Basketball legend Kobe Bryant and former Web.com CEO Jeff Stibel might seem like an unlikely pair. But the two have just announced that they’re joining forces to launch Bryant Stibel, a $100 million venture capital fund based in Los Angeles.
With the announcement, Bryant joins other basketball stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Carmelo Anthony in trying his hand at tech investing. Bryant and Stibel have made several investments together going back to 2013, but the fund’s debut marks a growing joint commitment to tech investing.
On August 22, Bryant and Stibel made an appearance at the New York Stock Exchange, making public some of the fund’s first investments. Accompanying Bryant and Stibel were Cavan Canavan and Grant Hughes, founders of FocusMotion, a startup included in Bryant and Stibel’s opening portfolio.
Canavan and Hughes received their MBAs from University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Last September, they launched FocusMotion’s software development kit, which gives developers tools for sensing and working with human motions.
According to the company, FocusMotion is “the world’s first machine learning SDK to track, learn and analyze human motion on any sensor, on any OS, on any platform.”
FocusMotion includes a database for recognizing a variety of movements, like lifting different kinds of weights. It also uses a machine learning algorithm to help users record other motions not built into the database.
FocusMotion argues that wearable devices have “really been about the same thing for the past nine years: steps” and that bringing a wider catalog of motions into play will create new, more interesting possibilities for wearable tech.
The startup is still in its early stages, but the idea seems to have caught the attention of Kobe Bryant, who certainly knows a thing or two about movements.
Talking to the Wall Street Journal, Bryant explained that besides being interested in the ideas behind the companies themselves, he looks for specific qualities in entrepreneurs.
In particular, Bryant believes the ability to persevere in the face of adversity is essential, the “inner belief that a person has that he will endure no matter what the obstacle may be.”
“It’s that persistence,” Bryant says, “the entrepreneur doing what he or she truly believes in and truly loves to do.” In this way, maybe being an entrepreneur and being a competitive athlete aren’t so different after all!
For their part, FocusMotion has big plans for the future. Perhaps part of what made the toolkit compelling to Bryant and Stibel were the limitless possibilities for extending FocusMotion’s basic movements into interesting new applications.
“There is so much more to human movement than steps and sleep,” Canavan said when launching FocusMotion. “This is only the beginning of what’s possible. We’re looking forward to seeing what developers create.”