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Chiefs, 49ers Battle It Out On The Gridiron — And In Venture World

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

While Kansas City and San Francisco may be a good football matchup Sunday, it assuredly is not when it comes to the amount of venture capital both areas see.

The City By the Bay has been a marquee venture market since venture capital became a thing.

On the other hand, when it comes to venture, Kansas City has, well, good barbecue.

However, both of the teams that will meet Sunday in Super Bowl LVIII have a few players looking to score touchdowns in the venture and investing world too.

So let’s go deep and see which players on each team are looking to break the venture game open.

Travis Kelce

When Travis Kelce makes headlines, it is usually not because of his startup investments (and no, we will not be delving into his Taylor Swift investments).

Nevertheless, the all-world tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs has a quintet of investment  deals in the startup world, per Crunchbase data.

The touchdown machine’s investments include Mexico City-based fantasy sports platform Draftea as well as Irvine, California’s, vapor-distilled alkaline water startup ZenWtr, and Park City, Utah-based bakery company Kodiak Cakes.

Kelce also is an investor in Cambridge, Massachusetts-based connected indoor rowing machine developer Hydrow, which has raised more than $300 million to date.

George Kittle

Kelce also shares an investment with the other All-Pro tight end in the Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ersGeorge Kittle.

Kelce and the former Hawkeye great are both investors in Ann Arbor, Michigan-based RealTruck.Com, The aftermarket truck parts and accessories startup investors actually also include Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and NBA player C.J. McCollum, among others.

Patrick Mahomes

While we may have led off this list with the two big tight ends in the game, the biggest star playing Sunday obviously is the great Patrick Mahomes.

The QB and former NFL MVP actually also has his own small portfolio — being an investor in both Irvine-based recovery and movement enhancement startup HyperIce, as well as Boston-based Whoop.

Whoop, which has developed a platform that tracks an athlete’s recovery, training and even sleeping hours to help boost performance, has raised a whopping $405 million — per Crunchbase — and received a $3.6 billion valuation after its $200 million Series F in 2021.

Chase Young

The guy for the 49ers looking to chase Mahomes down — late-season addition Chase Young — has his own portfolio company, per Crunchbase.

Young is an investor in Southern California-based energy drink startup Accelerator Active Energy. Young, along with the likes of other pro athletes Aaron Judge and Brooks Koepka invested $29 million in the company in 2022.

We’ll see if it gives him enough energy to sack Mahomes Sunday.

Deebo Samuel

Aside from Mahomes, perhaps the most watched player in the game will be Mr. Do-It-All Deebo Samuel for the 49ers.

How does Samuel do it all?

Because of tart cherry juice, obviously.

OK, that’s probably not true — his 6-foot, 215-pound frame and catlike elusiveness likely has something to do with it — but he is an investor in New York-based Cheribundi.

The South Carolina-born wideout took part in the company’s venture round in 2022 with other big-name athletes like NBA player Tyrese Haliburton, WNBA player Michaela Onyenwere and women’s soccer player Lindsey Horan

Cheribundi is part of Samuel’s daily nutrition routine, so the cherry juice should be in him come Sunday. We’ll see if it gives him enough of an edge for the 49ers to be holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the night.

In addition to these players, 49ers owner and CEO Jed York has his own family office firm, Aurum Partners, which was looking to raise $50 million for a debut VC fund, according to a regulatory filing last year.

York has been investing out of Aurum Partners for years, and its deals include being an early investor in shoemaker Allbirds.

What does all of this mean for Sunday’s big game?

Absolutely nothing, but if you’re more into startups than pigskin, maybe who invests in what now gives you a rooting interest.

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Photo: All-Pro Reels from District of Columbia, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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