The firm – Bryant Stibel – began operating in 2013, counting $100 million in funding from the National Basketball Association (NBA) all-star. Among the companies funded by the investment arm are companies with Chinese Communist Party ties: Alibaba, VIPKid, and Full Truck Alliance.
Since 2016, the firm has invested in the online learning platform VIPkid alongside Tencent, which has been described as a “tool of the Chinese government” by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation. Noting the company has “no meaningful ability to tell the Chinese Communist Party ‘no’ if officials decide to ask for their assistance,” the department also counts Tencent as providing the “foundation of technology-facilitated surveillance and social control” in order for the Chinese government “to shape the world consistent with its authoritarian model.”
VIPKid, which has partnered with state-run media outlets such as China Daily, has even been criticized for attempting to influence school curricula by firing teachers who show maps with an independent Taiwan and Hong Kong and accurately describe the brutal Tiananmen Square massacre.