RISE Hong Kong

NBA champion Metta World Peace plans to bring his social sports app to Chinese athletes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 7:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 5:35pm

One-time NBA champion Metta World Peace is bringing his social networking platform focused on sports and athletes to China in the latest example of a retired all-star player transforming into a tech entrepreneur.

Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, said he is working on launching a Chinese-language service of Gradelo, a social sports app that connects athletes with peers, fans and businesses.

“My goal is to have solutions for athletes to be successful – mentally, financially, and emotionally,” he said on the sidelines of RISE Hong Kong on Tuesday. “I want to keep the door open, and give back to thousands and thousands people.”

In February the 38-year-old basketball player, who retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017, launched the Gradelo app which connects athletes with different kinds of services ranging from education and mental health help to coaching gigs. The service is currently available through IOS and web apps, and most registered users are pro basketball players in the US.

Gradelo is seeking to raise about US$600,000 in its latest funding round for a target valuation of more than US$6 million, Metta World Peace said, without naming any potential investors.

Gradelo is seeking multiple local partners and advisers to help it set up a joint venture in China to operate the local service in accordance with Chinese laws, Metta World Peace said. There’s no timetable for the China launch, but Gradelo has already registered the domain, he said.

Qiu Qiqi, a Shanghai-based associate of Gradelo, declined to disclose information about potential Chinese partners for the social networking platform.

Metta World Peace is not the only former NBA player going into the business world. In 2016, former Lakers star Kobe Bryant founded a venture capital fund for technology and this week China’s Yao Ming graduated from a Shanghai university with a bachelor’s degree in economics after seven years of study.

“Basketball is a short life. You still have a lot of life to live [after retirement],” Metta World Peace said.