Stephen Curry has changed the fundamentals of basketball; specifically how teams view the three-point shot, after making it look so effortless during his 10 seasons playing in the NBA. But that hasn’t kept the guard complacent off the court as he has also been active in the business and investing world to prepare himself for the inevitable day the basketball ends and he moves into the next phase of his life.
His investing is actually nothing new, as it dates back to 2015 when he co-founded and became the lead investor of Slyce, which set out to become an automated marketing service to help brands publish content and reach their intended targeted audiences. Curry’s investment was done with Bryant Barr, a teammate of Curry’s when they both played at Davidson College.
The unique advantage for a startup having Curry’s investment is the worldwide audience he can tap into. Curry has 12.9 million followers on his Twitter handle @StephenCurry30, is routinely in front of large television audiences and garners attention wherever he goes. Barr spoke to this fact when he and Curry announced the launch of Slyce back in 2015.
“The fact that Steph comes into our office, or that we go to a game and talk to him afterward, is not something that any other start-up is able to do,” Barr told CNBC right after the company launched, adding that new hires receive personalized video messages from Curry welcoming them to the company.
As his portfolio continues to grow three years later, Curry has been investing in companies that sit both inside and outside the sports industry space. His latest investment was made public on Tuesday, when Toronto-based travel startup SnapTravel announced that Curry, as well as Telstra Ventures, the investment arm of large Australian telecom company Telstra Corp., were among the investors that participated in the $21.2m Series A funding round. SnapTravel is looking to simplify the hotel booking process by facilitating reservations on messenger platforms, such as the popular platform WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook.
Curry made his annual road trip to Toronto last week, when his Golden State Warriors played the Raptors and was able to swing by the company headquarters and discuss why he was excited enough about the company’s future to invest in it.
“My team has been on the search in terms of companies that are being disruptive and having obvious success,” Curry said in an interview with Bloomberg at SnapTravel’s headquarters in Toronto. “There’s no shortage of deal flow. Obviously, if I really wanted to be a little reckless with my money I would call it, there’s so many different ways you could spend it. We’re trying to be very strategic, again, find winners early.”
Curry has not been gun shy about participating in funding deals even long before he is expected to retire from the NBA, in part because he sees a lot of symmetries between playing basketball at the NBA level and investing money in the highly competitive world of startups.
“I’ll call it, running the game on the court, being disruptive, playing the game my way my style, I wanna bring that same mentality to how we make sound judgments and investments,” Curry said as a part of his Bloomberg interview.
Curry formed a new company, SC30, Inc., in June of this year, which now manages his investments and brand partnerships as well as his philanthropic ventures as his business portfolio has continued to grow. Hussein Fazal, the CEO and co-founder of SnapTravel noted that Curry was introduced to SnapTravel through Telstra Ventures, so it is apparent that Curry has developed valuable connections while playing across the Bay from investment epicenter Silicon Valley, which are assisting him in identifying promising early-stage companies.
“The network out there is amazing — when you go to our games and kinda look around the court-side seats, it’s major VCs, major corporations, CEOs,” Curry said. “I could have a long list of people that run in with just a simple conversation or followed me and things like where you just learn.”
SnapTravel utilizes artificial technology algorithms to assist the technology-savvy consumer to find and secure hotel deals in a different way than they have been used to. It currently works with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Alexa and iMessage platforms. The company was founded just two years ago and already operates in 150 countries and has converted $50 million in hotel sales in 2018, which represents a 450% increase over 2017.
“Normally people would pay Steph Curry tons and tons of money just to be able to use his name, but we have the best of both worlds where we got him to invest in SnapTravel and are able to use his name,” Fazal said. “To create that brand power and brand legitimacy around that, for us, this was a no-brainer.”
Barr, who stopped working day-to-day with Slyce in June 2018 to become the President of SC30, Inc., added some insight into what Curry and his team looks for when identifying investable companies.
Many NBA players, including Curry’s Warriors teammates Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, are also utilizing their platforms to prepare for their post-basketball careers, even though their careers have a number of years left. With professional athlete salaries continuing to rise and players’ potential benefit to a business steadily pointed upwards, plus social media and the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, it is a trend that should continue to accelerate into the future.