NBA star Stephen Curry joins tech startup


First Posted: 3/30/2015

CHARLOTTE (AP) — Former Charlottean and NBA standout Stephen Curry said Monday he has joined a growing technology startup that connects high school and college athletes with private coaches.

Curry, 27, is a part-owner in the Boston-based CoachUp, a venture-funded tech firm and app that launched in 2012. He’ll take a seat at the executive table, helping provide strategic direction for the company’s brand, as well as boosting marketing efforts with television appearances, social media campaigns and training materials, company officials said.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance of private coaches,” Curry said in a statement. “I’ve been working with private coaches since I was a kid. … I want to help kids take their performance to another level, whatever their sport.”

The two-time NBA All-Star, a guard for the Golden State Warriors, a former Davidson College Wildcat and Charlotte Christian High basketball player, has “substantial” equity in the company and is among its largest shareholders, said Jordan Fliegel, a former NBA player who started the company with software engineers Arian Radmand and Gabe Durazo.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Fliegel, CoachUp president, expects the deal with Curry, who signed a four-year $44 million contract with the Warriors, to keep the company’s momentum going in the $6 billion-a-year coaching industry.

Curry’s vocal support of private coaching makes him a “perfect partner” in the firm, said Fliegel, who called CoachUp the “Uber of the sports and fitness world.”

“He’ll have a real voice in the direction of the company,” Fliegel said. “There are a lot of relationships that he (brings to) the company that’s extremely valuable.”

Those relationships — which include connections with an expansive network of professional athletes and coaches, and endorsement deals with Under Armour and Muscle Milk — can help the brand expand its national footprint. According to Fliegel, the firm works with more than 100,000 athletes and 13,000 coaches in the U.S.

To date, it’s raised nearly $10 million in venture capital funding, Fliegel said, and employs 25 people.

Signing Curry alone won’t guarantee CoachUp’s elevated success against competitors, said Jonathan Norman, vice president of strategic planning with the Charlotte-based Bespoke Sports and Entertainment marketing firm. How the firm uses Curry from a social and digital perspective will make all the difference, he said.

“Consumers want to make the connection between the endorser and the company they’re endorsing,” said Norman, who has been involved in hundreds of endorsement deals between professional athletes and Fortune 100 companies, including a deal between Curry and Comcast. “As you look at Stephen’s story of his own use of private coaching … it’s very relatable.”

Norman added: “Stephen Curry is known for his work ethic and he’s known for the time he’s put into the craft of the game. That’s what propelled him. That’s why this relationship makes a ton of sense.”

Curry is one of the most popular and recognizable faces of the NBA. He beat Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James in fan voting for this year’s All-Star game, and is ranked No. 2 in the league’s most popular jerseys, surpassing Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.

He began training with a private coach when he was 13 and continues to do so during the off-season, he said in the statement. He credits the experience with sharpening his skills and proving wrong doubters who said he was too small or untalented to play in the NBA.

“This is something I’m passionate about,” Curry said in the statement.

Talks between Fliegel and Curry started more than a year ago after a mutual friend connected the two, Fliegel said. They bonded over shared beliefs about private coaching and realized their “interests are aligned.”

Since then, Fliegel said, he and his team have been ironing out details of a partnership with Curry, his managers, agents and parents.

Some of Curry’s family still lives in Charlotte. His father, Dell, is an announcer for the Hornets, a team he played with for 10 seasons.

In a CoachUp video, Dell and Sonya Curry discuss how private coaching improved their oldest son’s performance on the court.

“Stephen, by far, wasn’t a lead athlete,” Dell Curry says. “He was just an athlete that loved to play the game, wanted to work at it and wanted to do whatever he could to become better.”

“The extra coaching sessions were absolutely worth it … because of the time, it helped him be confident in what he was doing,” Sonya Curry said.

Curry, in his sixth season with the San Francisco-based Warriors, leads the NBA in 3-pointers and a month ago was named the league’s 3-point contest champion. He was twice a member of the senior men’s basketball team that won the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and has consistently matched or beat records set by the NBA’s most iconic players.

As part of the deal with Curry, CoachUp will release a guide detailing the all-star’s training philosophy, Fliegel said.

Said Fleigel: “The best thing you can do if you’re a basketball player is train like Stephen does.”

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