San Francisco-based startup Gigster announced that it has raised $20 million from a group of investors that includes six-time NBA champion and Charlotte Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan.
Jordan is part of a movement of current and former athletes, especially NBA athletes, who are investing in Silicon Valley startups, and when they do so, it makes headlines.
Golden State Warriors Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala recently attracted attention when they organized the first Player’s Technology Summit. The goal was to encourage athletes to think about their future after they retire from basketball — something that Curry and Iguodala have been doing for a while.
Gigster’s network of freelance software developers, engineers, designers and product managers work for companies including Fidelity, MasterCard, Square, U.S. Bank, Wyndham, OpenTable, Airbus and PepsiCo, Gigster said in a press release.
Freelancers come from universities including MIT, Stanford and Caltech, and companies including Google, Facebook and Tesla.
Founded in 2014 by Roger Dickey and Debo Olaosebikan, Gigster has raised over $32.5 million in financing from investors including Andreessen-Horowitz, Redpoint Ventures, Greylock Partners, Bloomberg Beta and Felicis Ventures.
The $20 million raised in the Series B financing was led by Redpoint Ventures with participation from existing investors Horowitz, Y Combinator, Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures. In addition to Jordan, Marc Benioff and Adam D’Angelo also participated.
“(Jordan) is somebody that I have always looked up to and admired, and we thought it would be great to have a more diverse set of investors at the table,” said Gigster co-founder and CEO Roger Dickey.
Gigster has been in talks with leagues and teams about becoming customers, Dickey told Bloomberg. Jordan could help with those efforts.
Jordan has struggled in the past with a reputation for having a gambling problem. Some say that’s an undeserved conspiracy theory. Jordan said it was unfair.
He tried “to justify his penchant for, say, betting $100,000 on a rock, paper, scissors game or three times that on a single putt,” Owen Davis reported for Dealbreaker:
“Public scrutiny of Jordan’s habits could represent some puritanical desire to see our sports heroes as role models. Or maybe it just rubbed people the wrong way to see the G.O.A.T. lose at basically everything he ever put money on other than animated Jumbotron races.
But Jordan’s been at this for a long time now, so it makes sense that he’s finally landed on the ideal way for a famous rich guy to fritter away his millions on risky wagers without inviting scorn. Michael Jordan is a venture capitalist now.”
Gigster said it plans to use the funding to attract new business and triple the size of its core team by hiring more than 100 new employees over the next year.
CEO Dickey said Gigster has found a sweet spot by providing experts in fields such as blockchain and machine learning, where talent is hard to find. Many companies don’t have enough blockchain-related work to justify hiring a full-time employee, he told Business Insider.
“It makes sense that basketball players would be drawn to Silicon Valley as a financial pursuit, Davis reported in Dealbreaker. Celebrity doesn’t really help if you’re trying to invest in stocks. No corporate boardroom is going to open up just because you can throw a ball through a hoop. But venture capital likes big names. Big names bring attention, which brings more money and more names. The players actually have something to offer. Plus it’s probably pretty cool to sit across the table from Michael Jordan.”