February 23, 2024

Shaquille O’Neal invested in a startup because of Jeff Bezos’ advice

Even with those big-name backers already in tow, O’Neal recently told Fortune that his decision to invest an undisclosed amount in the startup ultimately came down to his belief that Campus could “change people’s lives” — which reminded him of advice he’d previously heard from Bezos.

“I heard Jeff Bezos say, if you invest in things that’s going to change people’s lives, you’ll always get a great return on your investment,” O’Neal said. “But this particular investment is not about great return because I feel that everyone should have access to world-class education.”

Launched by tech entrepreneur Tade Oyerinde, 29, in 2022, Campus is an accredited online community college that offers classes taught by professors who also teach at universities such as Princeton, Vanderbilt and Spelman College. Oyerinde, himself a college dropout, said in a statement last year that he founded the startup to make “higher education more accessible, more affordable, and more relevant” to students across the country from diverse backgrounds and income levels.

It’s not the first time Bezos has influenced one of O’Neal’s business decisions. In 2022, the basketball Hall of Famer said he was “scared” off from making a bid to buy the NBA’s Phoenix Suns after reading reports that Bezos might be considering his own offer for the team. O’Neal, who has an estimated net worth above $400 million, said at the time that he’d rather not compete against Bezos and any other “heavy hitters” who were eyeing the team, which eventually sold to billionaire Matt Isbhia a year later.

And, O’Neal has long touted Bezos’ advice to seek out investment opportunities that he truly believes can “change people’s lives.” 

“If something comes across my desk and I don’t believe in it, I don’t even look at it,” O’Neal told The Wall Street Journal in 2019. 

O’Neal’s investment track record includes a number of successful plays. (O’Neal claims he never actually invested in doomed crypto exchange FTX, though he did serve as a paid spokesperson.) The basketball legend’s portfolio includes investments in Google, Lyft, Ring and Vitaminwater, along with owning franchises of businesses such as Papa John’s, Auntie Anne’s, and Five Guys.

Bezos’ advice helped O’Neal trust his conviction in a business’ mission, even over pure financial motivation, though he told WSJ in 2019 that it’s certainly paid monetary dividends, as well.

“Once I started doing that strategy, I think I probably quadrupled what I’m worth,” he said.

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