The unlikeliest new faces of venture capital

Musicians, actors and athletes have been raising their own funds over the past few years

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
August 23, 2016
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One of the big news items this week was the announcement that NBA superstar Kobe Bryant had launched his own venture capital fund.

Founded along with investor and entrepreneur Jeff Stibel, Bryant Stibel, as the firm will be called, will invest $100 million in tech, media and data companies.

While it's more common now to see an athlete, or a celebrity, getting into venture capital -- as there have been a number of famous people who have dipped their toes in the water, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Jared Leto, it's still somewhat rare for them to raise their own funds, rather than investing as individuals.

Here are some of those that have actually raised a fund.


Other than Kobe, there have been a number of other athletes that have either started their own firms or joined as partners.

That includes Magic Johnson, who joined Detroit Venture Partners in 2011, where he serves as a general partner. The firm raised $55 million for its first fund.  

Some of the companies the firm has invested in include SocialProof, BoostUp, iRule and Quickly. 

Former Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash, who teamed up with advertising executive Mike Duda to launch Consigliere Brand Capital, which has since been renamed Bullish. Some of its investments include Birchbox, Warby Parker and Harry’s.

Carmelo Anthony, who is still playing for the New York Knicks, launched his own VC firm in 2013, called Melo7 Tech Partners. Investments so far inclue DraftKings, Luxe, SeatGeek and Zirtual.

Of course, it's not only basketball players who become investors. Former NHL star Mike Richter launched Environmental Capital Partners, which provides private equity financing to the environmental industry and green companies.

Investments have included Cascade Drilling and Intechra. The typical equity investment is $5 million to $25 million.

Football legend Joe Montana founded Liquid 2 Ventures in 2015, where he is a Managing Partner. The firm, which raised a $25 million fund, has invested in Cloudability, ZipBooks, Konsus, and BloomLife. 

This is not Montana's first foray into the world of venture. He had previously founded HRJ Capital with Ronnie Lott in 1999, before it shut down in 2009.


Kutcher co-founded the venture fund A-Grade Investments in 2011, which has invested in companies like Spotify, Airbnb, Dwolla, Path, Fab, and Uber.

Kutcher, himself, has personally invested his own money into companies that include Secret, Duolingo, Flipboard, Twitter, Hipmunk, GitLab, Flipboard and Pager.

Will Smith founded Overbrook Entertainment with James Lassiter in the late 90's. In recent years, it has begun making investments in companies like Loom, BLackJet, and JibJab.

Thomas Tull, a movie producer, and CEO of Legendary Pictures, who has worked on such projects as The Dark Knight TrilogyThe Hangover and its sequels, 300 and Man of Steel, launched his own VC fund earlier this year, called Tull Investment Group.

He had already put between $75 million and $100 million into companies that included Oculus, Zoox, Players Tribune, OpenDrives, and Magic Leap.


The U2 frontman is also co-founder of  private equity firm Elevation Partners, a firm focused on large-scale investments in media, entertainment and technology businesses. It has nearly $1.9 billion in committed capital.

It has some pretty impressive portfolio companies,  including Facebook, Palm, Yelp, ShareThrough and Forbes Media.

Here's a name you might not be too familar with: Troy Carter. But you have heard of his most famous client, Lady Gaga. She's the lady that wore that dress made out of meat that time. Yeah, her.

Besides being Gaga's former manager, Carter is a big-time tech investor. He is the founder of  AF Square, an angel fund and technology consultancy with investments in over 40 startups including Spotify, Warby Parker, Songza, Dropbox, Fab and Uber.

Rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones formed QueensBridge Venture Partners in 2014. The firm has invested in companies that include Lyft, Dropbox, Tilt, Bluebox, Coinbase, Cargomatic and Casper. 

Rock group LinKin Park launched Machine Shop Ventures in 2015. The firm has so far invested in Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Lyft, Shyp and Robinhood. 


M.G. Siegler was a writer for VentureBeat from 2007 to 2009, and then or TechCrunch from 2009 to 2014. 

While at TechCrunch he became a founding partner of CrunchFund in 2011, where he invested in companies that includes Airbnb, Betable, Crowdtilt, Karma, Path, Square, Uber, Vine, and Yammer. He went to work for Google Ventures (now GV) in 2013. His investments have included Medium and Slack.

Om Malik, the founder of Gigaom, joined True Ventures in September 2008, though he continued to write until he became a partner in 2014. 

True Ventures typically writes an initial check between $750,000 to $2 million. Some of Malik's investments have included Veniam,, Socialcast and Opendoor. 

Another example of this is our own founder and CEO Bambi Francisco, who was a columnist and correspondent at "Dow Jones MarketWatch," and frequent guest speaker on CNBC and Fox Business News, before founding Vator in 2007.

Last year, we launched Vator Investment Club, with Francisco as a founding partner. The first investment was made in November of last year in American Giant, an American-made clothing company that’s known for “The Greatest Hoodie Ever Made.”

Francisco has also helped identify nearly 200 startups that have gone on to our stage, who have collectively gone on to raise nearly $1 billion in follow-on capital.

Want to participate as a Vator Investment Club member to invest as little as $2500 into our startup winners? Join the Vator Investment Club: -- Anyone who applies between now and Oct. 13 will be eligible to win one round-trip flight on Surf Air! Surf Air is giving three away to VIC members.

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