Blank launches AMBSE Ventures to invest in new sports businesses

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank watches the team warm up before a preseason exhibition game Saturday Aug. 21, 2021, against the Miami Dolphins in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank watches the team warm up before a preseason exhibition game Saturday Aug. 21, 2021, against the Miami Dolphins in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Credit: AP

Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank’s organization, AMB Sports and Entertainment, is launching a subsidiary that will make investments in early-stage sports-related businesses.

AMBSE Ventures plans to invest in entrepreneurs and small companies in such areas as fan engagement, sports performance, live-event operations, emerging sports and digital media, Blank’s organization announced Monday.

Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of AMB Sports and Entertainment, said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the new internal investment fund will look for businesses with emerging technologies or concepts that can drive change in the sports industry and benefit Blank’s current properties, as well as ultimately provide a financial return.

“We’ll try to get a number of deals done, but we don’t have a fixed number of dollars (to be invested) or a fixed number of deals,” Cannon said. He added that the project is a “substantial” undertaking, with Blank “prepared to make multi-million dollars’ worth of investments into smart business models.”

AMBSE Ventures will take an equity position in the companies in return for its investments and could profit handsomely if they succeed.

“We will measure financial return as one business metric,” Cannon said, “but the bigger success would be if a technology that we saw and funded finds its way into our business and allows us to do a better job with our fans or our marketing or with a piece of technology.”

The investment fund will be overseen by Cannon and other Blank organization executives. The company is in the process of hiring a fund manager experienced in valuing small businesses, Cannon said, and also expects to hire an investment analyst.

Cannon said the decision to add the investment vehicle to AMBSE, parent company of the Falcons, Atlanta United, Mercedes-Benz Stadium operating rights and PGA Tour Superstore, stemmed from a conversation with Blank several months ago.

“Arthur was talking about, ‘What happens when we come out of the pandemic? What’s around the corner?’ ” Cannon said. “We look for innovations pretty naturally within our businesses, but those are all designed to solve today’s problems. The conversation we had with Arthur was about the ‘tomorrow’ problems and what capacity we have inside our organization above and beyond the hectic day-to-day operations to make sure we are continually positioning our businesses for success in a crazy-changing landscape.

“The purpose of this fund is essentially for us to keep our fingers on the pulse of entrepreneurial innovation that is going on every single day. What we’re trying to do is attract entrepreneurs with great thinking in technology in and around the sports and entertainment landscape to make us better. This venture fund will attract those kind of companies, and we will get to look at their business, their technology and their process, and decide to make an investment.”

Cannon said AMBSE Ventures will look to invest in entrepreneurial companies, but not in mere ideas.

“If somebody has nothing but a PowerPoint, chances are that’s not going to be our business,” he said. “But if they’ve built a business, have got revenue, a proven business model or technology, and they need funding to grow, those are the kind of investments we’re looking at.”

Cannon said areas that intrigue the Blank organization include technology that can help athletes recover better from injuries, fan-engagement tools that will help draw fans to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, digital media tools or platforms to connect with fans, esports and perhaps eventually sports betting.

“If and when Georgia becomes a legalized sports betting state, there will certainly be technologies we will look at there,” he said.

AMBSE Ventures has no timetable for making its initial investments, but Cannon said it is considering “deals in the queue right now.”

“I feel over the next 12 months we’re going to have our infrastructure built, our team hired and have multiple investments under our belt,” he said.

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