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LA Lakers great Magic Johnson joins board of renewable energy start-up Uncharted Power

LA Lakers great Magic Johnson joins board of renewable energy start-up Uncharted Power

Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has joined tech company Uncharted Power’s board of directors, the company told CNBC.

Uncharted Power, a renewable energy technology company, was founded in 2011 by Jessica O. Matthews, who at age 19, invented SOCCKET, a soccer ball that converts kinetic energy into three hours of power for lighting after an hour of play. Matthews also created PULSE, a jump rope that can generate an hour of light after 15 minutes of use.

In his new role, Johnson, 60, will expand Uncharted Power’s energy programs to U.S. communities while helping the company establish new partnerships “and advise its executives on strategic market growth initiatives,” according to the company.

“Many of America’s urban, multicultural communities are being left behind when it comes to basic human rights such as feeling safe in the community, providing for family, getting an education and, quite literally, keeping the lights on,” Johnson said in a statement this week.

Matthews, now 32,  launched her company under the name Uncharted Play, but rebranded in 2017 to Uncharted Power as the company expanded. Matthews said the motivation to enter the energy infrastructure sector came from visiting family in Nigeria, where she discovered Africa’s energy issues.

According to the International Energy Agency, 600 million people remain without access to electricity in sub- Saharan Africa. And more energy tech companies are showing up in Africa hoping to take advantage of its off-grid power market that is worth roughly $24 billion, according to a report by consulting firm Kleos Advisory.

Uncharted Power says it’s “building the internet for decentralized energy” and aims to create new energy sources through transforming sideways and roadways “into a smart, sustainable and accessible power network.”

Uncharted Power said it has raised $12.5 million, with investors including Disney, Kapor Capital, BBG Ventures, and Lingo Ventures. The company has offices in Harlem and Poughkeepsie, New York.

Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers great and CEO of venture capital firm Magic Johnson Enterprises, initially invested in Uncharted Power during the company’s $7 million Series A funding round. The company did not say how much Johnson has invested.

Seven other current NBA players are also investors in Uncharted Power, the company said, but the company declined to name them. Tech has attracted several current and former NBA stars as investors over the years.

Top NBA names like Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant and Miami Heat star Andre Iguodala are notable tech investors. Iguodala, who just announced a new partnership with Comcast Ventures, also is an investor in tech companies like FacebookTeslaTwitter and Apple.

Correction: An earlier version misstated where one of Uncharted Power’s offices is located. It’s Poughkeepsie, New York.