NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors closed out the first day of Disrupt SF by introducing his new investment arm, SC30, which manages all of his off-court brand partnerships, media, investments, and philanthropy. The company officially launched in June 2018 and has since made eight investments that include SnapTravel, an AI-powered messaging hotel booking assistant; Palm, which is trying to revive itself with a standalone smartphone; and Team Solomid, the formidable esports organization.
At the helm of SC30’s activities is former Nike executive Bryant Barr, who is serving as its current president. SC30’s goal is to fund four to six startups a year and write checks in the six-figure range. In evaluating investments, they prioritize product fit, market traction, and strength of the team, and they’re open to investing across most sectors except for life sciences and blockchain.
Curry’s interest in the tech investing scene harks back to September 2015 when he founded the influencer platform Slyce with Barr. In the summer of 2016, Curry’s teammate Andre Iguodala spearheaded the inaugural National Basketball Players Association Tech Summit with Andreessen Horowitz and SV Angel. Curry went on to invest in Hooked with Iguodala, and then Brandless, before forming SC30 with Barr.
VentureBeat had a chance to talk with Curry and Barr about their passion for tech investing and the problems they want to solve for humanity. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:
VentureBeat: Interest in impact investing is on the rise as funders are starting to back companies that are aligned with causes they believe in, like climate change. Are you seeking to change the world with your investments?
Curry: Yes, we’ve made investments that are changing lives.
Barr: In fact, in the next couple of weeks, there will be news coming out about an investment that we’re making in the education space that aligns with Steph and Ayesha’s Eat Learn Play Foundation. Additionally, for the “Eat” pillar, which addresses childhood hunger and nutrition, we have been looking at companies within the agriculture space that are developing solutions for Food 2050 and how to make sure we’re able to feed the world. That’s not to say every investment we make will be perfectly aligned with the Foundation, but it is something we’ve started to look at as we pull more companies into our pipeline.
VentureBeat: Are there metrics that you work with to ensure that your investments are diversified across race, gender, age, and sexual orientation?
Barr: Absolutely, there’s been a lot of dialogue that we’ve been having for the last four to six months around what are those appropriate benchmarks should be. We just had our SC30 Partner Summit about six weeks ago, where we brought all of our brand partners together — media, nonprofit, and portfolio companies — and it was a big topic of conversation. We asked our portfolio companies, how do we as investors get better at this? Do you potentially have a founder sign a pledge committing to getting a company to a certain place? That’s where we want to get to. We’re in the infancy of figuring all of this out. The company is essentially just 12 to 15 months old, and the Summit was the first time we formally communicated our vision and our mission, and how we should leverage our network and relationships to learn best practices.
VentureBeat: Are you addressing pay parity as well?
Curry: Yes, we had a whole breakout session around just that part.
VentureBeat: What is your passion around tech? Do you have a personal interest in flying cars and talking refrigerators?
Curry: They interest me for sure. In terms of what that world could look like is definitely fascinating, but mostly, I gravitate towards technology that makes things better and more efficient.
VentureBeat: Is CES on your agenda for next January?
Curry: I would love to go, but it’s never been on my radar because of timing. It’s during basketball season.
Barr: It also can be incredibly overwhelming. Everybody in the world shows up there, so you can meet with anybody and everyone — big brands, VCs — but you need to go with purpose and intent. I’ve been a couple times, but typically I just go in for the five people that I’m meeting with.
VentureBeat: You mentioned that as a strategic investor, you help promote your portfolio companies across social media. Some apps do very well with Super Bowl ads; is there a possibility that we might see you do a Super Bowl ad for one of your portfolio companies?
Curry: Super Bowl idea is interesting. I’d say anything is possible, but we are extremely thoughtful and patient around how we can maximize my platform and the ecosystem.
Barr: For something like that, we’d question is that perhaps the best use? So for example, we’re getting quarterly reports from founders, we’re pushing them to think about what their balance sheet looks like, what their P&L looks like. Even companies that are throwing gas on the fire who raised $50 million, is a $5 million Super Bowl ad going to be the best use of of that spend? Or can we move the needle in much more cost efficient ways for the company. And so I think, yeah it would be fun and sexy and cool to do, but for the most part, if you’re investing in a series A or B stage company, that shouldn’t be how they’re thinking about driving their business.