Kobe Bryant business partner pens emotional farewell: ‘All I keep thinking about was what was ahead’

An investor with close ties to Kobe Bryant penned an emotional farewell to the NBA great, grieving the loss of a friend and business partner with whom he had big legacy-making plans.

“My dear friend, this isn’t possible. We both knew what was ahead and it was so special,” Jeff Stibel wrote on Instagram. “The next chapter in the decades to come were going to change everything. People keep talking about what you did, but all I keep thinking about was what was ahead.”

Like many NBA players looking beyond the hardwood, Bryant aspired to a second career in tech investing.

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The venture capital firm the pair co-founded in 2013, Bryant Stibel, combined Bryant’s creative vision and competitive drive with Stibel’s business acumen.  

By September 2019, his investment firm, Bryant Stibel & Co., had more than $2 billion in capital under management.

Retired NBA superstars Kobe Bryant with Jeff Stibel, at a Morgan Stanley tech conference. The two are co-founders of Bryant Stibel & Co.

Its portfolio focused mainly on tech, media and data companies with a shot at achieving unicorn status, startups valued at $1 billion or more. 

So far it had made more than two dozen investments, including Fortnite-maker Epic Games and Tile, which tracks lost items, but had other investments such as Cholula, which makes hot sauce, and BodyArmor, a sports drink brand that he backed in 2014. Dell, Alibaba and National Vision were some of the heavyweights it also backed.

Bryant Stibel also had a partnership with Permira in a $1.7-billion fund called Permira Growth Opportunities, open to institutions and high-net-worth investors. 

“I understand the importance of building value and being smart with your finances,” Bryant told USA TODAY in September. 

Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday that also killed his 13-year-old daughter and seven others. 

He applied the patience and teamwork he learned in the NBA to the equally competitive world of business and investing. 

“A lot of time through the course of a game, you may notice a gap in defense or something you can take advantage of offensively. If you attack all at once, you show your hand too early,” he said. “Team sports does a great job in teaching that and how to trust others.”

So what did Bryant find more exciting and satisfying, hitting the winning shot in the playoffs or finding a winning company as an investor? 

“It’s finding that winning company as an investor,” Bryant said, “because I always expected to hit a game-winning shot growing up.”

Stibel, a USA TODAY business columnist, told the paper last September that he and Bryant kept the NBA superstar’s involvement under wraps for the first five years or so.  “We wanted the work to speak for itself,” he said.

In his Instagram post on Wednesday, Stibel said Bryant’s legacy “will continue to unfold and grow in the achievements of the people you have touched.”

“I refuse to believe you are gone,” he continued. “You will always be with us and we will live up to your impossible standards. I love you my friend.”

Contributing: Edward C. Baig

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