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GREENWOOD Dist. — Atento Capital, a venture capital (VC) firm, based out of Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District, has raised $100 million for early-stage startups in a part of the U.S. often overlooked. The large majority of VC firms focus on the coastal areas of New York, California and Florida.

Located a few blocks away from the original Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Atento Capital is one of the few VC firms investing heavily in underserved communities in the middle of the country. The new fund will bring a boost to getting startups off the financial runway, Yahoo Finance and Fortune Magazine reported on Thursday.

The Greenwood District has witnessed a boom in Black tech entrepreneurs moving to the city, thanks in part to the dedicated support from Atento Capital. Three out of five of the VC firm’s senior investors are women and people of color. Despite attempts by Oklahoma’s state leaders to make a boogeyman out of diversity, Atento Capital is laser-focused on inclusivity.

Lawrence Watkins, an investor at Atento Capital, spoke at a panel on building general wealth in the Black community last year during Black Wall Street Legacy Fest.

“Ownership at the forefront of innovation,” is a motto he said he holds to heart. He said owning your own assets is the truest way to establish generational wealth.

atento capital
Lawrence Watkins, an investor at Atento Capital, speaks during a panel on tech and generational wealth during the second annual Black Wall Street Legacy Fest inside the Greenwood Cultural Center on Friday, May 27, 2022. (Mike Creef / The Black Wall Street Times)

Atento Capital puts its money where its mouth is

Tapping into the culture like no other VC firms in the nation, Atento Capital regularly hosts open-door mixers during the city’s Art Walk every first Friday of the month. The DJ parties, keynote speakers, and open bar are all open for anyone in the community interested in networking or connecting to the burgeoning tech ecosystem.

Their track record in just a few years has already impacted dozens of companies. Affiliated with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Atento Capital has invested $128 million into 49 companies and 24 other VC funds over the past three years. The latest $100 million fund will funnel $20 million to pre-seed investments and $80 million to early-stage and fund-of-fund investments, Fortune reported.

For Watkins, the new tech boom presents an opportunity to level the playing field in a country where the median wealth for Black Americans is projected to reach zero by 2053.

“What makes this different is the fact that internet technology is infinitely scalable,” Watkins said.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...