No doubt that Rick Fox has had plenty of emotional moments in his life. There was the birth of his children, of course, and as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s, he won three NBA championships. But last week, it’s clear that his third act — that of a startup founder — is becoming one of those moments.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of amazing journeys and industries, from entertainment to movies and TV. I’ve been on sets with Oscar-winning actors and directors, and I’ve been on championship NBA teams. There’s been nothing more rewarding for me in my life than to be a part of this team where we’re leaving something behind,” Fox told TechCrunch+.
Fox’s new challenge isn’t just building Partanna, a startup, but one that can make a dent in climate change. For him, it’s personal. Like many of us, Fox was sitting at home early in the pandemic mulling the challenges that were facing the world. The Bahamas, where he grew up and now lives, wasn’t just in the midst of a pandemic. It was still reeling from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
“It got me to a point of thinking about a bigger crisis, which was one that we were facing at home in the Bahamas, which is the consistent impact of the climate and the storms that were happening on a yearly basis at a different level than what I grew up with.”
Then he got a call from his manager, who had been displaced by the Woolsey Fires that swept through Malibu in 2018. In the recovery efforts, she ran into Sam Marshall, an architect who had been working on a new formulation for concrete for the last several years.
“She called me up one day and she said, ‘Hey, you have to meet this gentleman. He’s been working on concrete that acts like a tree,’” Fox recalled. “And I’ll never forget that statement, because I had just stepped out of the shower and I was drying off, and I’m thinking to myself concrete that acts like a tree — how does that work? But then I also thought, if it does work, then it’s going to be on the forefront of changing how we build in the world.”
Marshall had been working for years with other concrete experts, and the time was right to start a company. The two founded Partanna in 2021, and now the company is announcing $12 million in pre-seed funding from Cherubic Ventures, TechCrunch+ has exclusively learned. The company is valued at $190 million post-money, according to PitchBook data.