You probably recognize Kevin Durant as an NBA standout who helped lead the Golden State Warriors to another championship last spring--but he's also a purveyor of health savings accounts.
On Tuesday, Durant confirmed that he participated in a $4.2 million funding round for Lively, a San Francisco health startup that launched six months ago. Although Durant did not disclose the amount he invested, he previously told the New York Times that his Series A Investments typically range from $250,000 to $2 million. Lively, which creates an administrative platform for employees to manage their health savings accounts, or HSAs, is the latest in a series of investments for KD, who, since moving to Silicon Valley, has taken stakes in areas including grocery delivery and financial services. To that end, in the summer of 2016, Durant and his agent, Rich Kleiman, set up the Durant Company to manage his portfolio of investments. And given his $26 million-plus annual NBA salary and endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, Durant has some free cash available, although he declined to talk about it when contacted by Inc.
While health care seems an unlikely category for a pro athlete, Lively's founders insist that there's opportunity to generate returns on HSAs in particular. In short, these tax-favored schemes allow employees with high-deductible health insurance plans to accrue thousands of dollars annually, which can go towards out-of-pocket medical expenses. A growing number of Americans are now participating in HSAs--some 20 million, up from just 1.5 million in 2005, according to the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans. That's due to some of the unique benefits associated with the plans. Unlike the related Flexible Savings Account (FSA), for example, HSA funds can be rolled over into the following year. They're also "portable," meaning that you can keep the savings even if you move to a different company. "The benefits are that [HSAs] reduce taxable income and place the funds in an account that is available year to year, regardless of employer," says Deanne Kasim, founder of the health care research center Santesys Solutions. She notes, however, that it can be harder for those with lower income levels to access HSAs.
A long time coming
Lively co-founders Alex Cyriac and Shobin Uralil came up with the idea for the platform in late 2015. Cyriac has covered his mother's medical costs for years--she's an Indian immigrant who suffers from a preexisting condition due to complications from a bone marrow transplant. He realized that setting up an HSA would allow him to generate some of the money needed for her care tax-free. At the same time, he found existing platforms to be complicated, with the custodians of those accounts often charging fees to users when they withdraw funds.
So together with Uralil, a longtime family friend, Cyriac launched a platform that wouldn't charge a cent to withdraw the funds; instead, the company charges employers a flat fee of $4 per employee per month. Starting this week, Lively is also integrating with the brokerage TD Ameritrade, allowing users to invest health savings in stocks, bonds, and ETFs. If they choose to do so, the founders say, they'll be charged a fixed rate of $2.50 per month for the brokerage account. "For us, it was all about making it as simple as humanly possible," says Cyriac. "It's a great retirement vehicle," he adds, encouraging users to see HSAs as similar to the more commonly used 401(k). To be sure, Lively is competing with a number of existing insurers that offer HSA products--including United Healthcare--as well as nascent providers HealthEquity and HSA Bank. "It's a crowded space," notes Santesys's Kasim.
The investment may be more in line with Durant's strategy than you might think. "Kevin and Rich [Kleiman] are big proponents of things for Millennials, especially things that help you plan and save," explains Uralil. Durant has previously invested in Postmates, the on-demand grocery delivery service, as well as in Acorns, a financial planning app that automatically invests spare change.
Many professional athletes, including the NBA's Andre Igoudala and Kobe Bryant, as well as the NFL's Steve Young, have turned to the tech industry in part to secure their financial futures. The crossover between pro sports and technology is very apparent in Silicon Valley, where tech moguls host barbecues and parties with such players--and a Warriors game is considered a great networking opportunity. (The Golden State Warriors are owned by Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, and Joe Lacob, a partner with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers.) In 2015, Durant reportedly celebrated his birthday at the home of Ben Horowitz, the lauded co-founder of venture capital heavyweight Andreessen Horowtiz, and watched the 2016 election results at the home of Apple's Eddy Cue.
Controversial though his move to Oakland was--given his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder--the player recognizes the advantages of living in the Bay Area. "We'd never have been introduced to a drone startup in Oklahoma City," Durant said on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco last week.