports and the growing industry phenomenon that has NBA team owners and current players diving head first into the non-traditional sport.

“I get it, it’s a form of entertainment. It’s looking at the sport being played through a different lens,” he said.