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Former Israeli NBA player Omri Casspi steps onto high-tech court as VC investor

New $50 million fund to focus on early-stage investments in areas like fintech, cybersecurity, Web3

Ricky Ben-David is The Times of Israel’s Tech Israel editor and reporter.

Then Memphis Grizzlies forward Omri Casspi in action during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, December 2, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP/Matt Slocum)
Then Memphis Grizzlies forward Omri Casspi in action during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, December 2, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP/Matt Slocum)

Less than a year after retiring from professional basketball, following a career highlight as the first Israeli player to break through in the NBA, Omri Casspi is stepping into the court of high-tech investments with a new $50 million venture capital fund.

Dubbed Sheva (seven in Hebrew), the fund is co-founded by Casspi and David Citron, a long-time venture capital investor and an Israel-based partner at San Francisco-headquartered Global Founders Capital, an investment company that has backed Slack, Facebook, Canva, and LinkedIn, among many others. Global Founders Capital’s Israeli portfolio includes Dynamic Yield, sold to McDonald’s in 2019, and then to Mastercard last year), and Next Insurance.

Casspi previously backed companies such as DocuSign and Israeli health tech company DayTwo as an angel investor, according to his announcement Monday.

Casspi’s new fund will focus on pre-seed and seed-stage investments in startups as well as “opportunistic series A” rounds, according to the announcement.

The fund hopes to invest about $1-$2 million each in 20 companies and, since starting operations earlier this year, says it has already made a number of investments in companies focused on fintech, cybersecurity, and Web3 ventures. The latter is an emerging industry of online ecosystems based on blockchain technology and digital currencies.

The fund’s backers include institutional investors, family offices, tech entrepreneurs, and “highly active crossover funds,” the statement said.

Citron said he and Casspi first connected on LinkedIn and “hit it off immediately,” later co-investing in a number of early-stage startups.

“Our chemistry was so good, that it got to a point that our joint portfolio companies suggested we team up on our weekly calls. We were already thinking about the viability of starting a fund, but hearing this message from founders more than once gave us a real indication of product-market fit, so we decided to go all-in and launch Sheva,” he described in the announcement.

“We’re combining two successful VC models that have been battle-tested around the world; the celebrity and veteran VC pairing, and an early-stage investment model that focuses on investing in as many companies as possible at the early stage, and then doubling down on the emerging winners together with the LPs [limited partners]. We believe LPs should be far more involved in the investment lifecycle of the portfolio, and our investors are very eager to participate in direct investment opportunities together with us,” he added.

Casspi, 33, said he and Citron “have very little overlap in the value that we bring to our portfolio, which we believe is a significant force multiplier.”

The Israeli basketball star noted that Sheva’s investors also include “celebrities, influencers, unicorn founders, angel investors, and successful GPs, [general partners].”

During his 10-year NBA career, Casspi played for the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Golden State Warriors.

Casspi was left off the Warriors’ roster for the 2018 postseason, during which the team won the NBA Finals, but later received a championship ring.

In his last two seasons before retirement, Casspi was back at Maccabi Tel Aviv — where he first starred before being selected in the 2009 NBA Draft.

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