Early-stage startups find it increasingly difficult to score investments as Israel’s high-tech sector matures.
But it may get easier now that recently retired National Basketball Association player Omri Casspi is back in Israel and has cofounded a $50 million venture capital fund, Sheva, focusing specifically on nurturing new startups.
Casspi’s partner in Sheva is David Citron, a veteran early-stage VC investor formerly with the Israeli branch of Global Founders Capital.
“Omri initially reached out to me on LinkedIn. I’ve always been a fan of the game of basketball and grew up watching Omri represent Israel. But a connection request from someone like Casspi seemed like a phishing attempt,” Citron said.
Fortunately Citron did reply, and reports that the two “hit it off immediately and started co-investing in a number of early-stage startups.”
Their chemistry was so good, he said, “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.”
Sheva (the Hebrew word for “seven”) is focusing on pre-seed and seed stage, as well as “opportunistic series A investments.”
The fund intends to invest between $1 million and $2 million in each of 20 companies, and already has begun investing in fintech, cybersecurity and web3 ventures.
It’s not unusual for an athlete or celebrity to turn into a venture capitalist. Andre Iguadala, a former Golden State Warriors teammate of Casspi’s, is a high-profile tech investor. Former Major League Baseball star Alex Rodgriguez is an active serial investor.
Casspi previously invested in companies including Israeli nutrition-tech startup DayTwo.
“I’ve always been the hardest worker; first one at the gym, last one to leave,” Casspi said. “I believe that the same level of energy is what’s required of an early-stage founder, and I’m eager to bring my hustle and robust network that I was fortunate enough to build over my career to provide real differentiated value to our founders.”
Casspi added that he and Citron bring different skills to the table, “which we believe is a significant force multiplier. This, combined with our fantastic community of LPs who include celebrities, influencers, unicorn founders, angel investors and successful GPs, is what we believe to be a winning formula for true value add.”