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Serena Williams: Empowering Future Leaders at Serena Ventures

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Serena Ventures highlights startups founded by women, people of colour and young entrepreneurs.

Serena Williams has a longer achievement list than most: Mother, Athlete, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur, Designer and in 2014, she added a new ‘side gig’ - Venture Investor.

Williams proved once again that she can be successful at anything she puts her mind to, by founding the Venture Capital firm, Serena Ventures. The company focuses on early stage companies, giving them the opportunity to be heard.

As a 23 Grand Slam title winner, Serena is no stranger to success. Her trophies and lucrative endorsement deals including Nike, Beats by Dre and Intel have helped her make history as the first athlete to be included in Forbes’ richest self-made woman list. And she’s decided to invest her money to help facilitate the dreams of others.

Serena Ventures looks especially towards companies founded by women, people of colour, and young entrepreneurs. Yes, there’s a social purpose behind this decision - Serena has often used her platform to promote equal opportunities and her voice to speak about societal challenges. In the past, she’s:

  • Opened schools in Kenya, ensuring that 40% of pupils must be girls.

  • Spoken openly about the hardships of balancing motherhood and a career.

  • Rallied against sexism and ageism, both on the court and off it.

However, her conscious bias for including women and people of colour in the portfolio is not just a social choice, it’s a smart one.

Last year, companies founded solely by women garnered 2.8% of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups in the US. And less than 2% of venture-funded startup founders are black.

As Sherrille Riley highlighted in our latest Anatomy of a Leader episode when addressing the BLM movement, when we do not support and include all people, we miss out on the gifts and opportunities they have to offer the world.

Serena has seized these opportunities by avoiding the herd and investing in companies that may not have been given support otherwise. A decision that has fully showcased her business acumen and ability to seek out opportunity where others don’t.

Serena’s inclusive strategy is also crucial in the impact it will bring. She is the best-known female athlete in the world. She has legions of fans from all ages and backgrounds and as performance psychologist Mindy Simpson noted,

“We watch athletes, we watch what they do, how they handle themselves in difficult situations, when they win and when they lose.”

In business, as in tennis, aspiring entrepreneurs will look towards what Serena is accomplishing and do the same.

One of Serena Ventures most successful ventures completed their first exit in May 2019, when Unilever announced the acquisition of wellness supplement firm Olly Nutrition. Many of Serena’s investments are up including Billie (cosmetics), Masterclass (online education) and The Wing (women-focused workspace).

In her tennis career, Serena has blown away a number of barriers and stereotypes and her approach to business seems no different. Another one of Serena’s successful ventures is Lola, a feminine hygiene brand. Their Founder, Jordana Kier echoes Serena’s ambition to help diverse founders

“She is facilitating a place for people to connect with one another”

Serena also recognises that she has more to offer these entrepreneurs, understanding that she may not be able to invest in all of them, but instead, speaking to all founders struggling to raise capital:

“They should contact us, we don’t write all the checks - not even close. But we can get you in touch with the [people] who are writing those checks.”

When launching Serena Ventures, she stated that it was her mission to give opportunities to founders across an array of industries. She certainly has done that, proving that her brain is just as much of a gift as her backhand.

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