Art of Sport
When it comes to serial entrepreneurs in the world of tech, Brian Lee is a powerful partner to have by your side. Having co-founded LegalZoom with celebrity attorney Robert Shapiro, ShoeDazzle with Kim Kardashian (acquired by JustFab), and The Honest Company with Jessica Alba, Lee has proven time and again to understand the formula for success in the startup world. In their most current venture, Bryant Stibel and Lee are at it once again with Art of Sport, a direct-to-consumer line of natural body care products designed to help athletes reach their peak performance.
Co-Founder, Art of Sport, LegalZoom, The Honest Company, BAM Ventures
Q: How did your relationship with Bryant Stibel begin?
A: I’ve known Jeff Stibel for close to 15 years now. He was extremely helpful to me as an entrepreneur when I was running LegalZoom with my partners over there. Throughout the years, I’ve grown closer to Jeff – he’s always been one of the first people I turn to when it comes to strategic advice, business advice, as well as advice on life. The guy is incredible, just a solid friend, a joy to be with, and always there to be by your side.
Q: How does Bryant Stibel compare to other investors or consultants you have worked with?
A: Actually, I don’t even consider Bryant Stibel an investor, I consider them partners. I consider them a part of our business. They sit side by side with me to help me build something amazing.
Q: What value has the Bryant Stibel team provided to the companies you’ve partnered on?
A: I think the Bryant Stibel team is very smart. They bring a lot of value when it comes to operational excellence. They can look into a financial model – or they can look into your profit and loss statement and really home in on what it is that will make your company better and what areas to focus on. They did this for LegalZoom to great success and they helped me with Honest Company, when I had some questions in regards to strategic direction. Today, at Art of Sport, they’ve been fantastic partners and cofounders when it comes to understanding what areas to focus on in ecommerce versus offline, retail versus branding. They’re just a wealth of knowledge – the team is very strong in every area of our business.
Q: Is there something about Bryant Stibel’s approach that differentiates them from others?
A: The “Office of the Chairman” role is extremely unique for an investment firm. I’ve never seen it done quite like this where they come in with a team of experts and kind of analyze your business, dissect it, and basically spend time as if they are running your business – but in a non-disruptive manner where they’ll get deep into the weeds to almost understand your business better than you. It’s refreshing because they’re an outside team coming into your business to give it a fresh look. They turn over stones that you didn’t even know were stones, easily. Then they go analyze everything and come back with recommendations. But, unlike an outside consulting firm, they’ll actually come in and make those changes to ensure you see the results.
Q: How has the “Office of the Chairman” specifically benefitted your businesses?
A: At LegalZoom, they came in and really took on the “Office of the Chairman” role. They uncovered some nuggets for us in terms of increasing retention on our subscription model for registered agencies and really turned that business from profitable to very profitable.
In terms of Art of Sport – we’re just starting now – but they’ve been incredibly helpful in terms of helping to build our team, bringing in our partners from the athletic partners to content partners. Kobe Bryant, specifically, has been a cofounding partner at Art of Sport. Kobe has helped with product, marketing, and strategy, along with leading outreach to some of his athlete friends who also became part of Art of Sport.
Q: What do you think makes Bryant Stibel’s partnerships with entrepreneurs successful?
A: I consider them to be empathetic because they have a very strong understanding of what it is to be an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is never easy – there are always ups, there are always downs, but Bryant Stibel is with you along that ride. They’ll gladly sit next to you on that rollercoaster. They are also amenable, which is a great characteristic because they understand how to bend in certain ways and how to give and how to take. Overall, they’re intelligent, data-driven, and great partners.
Q: Do you feel as though Bryant Stibel has a unique approach to business development?
A: I am a data guy and I like data people. I think Bryant Stibel is incredibly driven by data, but what makes them unique is that they understand the data and can take action from the data. Anybody can provide you data, but without a force of action, it’s useless. They’re incredibly talented at understanding the data, but also what to do with it and where to take it.
Q: What impresses you most about working with the team?
A: I think that Bryant Stibel is a true teammate. They come in, they play nice – which is very important – and you almost don’t really realize that they are there; they try to be non-disruptive. They come in, they work with all the team leaders and they dissect the information and come up with a course of action. I think they have some of the strongest team members for any investment or consultant firm. They really understand their domain. They understand SAAS, they understand ecommerce, they understand brand. As I said before, they are a wealth of knowledge.
Q: Is there anything that inspires you to continue working with Bryant Stibel?
A: I think that it’s the same characteristic that I love in people: No matter how well you’ve done in terms of financial success or reward or building businesses that scale – it’s about being humble. I think people are born with that genetic quality, where I don’t consider Jeff – no matter how successful he is – to be unreachable or unattainable. He’s always there, he’s the same Jeff, he hasn’t changed in the 15 years that I’ve known him. I admire that quality, when people don’t change and they’re the same humble person you met when they were first starting their career.