Kyle Kuzma NBA Champ to Adviser at Venture Fund

Kyle Kuzma, an NBA player, sees himself as part of a new generation of the NBA. In a phone interview with TechCrunch, he shared, “I’ve always been a hustler and someone very interested in business and setting up my family’s generational wealth. I believe getting into venture is going to elevate that to a different level.”

At 28, Kuzma joined Scrum Ventures, a firm focused on early-stage investments, as an adviser in March. He’s assisting with the firm’s sports and entertainment fund, which aims to raise $120 million. The collaboration began in January when Kuzma’s agent, Austin Eastman, introduced him to Michael Proman, Scrum’s managing director and partner. Kuzma expressed his admiration for Scrum’s team, a sentiment that Proman reciprocated.

Proman, a former NBA employee on the business development team, admitted, “I personally didn’t really even understand how extensive Kyle’s interests were in the venture space until after getting introduced.” He added that Kuzma is keen on understanding the venture playbook, particularly from the venture side.

Proman explained that Scrum’s sports fund, where Kuzma will be contributing, differs from other sports-focused VC funds. It focuses on tech that could be beneficial to athletes or enterprise sports customers and is also applicable to other industries. For instance, Ozlo Sleepbuds, a company that produces earbuds to enhance sleep quality, is a good example. While good sleep is crucial for athletes, it’s equally important beyond professional sports. Scrum participated in the company’s $6 million seed round earlier this year.

Proman believes that Kuzma’s diverse investment portfolio makes him a valuable adviser for Scrum’s broad approach to sports tech. Kuzma began angel investing in 2020 and has built a portfolio that includes Lemon Perfect, a soda alternative that has raised an additional $67.8 million in venture capital; Surf, a consumer data company; and Bezel, a watch marketplace.

Kuzma plans to be an active investor. He understands that his name could be a marketing asset for the companies he works with, but he wants to do more than just lend his name. He aims to use his status to help companies expand their network using his connections. He also believes that his experience playing basketball at the highest level, the NBA, makes him a good fit as a VC because it’s a competitive environment where success is achieved through teamwork.

Kuzma stated, “I bring a competitive nature. When you play sports at the highest level like the NBA, you are playing chess and not checkers. We are smart; we are not just athletes. We are not just people that play sports and not do anything else.”

Proman acknowledged that Kuzma’s presence has already been beneficial for the firm, leading to an increase in inbound interest. He clarified that it’s good inbound interest.

Kuzma isn’t the first NBA player to get involved with 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 taken more formal roles in the industry, too, by launching firms of their own, Mosaic and 22 Ventures, respectively. Kuzma is the latest NBA player to dive into venture, but he likely won’t be the last.

Kuzma expressed his excitement about joining Scrum Ventures, saying, “I want to further my portfolio and just my reach in the VC world. As athletes, they always tell you to diversify your portfolio as much as you can. This is the next iteration of me as an entrepreneur.”