Serena Williams’ early-stage venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, has raised an inaugural $111 million fund that will invest in founders with diverse perspectives, she told the DealBook newsletter. The tennis star-led investment firm is already an active angel investor with a portfolio of 60 companies that includes SendWave, MasterClass and Daily Harvest.
“I’ve always been fascinated by technology and always loved how it really shapes our lives,” said Ms. Williams, who has been investing for nine years. “When I met my husband, it was our first conversation. That’s how we met. I was talking about investments. Ms. Williams’ husband is Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
Ms Williams, who holds 23 Grand Slam tennis titles, was inspired by a conversation between Caryn Seidman-Becker, the chief executive of security firm Clear, and Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase.
On stage at an event, Ms Seidman-Becker said less than 2% of venture capital money goes to women. “I went up to her afterwards and said, ‘Tell me about that 2% – I know you may have misspoken’,” Ms Williams said. “And she said, ‘No, it’s true.’ And I literally couldn’t fathom the fact that 98% of all this money that we’re talking about – billions of dollars – is going to one type of individual.
Serena Ventures does not require its founders to come from historically underrepresented backgrounds, even though about three-quarters of its portfolio company founders do.
The founding partners of Serena Ventures are Ms. Williams and Alison Rapaport Stillman. Ms. Williams’ other business activities include fashion lines, entertainment offers and a seat on the poshmark board of directors. Ms. Rapaport Stillman previously worked at JPMorgan, Wasserman and Melo7 Tech. The fund’s sponsors include Norwest Venture Partners, Capital G (Alphabet’s growth fund) and LionTree.