Magic Johnson Joins and Funds Detroit Venture Partners

Detroit Venture Partners, less than a year old, is adding a big name (and investor) to its roster. It announced today that NBA hall of famer and Michigan native Earvin “Magic” Johnson has joined the Motown venture firm as a general partner and will be investing millions in the fund.

“Earvin brings so much to the DVP team—entrepreneurial experience, a passion for Detroit and Michigan, additional capital to fund businesses, and the well-respected Magic brand,” said DVP CEO and Managing Partner Josh Linkner in the announcement of the deal.

Detroit Venture Partners already has the NBA represented on its founding team, with general partner Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gilbert and Linkner, founder and chairman of interactive promotional marketing firm ePrize and an Xconomist, founded DVP in 2010 alongside Brian Hermelin, founder and chairman of the growth equity firm Rockbridge and chairman of Active Aero. The aim was to invest in mobile, software, and Web companies to help revitalize downtown Detroit as a tech hub—something that’s long been an aim of Gilbert’s. DVP plans to operate, alongside some portfolio companies, in Gilbert’s downtown Detroit Madison Theatre Building, now undergoing renovations, according to today’s press release.

“I am investing in Detroit Venture Partners and the City of Detroit because I want to have a positive impact on the biggest downtown in my home state. I believe strongly in the Detroit 2.0 movement and creating opportunities to help people get back to work,” said Lansing, MI, native Johnson in the press release.

When I caught up with Linkner last December about the new firm, he said that DVP was looking to do six to eight deals in its first year of operation, and to bump that range up to 10 to 15 in 2012. Founders provided the initial capital for investing, but Linkner indicated DVP would seek outside investors to partner.

DVP showcased its first slew of deals today alongside the announcement of  Johnson’s joining the firm. The newly funded firms include Flud, a San Diego firm soon to set up a business development office in Detroit, and Detroit Labs—both mobile app developers. DVP has also invested in Birmingham, MI-based jobs site HiredMyWay, social shopping platform Favers, gaming startup Gumshoe, and Are You A Human?, a developer of an alternative to the ubiquitous CAPTCHA test that is designed to block spammers. The sizes of the individual deals were not disclosed.

I hope to catch up with Linkner later today, so I’ll update the space if I get any more color on Magic Johnson’s role at the firm, or its newest investments.

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