Atlanta Hawks launch $50M venture capital fund for women, minority startups


Despite Atlanta’s growing reputation as a technology hub, the Peach State has trailed rival startup hubs for investment funding in early stage companies. More than $100 billion in venture capital deals were recorded in California last year, according to Pitchbook data. Companies in rival Sun Belt states like Florida, North Carolina and Texas also received more VC investment than Georgia companies last year, Pitchbook data show.

The Hawks’ investment fund expands upon the franchise’s community-driven efforts.

In December 2020, the Hawks reached a historic agreement with Black-owned banks to refinance a $35 million loan for its practice facility. State Farm Arena was also used as the state’s largest voting precinct during the 2020 general election and subsequent double U.S. Senate runoffs, increasing in-person voting access amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

ExploreHawks owners commit $40 million to economically empower Black Atlantans

The Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler, who purchased the team with partners in 2015 for $730 million. Ressler also committed $40 million to multiple Black and minority entrepreneurial efforts in 2020 that’s separate from the Hawks Ventures business. He said in a news release that Hawks Venture will further his goal of “community-enhancing efforts” and working with the “significant untapped potential of minority- and women-led entrepreneurs.”

The venture capital fund is a continuation of those efforts, said David Garcia, who will lead Hawks Ventures as senior vice president and managing director of innovation and investments.

“This was a natural evolution to reach the community in a different way but to help solve some of the same challenges,” he said. “How do we provide economic empowerment to underrepresented communities?”

Garcia said businesses need to focus on improving customer experiences to have a shot at receiving the Hawks’ support. He expects to invest roughly $1 million apiece to startups in initial seed funding, while reserving some funds for additional investments.

Koonin said the Hawks plan to stick by these startups and support them beyond just writing a check.

“We don’t plan to fund them then fly,” he said.

Koonin added that women- and minority-led businesses are often ignored by venture capitalists. Private investment website Crunchbase found that during the first two quarters of last year, startups with at least one Black founder received only 1.2% of all venture funds across the country.

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“We didn’t do it because it was philanthropy. We did it because it’s good business,” he said. “We believe that there are fabulous ideas in minority- and women-led startups that just aren’t getting the traction and funding because the numbers are infinitesimally small.”

Hawks Ventures also committed to providing the majority of its capital to minority- and women-led startups over the next five years.

Hawks Ventures

What: The NBA’s Atlanta Hawks have announced a $50 million fund to support early-stage women- and minority-owned businesses.

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