Renee Montgomery’s involvement in social justice activism has led her to venture capital. (AP … [+] Photo/John Bazemore)
Two-time WNBA champion Renee Montgomery shook the sports world last year when the Atlanta Dream point guard opted out of her 12th season to turn her attention full time to social justice reform. Through the Renee Montgomery Foundation, she launched the Remember the 3rd campaign in 2020 to empower voters, and earlier this year, she joined with fellow athlete LeBron James and others to buy her former team. The Atlanta Dream’s previous co-owner, Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, actively opposed the WNBA’s support of Black Lives Matter. Montgomery also put her money where her mouth is as an angel investor in underrepresented entrepreneurs. Now, she has a new position: venture capitalist.
She found strong alignment with the team at Atlanta-based Valor Ventures, which focuses on financial inclusion and investing in underrepresented founders and is currently investing out of a $25 million fund. “[Valor] is already doing the work; I just need to add momentum,” Montgomery tells Forbes. “Being inclusive, leaning into women and leaning into minorities, that is what I was already talking about.”
She joined Valor as a general partner this month, as originally reported in the Midas Touch newsletter. This makes Montgomery one of the first, if not the first, former professional athletes to join an existing venture firm in that role.
The potential power of a career in venture started to click for Montgomery after her first angel investment last June into Fan Controlled Football (FCF), a sports league that lets fans make all the decisions, from team logos to draft picks. Getting a seat at the decision table, as fans get at FCF and as investors do with their companies, showed her a new way to implement change in an organization. “When you look at sports teams, people want more Black head coaches. Well why aren’t there more? What is the problem of hiring more Black coaches? It’s who is making the decisions,” she says. “This is the clout and power of investing. You get to make decisions that can really shift the culture.” Montgomery already applies this mentality to make changes within the Atlanta Dream organization, she says, and plans to bring it to startups too.
Renee Montgomery is now a general partner at Valor Ventures.
Montgomery was introduced to Valor Ventures several months ago through a mutual connection with the firm’s founder Lisa Calhoun. Calhoun, also a general partner at Valor, tells Forbes that she knew Montgomery had been doing some angel investing and actively meeting with other firms, eager to learn more about the VC process. Calhoun initially approached it as a mentorship relationship. But when she met with Montgomery and her wife, musician and actor Sirena Grace, over coffee, Calhoun realized Montgomery had potential with Valor. “When I looked at some of her investments and the markups they have gotten since, not only does she have incredible passion and a great grasp on the sports industry and the creator economy, she absolutely has the DNA in the bones to be an incredible leader at Valor,” Calhoun says.
Montomgery’s portfolio thus far includes a handful of angel investments in the sportstech space including Buzzer, a mobile fan engagement platform that has raised $24 million, and MarketPryce, a marketplace that connects professional and student athletes with potential brand deals that has raised $3.4 million. Now with Valor, Montgomery says that she’ll be looking into opportunities within sportstech and the creator economy, and broadly companies that use tech to improve people’s lives. “As a broadcast commentator and analyst and a vice president and co-owner of the Atlanta dream, she really is on the front line on the developing edge of creative technologies,” Calhoun says.
Working in venture helps advance Montgomery’s prior activism too. She says backing underrepresented founders is a direct way to contribute to financial inclusion and helping minorities create generational wealth. Gone are the days where the majority of the richest people had their wealth passed down to them, she says. “The people at the top of wealth lists today are venture-capital backed founders, and early startup employees, that’s the new way that wealth is being created on a large scale,” she says. “With Valor, I get to invest in people’s futures and to me that is so exciting. For any generational wealth, it’s not a little thing. That’s something that a whole family and a whole legacy can be created off of.”
Active and retired professional basketball players are increasingly involved in the venture capital ecosystem. Some players like Brooklyn Nets starting forward Kevin Durant have set up venture funds of their own. Durant’s firm Thirty Five Ventures, which he runs with his manager Rich Kleiman, invests generally at the early stages in industries including healthcare and esports. Other active players including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, Sue Bird and Steph Curry, among others, are also active angel investors off the court. Montomgery though, stands alone as a firm general partner. She jokes that as a former athlete, she wanted to be part of a team.