EXCLUSIVE: Serena Williams’ Venture Capital Firm Raises $111 Million


Tennis celebrity Serena Williams has simply introduced that her enterprise capital agency, Serena Ventures, has raised $111 million {dollars} in an inaugural fund.

Serena Ventures invests in founders who “resolve on a regular basis issues by unconventional pondering and various factors of view.” For the previous 9 years, it has managed a portfolio of greater than 60 angel investments, utilizing Williams’ personal cash.

“As an angel investor, you’ll be able to solely achieve this a lot,” the world-class athlete, businesswoman, and philanthropist instructed BLACK ENTERPRISE solely. “I knew that I wished to do a fund, however I labored backward, by utilizing my very own capital after which making a monitor report and attending to know everybody.”

Now, with funding from restricted companions together with Norwest, CapitalG, Kapor Basis, and LionTree, amongst others, Serena Ventures will have the ability to take its investments to the following stage.

“The flexibility to jot down greater checks and the power to steer seed rounds actually allows us to ship on our mission and to unlock worth for our buyers and open doorways for founders,” Williams says.

A ardour for investing

Williams first began investing a bit of over 9 years in the past due to what she calls a “pure draw” to expertise and a want to be concerned with the entire startups she was seeing pop up within the area.

All the time prepared for a brand new problem, she began out by asking a whole lot of questions, then investing in a fund, after which changing into an angel investor.

“This isn’t new for me,” she says. “That is one thing I’ve been doing for a very, actually, actually very long time and it’s one thing that I completely love and I’m tremendous obsessed with.”

Regardless of her busy schedule, Williams spends six or seven hours a day on her investing work: “I really like new firms, I really like speaking to founders, I completely love passing on the information that I’ve been capable of get and with the ability to affect different individuals.”

Breaking apart the boys membership

As she discovered extra concerning the world of funding, Williams was shocked by the inequities.

“I used to be at a convention and Caryn Seidman-Becker, the founding father of CLEAR, was on stage and he or she mentioned lower than 2% of all VC cash goes to girls. I legit thought she misspoke as a result of 98% is a big quantity,” Williams says. “Once I’m serving, I don’t serve at 98%. Like that’s not even doable, that’s close to good.”

“I couldn’t wrap my thoughts round mainly virtually 100% of cash goes to the boys.”

And that’s when Williams’ investing mission was fashioned: “I wished to essentially convey range to VC in the way in which that I might. And the one solution to change these numbers was to be the particular person writing the large checks.”

That was about 4 years in the past, when Williams employed Alison Rapaport Stillman as normal companion and so they started constructing a workforce—which simply occurs to be all girls.

“Considered one of my favourite components about my job is the individuals I get to work with on daily basis and the way a lot I get to study from Serena and from the workforce round us,” Rapaport Stillman says. “A workforce that’s all girls and from very completely different backgrounds, we see the world in a different way. We don’t match the mildew of enterprise.”

Alison Rapaport Stillman, Basic Associate, Serena Ventures (Picture: Courtesy of Serena Ventures)

For Williams, surrounding herself with different good girls was a no brainer.

“It’s been confirmed that the extra various your workforce, the higher you do, and corporations at the moment are beginning to understand that,” she says.

“And in addition, it’s very genuine. I simply need people who consider in our mission and that need to be part of one thing actually wonderful. On the subject of our workforce, that’s what everyone seems to be on board for and so they’re actually excited to assist founders have a possibility that they most likely wouldn’t have had earlier than.”

Diversifying enterprise capital

The agency’s method is to construct a extra inclusive future by investing in “ignored, underestimated, and fledgling markets.”

“We need to ensure that we don’t essentially neatly verify a field. Simply to be clear, you don’t must be an individual of coloration or a girl to be in our fund,” Williams says.

“Impression can take many varieties,” she continues. “We’re focusing not simply on the individuals, however in the marketplace. We actually consider that we are able to take advantage of by discovering firms that resolve greater shopper issues, particularly for individuals who have been ignored by the standard gamers within the recreation.”

Nonetheless, 76% of Serena Ventures’ portfolio founders come from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

Williams understands firsthand the plight of founders of coloration. Even together with her success and her privilege, she is aware of she’s held to a unique normal as a Black lady.

“Sadly that is why I wished to construct a monitor report, as a result of, fairly frankly I knew that above different individuals I wanted to have one thing that might communicate for itself,” she says. “That’s simply the way in which of the land. Let’s simply be sincere, you recognize I couldn’t simply say ‘Oh I’m going to do that and have enjoyable with it.’”

Similar to on the court docket, Williams is all about efficiency: “I actually wished to spend time in creating one thing for that very purpose, so when questions are requested it’s like, not solely do now we have solutions, however now we have exits and now we have unicorns. Like, have a look at what now we have completed.”

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