Stephen Curry knows how to take advantage of a good opportunity. Whether it's a wide-open three-point shot (or even not so wide-open) or an open teammate at the other end of the court,  Curry has made a habit of seeing opportunity and taking advantage of it. 

At the same time, he's faced criticism for, in some ways, ruining the game of basketball. It's hard to argue that the game hasn't changed as a result of the surge in three-point shooting since the two-time league MVP and three-time NBA champion entered the league. But, while it took a while, it's an approach he's picked up and run with not just on the court but off it as well.

Last night, Curry and his business partner, Bryant Barr, spoke at TechCrunch's Disrupt SF conference about their investment company, SC30, and why they're getting involved with tech companies. So far, that includes eight investments in companies like the travel platform SnapTravel, which lets people book hotel rooms through messaging apps, and Palm, which is trying to reinvent the already crowded smartphone space by helping people better manage their device addiction. 

Curry and Barr both live near Silicon Valley, where there's been no shortage of new opportunities to take advantage of--in terms of relationships and access to a constant stream of ideas and companies. And Curry's approach has been a lot like the way he approaches basketball, only this time the game he plans to "ruin" (or, as they say, disrupt) is tech startups. 

I had a few minutes to ask Curry and Bryant about their approach, and what they shared were a few principles every entrepreneur should embrace.  

Don't be afraid to ruin things 

Curry has clearly embraced his strengths, both on the court and off, and that's been the key. Sometimes that means looking at how things have always been done and understanding that it's OK to not do things the same way. Curry told me:

I've really adopted the "ruining the game" kind of mentality, where how I play on the court is kind of reenvisioning how basketball should be played. I'm kind of reimagining things. I like to be disruptive on that front, and I'm trying to bring that personality and that kind of message to the companies that we align with, with every investment.

You might catch some heat from people who don't understand, but the reality is that businesses that succeed are the ones that see their field differently, and do what others aren't willing or able to do. 

Let go, and rely on your team

There's often a tendency, especially early in an entrepreneur's journey, to think that you're able to do it all. Even as you build a team, it's not always automatic that you'll actually depend on them to help you move the ball down the court, so to speak.

Certainly in Curry's case, his basketball career is the primary driver of everything else, but he recognizes that he needs a different kind of team. Which is why he brought in Barr, his former college teammate and best friend.

Though their paths after college basketball obviously diverged, with Barr graduating from business school and working for Nike, that difference is actually a huge benefit. "We understand our differences and where we both bring value," Curry says. 

It's OK to fail if you learn

SC30 isn't the pair's first venture into startups. That distinction belongs to Slyce, a company the duo eventually shut down after three years. That might seem like failure, but Barr looks at it differently:

What Slyce provided was the opportunity to be kind of, like, thrown into the fire and have all of these experiences in a short period of time. I got my MBA, and then I got a better MBA by being a startup founder. And, yes, it was disappointing. And it was humbling that ultimately, it did not work and we had to shut down the company. But I would go back and do it all over again. Because what I learned in that three-year period of time was better than I could have gotten in any other job environment.

That's an important perspective to have, because sometimes when something fails the natural reaction is to feel like you are a failure. In reality, however, it might be just the lesson you need to prepare you for the next thing--the right thing.

This, too, shall pass

Curry says he has some "audacious goals," and they aren't just about winning more championships (though I have no doubt that's on the list). In fact, in our brief conversation, his focus was clearly on what happens after he walks off the court for the last time. 

The reason for this is simple. Curry says he's "trying to build something amazing that's going to last long after my basketball career."

That might be the best lesson of all, and in some ways the most unconventional. It's easy to get caught up in the now, especially when "now" is the thing you're passionate about. But, whether it's basketball or a business, eventually it will pass. When it does, what you do now determines whether you'll be ready. And what you'll do next.

Published on: Oct 3, 2019
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