Stokes’s Players Fund invests in Osaka’s company Hana Kuma

Naomi Osaka and LeBron James’s Hana Kuma has seecured investment from athlete investors at the Players Fund

The Players Fund, the athlete-led venture capital firm backed by Ben Stokes and Jess Ennis-Hill, has invested in Naomi Osaka’s media company Hana Kuma.

It joins the NBA’s LeBron James, Liverpool FC owners Fenway Sports Group, Nike and Epic Games, creator of Fortnite, in backing the Emmy-nominated production company and creative platform set up by tennis star Osaka and her agent Stuart Duguid.

“We are thrilled to welcome The Players Fund as an investor in Hana Kuma,” said Osaka, who is also CEO of the company. 

“Their extensive network of elite athletes from all backgrounds aligns perfectly with our mission to uplift diverse voices and perspectives through innovative storytelling.”

Duguid added: “With backing from The Players Fund’s impactful roster of athlete investors, we can forge new partnerships and identify compelling opportunities to create meaningful, inclusive content that resonates with our audience.”

The Players Fund is billed as the first UK-based VC firm of its kind and manages investments for Stokes and fellow cricketers Jos Buttler and Stuart Broad, track and field athletes Ennis-Hill and Allyson Felix, footballers Hector Bellerin, Serge Gnabry, Chris Smalling and Eni Aluko. 

It was established last year through the merging of three separate companies, is run by managing partners Fergus and Ruari Bell, and aims to invest in start-ups at home and abroad. 

“We are proud to invest in Hana Kuma and join forces with Naomi’s visionary team,” said Ruari Bell. “Hana Kuma’s fresh approach to content creation and ability to tap into the influential Gen-Z market present an exciting opportunity for our athlete investors.”

“What Naomi, Stuart and the team at Springhill are building with Hana Kuma shall be the framework for diverse storytelling for years to come,” Fergus Bell added. 

“We have waited a long time for a female athlete-led content platform and believe that with The Players Fund’s global network, we can truly accelerate the Hana Kuma roadmap alongside partners such as Epic Games, Fenway Sports Group, Nike and LeBron James.”

Hana Kuma was launched in partnership with James’s SpringHill Company and spun out last year after raising $5m in seed funding from Nike, FSG, Epic and others. 

It has already achieved an Emmy nomination for New York Times op-doc Mink, produced video podcast Good Trouble With Nick Kyrgios, and is working on scripted and unscripted TV, anime, manga, publishing, feature films, fashion and sports projects.


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