Though Bay Area basketball fans miss having Andre Iguodala on their hometown team, they’ll be glad to know that the NBA star left his heart in San Francisco. As one of the NBA’s most prolific and successful investors, Iguodala is passionate about tech, which keeps him tied pretty tightly to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, despite the fact that the three-time NBA champion is now playing with the Miami Heat. “I’m definitely drawn to the tech sector,” says Iguodala. “But it wasn’t easy to break in. I made many cold calls when I was starting to invest. I didn’t go to Harvard or Stanford, so it was hard to get my foot in the door. It was finally Jeff Jordan who took us under his wing and the rest is history.”
If you have to pick a wing to take shelter under, you can’t do much better than Jeff Jordan. As managing partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, he also serves on the boards of some of the biggest names in tech, including Airbnb, Instacart, and Pinterest.
And it became clear early on that Iguodala was as savvy in business as he is in basketball; he’s now an investor in more than 40 companies. “I invest across the spectrum,” Iguodala says. “From early stage to later stage to pre-IPO. In fact, we’ve had a few successful IPOs over the past year or so: CloudFlare, DataDog, PagerDuty, and Zoom.”
(If you weren’t already jealous of Iguodala for his game-winning, buzzer-beating shots or his impressive deltoids, you will, no doubt, be jealous he was an early investor in Zoom).
But for all the big consumer-friendly names Iguodala’s invested in, his success in enterprise SaaS, sets him apart from the casual “celebrity investor.” “I went to an enterprise summit hosted by Morgan Stanley,” he says. “I had no clue what ‘enterprise’ meant before that. But like in basketball, I always challenge myself to learn as much as possible.”
After his immersion in enterprise SaaS, Iguodala was given a copy of Subscribed by Zuora founder Tien Tzuo. “It helped me understand the subscription model, especially in B2B, which was new for me,” he says. “And though I still like diversification, I’m leaning more to the B2B side of things now because you see more stability.”
Iguodala sees many parallels between basketball and business, and that’s helped him pick the right companies to invest in. “In basketball, you have to get the team culture right,” he says. “Because a great culture will help you attract the best talent. It’s the same in business. You’ve got to have a good corporate culture so you can hire the best people. That’s really the difference between great teams or companies and the ones that are good, but never achieve greatness.”
Iguodala’s been so successful in tech investing, he was recently made a venture partner at Comcast Ventures’ Catalyst Fund. The new position allows Iguodala to advise and work with emerging entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, especially those typically underrepresented in the venture world: African American, Latinx, and female entrepreneurs.
And Iguodala’s success in investing hasn’t just been good for his own retirement plan; it’s had an effect on the whole NBA. When players started seeing his success, they wanted to know what the secrets were. So in 2017, Iguodala partnered with former Golden State Warriors teammate Stephen Curry to create the annual Players Technology Summit, a Bloomberg-sponsored event that brings athletes together with tech and VC executives to help players level up their business game. It’s also one reason he wrote The Sixth Man, his memoir on what it takes to succeed in the NBA, in business, and in life.
“Athletes want to take the skills they’ve developed in basketball and translate them into the business world,” he says. “The Summit allows them to get in the same room with tech leaders so they can broaden their horizons. In whatever I do, I feel like it’s my duty to give back.“