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Net result: Serena Williams' journey from tennis star to venture capitalist tycoon



Serena Williams has spent most of the past two decades dominating the world of women's tennis. But even she can not defeat Father Time. Next year will be her 25th as a professional. Although Williams remains at the top of his sport, it is undeniable that, every tournament, his career in the field is getting closer and closer to his inevitable outcome.

And after? Many things, probably. Williams is a superstar athlete, of course. But she is also an author, fashion designer, actress and activist. In 2017, she gave birth to her first child. She has always stayed busy. And in recent years, Williams has been increasingly focused on a concert that seems to attract more and more star athletes: invest as a venture capitalist.

Last April, she officially unveiled Serena Ventures, a company operating stealthily since 2014. He built a portfolio that includes some of the most advanced startups in Silicon Valley technology. The eponymous company has also defined the main lines of its strategy: it has a clear trend in terms of investments in women-owned businesses or products aimed primarily at women, and also actively supports companies in the sales sector. retail and food.

Let's take a closer look at the types of businesses that attract the attention of the tennis legend.

Women invest in women

The clearest trend emerging in Serena Ventures' business is a willingness to challenge the gender gap in VC investing in companies and founders too often neglected or avoided by the Silicon Valley Boys Club.

This includes names such as The Wing, a collaborative workspace operator and women's social clubs, which have leveraged more than $ 100 million in venture capital to date, reaching a value of $ 375 million. dollars last December. Founded in 2016 by Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan, the company boasts an unlimited number of lenders in addition to Serena Ventures, including Sequoia, Airbnb, WeWork and several members of the US National Women's Football Team.

Williams and his company are also investing in Billie, another company founded by a woman who sells razors and other body care products for women. He raised $ 25 million in January. Lola, which supplies tampons, sanitary napkins and other reproductive health products to women, is also part of the Serena Ventures portfolio; he raised $ 24 million in 2018 and a valuation of $ 104 million.

The list continues. Floravere raised funds from Serena Ventures to support its business of selling wedding dresses directly to consumers. Mayvenn has provided funding for the company to support its hair extensions and other beauty products. And HoneyLove turned to the firm to support its line of tight-fitting women's clothing.

A place at the table

Serena Ventures is also clearly interested in the future of food. Impossible Foods, which makes herbal protein products, raised $ 300 million in May for a $ 2 billion valuation. A tour that ended under the name of Beyond Meat, one of the biggest rivals of the company. see its price soar after a hot IPO.

The Impossible Burger in Action (Courtesy of Impossible Foods)

The company also invests in several meal distribution companies. One of them is Daily Harvest, which provides fruits, vegetables and other organic ingredients to customers on a weekly or monthly basis. Another example is Gobble, which provides meal kits designed to be prepared in 15 minutes or less. This agreement is an example of Serena Ventures 'presence in the family: Gobble is also backed by Initialized Capital, the company led by Alexis Ohanian, Williams' husband and co-founder of Reddit.

For smaller stomachs, Serena Ventures supports Little Spoon, which runs a delivery service for organic baby food. For canine stomachs, the firm invests in Ollie, a provider of custom meal plans for dogs. And for the wellness enthusiast, there is the same name Olly, a seller of vitamins, protein bars and related products.

Reaching the retail trade

Williams has long been tied to the world of fashion, both on the court and on the court. Her tennis attire made the headlines of her career throughout her career, including a tight black suit that she donned at the French Open of 2018, which was later banned by the Federation. French tennis. And Williams is also a full-fledged designer, including her own lines of sportswear, eveningwear and handbags.

This interest has been shown in some of Serena Ventures' investments. The firm supports Rockets of Awesome, which makes shiny and bright clothing for kids, as well as Neighborhood Goods, an emerging department store chain that sells clothing from a group of different brands in rotation, many of which were born on Internet. Last year, Williams launched his latest clothing line in the company's flagship store in Plano, Texas.

Serena Ventures is also an investor in Brandless, a company paradoxically named, which sells a range of clothing, food products, household goods and other products under its own label. Last summer, the company raised a $ 240 million investment led by the SoftBank Vision Fund. And just last month, Serena Ventures has participated in a $ 9.6 million financing for Retail Zipline, a developer of tools that help retail stores improve their communication with senior management, evaluating the value of money. company at $ 38.4 million.

The best of the rest

This does not fit perfectly into any of the above categories, but we would not want to mention that Serena Ventures holds a stake in Coinbase, a Bitcoin star that was worth more than $ 8 billion last October. Williams' investment was not publicly known until she announced the launch of her eponymous company in April. The same month, Serena Ventures funded a $ 45 million C series for Tonal, a Peloton-type company that sells a wall-mounted fitness system and screen rather than an apartment bike. This is the kind of business in which a professional athlete should invest.

MasterClass, which sells online courses in a variety of disciplines, is one of the other companies in the company's portfolio. Williams herself offers a tennis lesson on the site. There is also Andela, valued at $ 700 million in January. The start-up operates mainly in Africa and works to connect software developers from the continent with technology companies around the world. Williams also serves on the board of SurveyMonkey, which designs software for online surveys.

Taken as a whole, it's a pretty large number of companies to occupy any venture capital venture. Let alone one who is led by a woman whose main job is always to win Grand Slam tournaments.

The selected image via Roberto Faccenda / CC BY-SA 2.0

Related reading: A look at Kevin Durant's search for slam dunks in VC


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