A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Aug 31, 2022

Serena Williams' Venture Fund Has Raised $111 Million, Is Already Investing

She is one of the most recognizable, respected and accomplished athletes in the world. Her first name alone is a highly monetized brand - and she is married to a billionaire venture capitalist, Alexis Ohanian. 

She has raised $111 million for venture investing and has already begun placing capital with a focus on health, food and crypto. And she expects to be as successful at venture capital as she has been at tennis. JL 

Kim Bhasin reports in Bloomberg:

Regardless of how she does at the US Open, she will exit her sport as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Serena Ventures, her early-stage venture firm,  raised $111 million earlier this year from banks, family offices and individual investors. Williams has been an angel investor over the past decade, putting money into dozens of companies including Impossible Foods, Daily Harvest and MasterClass. The firm has leaned into crypto, investing in NFT marketplace Bitski and Bitcoin rewards application Lolli. It also invested in Nestcoin, a Nigeria-based web3 startup to make cryptocurrency more accessible. Williams’s husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, unveiled a US$510 million crypto-focused fund at his own VC firm. She hopes to one day run a billion dollar fund.

As tennis icon Serena Williams prepared for her final US Open tournament, she also readied herself for the next stage of her career away from the court.

Williams, 40, says she’ll focus on her family and her venture capital firm after tennis. She hopes to one day run a billion-dollar fund.

“It’s what I’m into, and what I really like doing,” Williams said in an interview with Bloomberg just prior to her retirement announcement this month. “I like talking to founders and asking questions and learning about businesses.”

New York’s Flushing Meadows is expected to be the site of Williams’s last competition as a pro. In front of a roaring crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, she beat Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic, 6-3, 6-3, in the opening round Monday evening, advancing to play Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit on Aug. 31.

Regardless of how she does at the US Open, she will exit her sport as one of the greatest athletes of all time, winning 23 Grand Slam tournaments over a 27-year career that began when she was barely a teenager.

Her success has followed her off the court as well. Serena Ventures, her early-stage venture firm,  raised $111 million earlier this year from banks, family offices and individual investors. Williams has been a busy angel investor over the past decade, putting money into dozens of companies including Impossible Foods, Daily Harvest and MasterClass.

Williams raised US$111 million for an early stage venture capital fund with a focus on diversity.

About three-quarters of the companies backed by Serena Ventures LLC are led by founders from under-represented communities, the firm has said. Founded in 2014, it currently has a portfolio of about 60 startups.

The firm has leaned into crypto, investing in NFT marketplace Bitski and Bitcoin rewards application Lolli. Last month, Serena Ventures said it had invested in Nestcoin, a Nigeria-based web3 startup aiming to make cryptocurrency more accessible. Also last month Williams’s husband, the Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, unveiled a US$510 million crypto-focused fund at his own venture capital firm.

Other investments for Serena Ventures include the financial-tech company Esusu and online course platform MasterClass, where Williams has also taught classes.

Serena Ventures led an early-stage round for Wondermind, a multimedia company — founded by Selena Gomez, Mandy Teefey, and Daniella Pierson — that prioritizes mental health. Participating investors included Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital. Plus, the outlet revealed Brent Saunders, the former chief executive officer of pharmaceutical company Allergan, also participated.

Wondermind

The platform, which has a valuation of a reported $100 million, is looking to strengthen its efforts to “democratize and destigmatize mental health globally via daily editorial content, insightful entertainment, and tangible tools,” according to a press release.

The topic of mental health is a prominent focus for Williams. She will work alongside Wondermind to promote the brand’s onboarding projects, and she will be involved in their content.

“I like to be good at what I do and I really enjoy being on top of whatever I’m doing,” said Williams. “Obviously I have a ton of work to get there, but I do have a lot of drive. I’m driven to continue to work hard and do what it takes to be at the top level.”

Other than her fund, Williams also owns a stake in the Miami Dolphins and has a fashion line called S by Serena. A prolific endorsement figure throughout her time in tennis, Williams works with several of the world’s biggest brands, including Nike Inc., PepsiCo Inc.’s Gatorade, Delta Air Lines Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. She stepped down from clothing reseller Poshmark Inc.’s board in April.

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