From Ashton Kutcher to Tyra Banks who directly manage funds to Justin Timberlake who invested in MySpace, to Jessica Alba (The Honest Company) to Kim Kardashian (ShoeDazzle), several showbiz stars have decided to put their money in startups. Following this trend, and considering the huge availability of capital, sports people are also starting being involved as business angels and venture capitalists as they have understood the possibility to have high returns investing in early stage companies following the example of billionaires such as Mark Cuban, the owner of 2011 NBA champions Dallas Mavericks, who actively backs startups and participates in the ABC’s show Shark Tank where entrepreneurs seeking money pitch their projects to six famous and rich business men and women, and James Pallotta, shareholder of Boston Celtics and owner of Italian football giant AS Roma.
In the USA, the most resounding cases come from Basketball legend Carmelo Anthony, seven time NBA All Star, two time Olympic gold medalist, who has launched a venture capital firm along with Stuart Goldfarb, a media and marketing veteran (read here). Melo7 Tech Partners, this is the name of the company based in New York City, invests in early stage digital media, consumer internet and technology ventures. It has already backed The Orange Chef Company, Andela, Cord Project, SeatGeek, MakeSpace, Hullabalu and Lyft. In addition, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Hall of Fame NBA star, philanthropist and entrepreneur, works with Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that invests in seed and early-stage technology companies primarily located in downtown Detroit, as a general partner and is investing into the fund.
In Europe, angel investing dominates the scene. As an example, two time golden foot winner Cristiano Ronaldo backed Mobitto, a Lisbon, Portugal-based mobile marketing startup. His Real Madrid teammate Sergio Ramos recently invested in Fever, a Madrid, Spain-based event discovery app. In the UK, in May 2014, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson invested in the over £1m first round of funding of Pockit, a London-based prepaid card provider.
In China, basketball legend Yao Ming has invested in top100.cn, a legal downloading site launched in 2006, and Beijing-based UniCom. He is also global spokesperson for TutorGroup, a San Francisco, CA-based online education platform, which closed a nearly $100m Series B financing in 2014.