NBA champion Kyle Kuzma wants to bring his team mentality to Scrum Ventures

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Kyle Kuzma is a lot of things. He is a forward for the Washington Wizards NBA team and a 2020 NBA champion. He is also a style icon depending on who you ask – and an angel investor. He is now also an advisor at a venture fund.

“I’m part of a new generation of the NBA,” Kuzma told JS in a phone interview. “For me, I’ve always been a hustler and someone who is very interested in business and doing things just to build my family’s generational wealth. I think taking on a venture will just take this to another stratosphere.”

Kuzma, 28, joined early-stage Scrum Ventures in March as an advisor to help with the company’s $120 million sports and entertainment fund. The collaboration began in January when Kuzma’s agent, Austin Eastman, connected with Scrum director and partner Michael Proman. Kuzma said he was impressed with Scrum’s team. Proman said the positive sentiment was mutual.

“The problem with Kyle is that I personally didn’t even understand how extensive his interests were in the entrepreneurial space until he was introduced,” said Proman, a former NBA employee on the business development team. “Kyle is very interested in understanding the venture playbook, but especially from the venture side.”

Proman said Scrum’s sports fund, where Kuzma will help, is a little different than other sports-focused venture capital funds because it focuses on technology that can be useful for athletes or corporate sports clients and is also applicable to other industries. Ozlo Sleepbuds is a good example. The company makes earplugs to help people sleep better. While good sleep is incredibly important for athletes, it is also much more important than professional sports. Scrum participated in the company’s $6 million seed round earlier this year.

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Scrum’s broad approach to sports technology makes Kuzma a good advisor, unlike another NBA player, Proman said, because Kuzma has already invested in several sectors. Kuzma entered angel investing in 2020 and has built a portfolio that includes soft drink alternative Lemon Perfect, which has subsequently raised another $67.8 million in venture capital; consumer data company, Surf; and look at marketplace, Bezel.

“His investment portfolio is quite diverse; it’s not just classic sports technology,” Proman said. “There are a lot of people who want to invest in what they do 24/7, and while they may be good at providing insights and analysis on those technologies, in many cases these are not technologies that can be backed by venture capital.”

Kuzma said he plans to become a hands-on investor, and while he knows a name like his could be a marketing boon for the companies he works with, he said he doesn’t want to just rest there and prefers his status use it to help companies expand their network using his connections. He also thinks his experience in basketball makes him suitable as a VC because he is used to working in a competitive environment where you only achieve success if you work as a team.

“I bring a competitive nature,” he said. “When you play sports at the highest level, such as the NBA, you play chess and not checkers. We are smart; we are not just athletes. We are not just people who play sports and do nothing else.”

Kuzma’s presence has already proven beneficial to the company, Proman said, as working with an athlete like Kuzma has led to an increase in inbound interest in the company. Good incoming interest – he clarified.

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Kuzma isn’t the first NBA player to get involved in venture capital. Kevin Durant’s family office, 35V, invests heavily in startups. Steph Curry is the anchor LP of Penny Jar Capital. Former players like Andre Iguodala and Michael Redd have also taken on more formal roles in the industry by founding their own companies, Mosaic and 22 Ventures, respectively. Kuzma is the latest NBA player to jump into the adventure, but that likely won’t be the case for much longer.

“Joining Scrum Ventures is really exciting for me,” said Kuzma. “I want to expand my portfolio and my reach in the VC world. As athletes, they always tell you to diversify your portfolio as much as possible. This is the next iteration of me as an entrepreneur.”

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