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


Image Credits: Getty Images / Vaughn Ridley / Contributor

Kyle Kuzma is a lot of things. He’s a forward for the Washington Wizards NBA team and a 2020 NBA champion. He’s also a style icon — depending on who you ask — and an angel investor. Now he’s an adviser at a venture fund too.

“I’m part of a new generation of the NBA,” Kuzma told TechCrunch in a phone interview. “For me, I’ve always been a hustler and somebody that is very interested in business and doing things just to set up my family’s generational wealth. I think getting into venture is only going to take that to a different stratosphere.”

Kuzma, 28, joined early-stage-focused Scrum Ventures in March as an adviser to help with the firm’s sports and entertainment fund, which is targeting $120 million. The partnership started in January when Kuzma’s agent, Austin Eastman, was connected to Scrum managing director and partner Michael Proman. Kuzma said he was impressed with Scrum’s team. Proman said the positive sentiment was mutual.

“The thing about Kyle is, I personally didn’t really even understand how extensive his interests were in the venture space until after getting introduced,” Proman, a former NBA employee on the business development team, said. “Kyle is really interested in understanding the venture playbook but more so from the venture side.”

Proman said Scrum’s sports fund, where Kuzma will be helping, is a little different than other sports-focused VC funds, because it focuses on tech that could be useful to athletes or enterprise sports customers and is also applicable to other industries. Ozlo Sleepbuds is a good example. The company makes earbuds to help people sleep better. While sleeping well is incredibly important for athletes, it’s important far beyond professional sports too. Scrum participated in the company’s $6 million seed round earlier this year.

Scrum’s broad approach to sports tech makes Kuzma a good adviser, as opposed to another NBA player, Proman said, because Kuzma has already invested across several sectors. Kuzma started angel investing in 2020 and has built up a portfolio that includes soda alternative Lemon Perfect, which has gone on to raise an additional $67.8 million in venture capital; consumer data company, Surf; and watch marketplace, Bezel.

“His investment portfolio is pretty diverse; it’s not just your classic sports tech,” Proman said. “There are a lot of folks out there that want to invest into what they do 24/7, and while they may be great at providing insights and analysis of those technologies, in many cases those aren’t venture-backable technologies.”

Kuzma said he plans to be 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 just want to rest there and would rather use his status to help companies expand their network using his connections. He also thinks his experience playing basketball makes him a good fit as a VC because he’s used to working in a competitive environment where you don’t succeed unless you work as a team.

“I bring a competitive nature,” he said. “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.”

Kuzma’s presence has already proved beneficial for the firm, Proman said, as working with an athlete like Kuzma has led to an uptick in inbound interest in the firm. Good inbound interest — he clarified.

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 latest for long.

“Joining Scrum Ventures is really exciting for me,” Kuzma said. “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.”

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo