Blank, AMBSE creating venture capital arm

By Ben Fischer
Arthur Blank will enter a competitive environment. getty images

Atlanta Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank is creating a venture capital division targeting tech startups in sports and entertainment.

 

AMBSE Ventures will be funded internally with no limited partners. There will be no set investment amount to start and no floor or cap on a total amount. The subsidiary will have a full-time staff and is intended to bring structure to Blank’s investing efforts within the AMB Sports & Entertainment business, said CEO Steve Cannon.

“This is going from ad hoc to an ongoing commitment,” Cannon said. “Yes, deals always walk through the door for evaluation, and we’ve looked at deals and Arthur Blank has made investments in the past. This is us going at this in a much more intentional and deliberate way.”

AMBSE Ventures will seek to place bets in five broad categories, chosen to both deliver financial return and strategic or operational help to the Blank sports empire: fan engagement (betting, fantasy, second-screen and AR/VR); sports performance and analytics; live event operations; content, platforms and other tools in emerging sports and entertainment (esports, gaming, betting and content management software); and tools for media and sponsors to better reach fans.

At a time when private investment money is more available to startups than ever before, Blank will enter a hotly competitive environment for venture capital funds. High-quality startups with the most upside have extraordinary leverage to choose their funders, experts say.

Blank will attempt to compete by promoting the access and prestige that comes along with major sports ownership, Cannon said. Portfolio entrepreneurs will have access to his portfolio of holdings in multiple sports and industries and the executive teams leading those companies and their assets, as well as their relationships and reputation.

“For anybody looking for money, first of all there’s a lot of value in Arthur Blank, there’s a lot of value in football, and it’s an entity that brings with it a lot of cachet,” Cannon said.

The subsidiary will maintain flexibility to pursue any deal, but the ideal portfolio company is small but generating revenue, Cannon said. There are no geographic preferences.

Blank and Cannon consulted with several other major sports businesses in setting up the shop, including Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.

AMBSE Ventures has been established as a subsidiary of AMB Sports and Entertainment, alongside the Falcons, United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and PGA Tour Superstore.

It will be led by a director and an analyst who will together handle deal flow. The search firm Variner is helping recruit those leaders. While the shop will be housed under Gordon Barfield, AMBSE’s vice president of strategy and corporate development, the investment decisions will be overseen by an investment committee that reports to Blank himself.

Cannon said they hope to have “multiple investments” placed within 12 months.

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