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NBA Star Kevin Durant Joins Board of Cannabis VC Canopy Rivers

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Months after an investment in cannabis on-demand and delivery service Dutchie, Durant and business partner Rich Kleiman's VC, Thirty Five Ventures, has joined the strategic advisory board of cannabis-focused venture capital firm Canopy Rivers.
"We are looking forward to leveraging our respective company strengths together to help source and support the best founders in the cannabis industry," a spokesperson for Thirty Five Ventures told Cheddar via email.
As the newest add to Canopy Rivers' advisory board, Thirty Five Ventures will leverage its experience in brand development, marketing, and sports and entertainment to help Canopy Rivers grow its portfolio. Thirty Five Ventures joins inaugural members of Canopy Rivers' board including legendary tech investor John Ruffolo; consumer packaged goods veteran Meg Lovell, formerly of Imperial Brands; and Philip Donne, a former executive at companies like Campbell Canada and Kellogg Canada. Canopy Rivers and Thirty Five Ventures also plan to co-invest on cannabis-related deals.
"Canopy Rivers brings the industry expertise, our team brings the brand strategy piece. There will be mutual education and collaboration at each step of the way," the Thirty Five spokesperson clarified.
Thirty Five Ventures was coy about exactly what investment opportunities it would consider moving forward, but the VC hinted it would be willing to look outside of the ancillary category ー which is typically more insulated from risk than plant-touching companies.
"We have made investments into ancillary companies such as Dutchie. As regulations loosen and new opportunities arise, we are open to evaluating investments in new categories," the spokesperson said.
A 12-year NBA veteran, Durant was a two-time NBA Champion with the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder, before announcing his move to the Brooklyn Nets in June. He co-founded Thirty Five Ventures, previously the Durant Company, with Kleiman, his manager and business partner. The firm boasts early-stage investments in a diverse portfolio, comprised mostly of tech companies, like digital currency exchange Coinbase, delivery and courier service Postmates, and ridesharing company Lime.
Durant is currently out for the season while rehabilitating from surgery following a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Canopy Rivers, for its part, invests in a diverse array of cannabis companies from multistate operators like TerrAscend to software-as-a-service companies like LeafLink, and everything in between. Canopy Rivers launched its strategic advisory board in September to source expertise from leaders outside of the cannabis industry.
"Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman have built an incredible brand worldwide, investing in and growing some of the cannabis and tech industry's hottest companies. We're excited to combine our venture capital knowledge and cannabis domain expertise, and we believe that this partnership will drive success for our portfolio as we continue to grow it in the years ahead," Canopy Rivers CEO Narbe Alexandrian said in a statement.
Durant is hardly the first athlete to jump into the burgeoning cannabis and CBD industry. Former New England Patriots' star Rob Gronkowski announced an investment in Abacus Health Products to launch a branded line of recovery products that are expected to hit shelves in 2020; U.S. women's soccer star Megan Rapinoe joined CBD company MENDI, founded by her sister Rachael Rapinoe; and Canadian cannabis giant Aurora Cannabis inked a blockbuster partnership with UFC to conduct research as to whether mixed martial arts athletes benefit from CBD.
Despite substantial cross-pollination between athletes and the cannabis industry, there is still a substantial stigma surrounding the use of cannabis and CBD in professional sports, especially since many of the major leagues still officially forbid use. But there are rumblings of change, and athletes like Gronk and Rapinoe are among those leading the charge to destigmatize and ultimately loosen rules governing use of the substances they believe could be helpful for athletes' battered bodies.
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