A few years back, Williams attended a JP Morgan Chase Conference that highlighted that only 2.4% of all venture capital funding went to women-led startups and a stark racial disparity between white men and people of colour in venture capital firms across the globe. This inspired her to make a change in the venture capital investing landscape. In 2022, she transitioned from her long and record-shattering tennis career into full-time private investing with her very own investment firm, Serena Ventures.
Williams founded Serena Ventures in 2014 in Washington D.C. along with Alison Rapaport Stilman with a vision to support founders “whose perspectives and innovations level the playing field for women and people of colour”. However, she only made the firm public through an Instagram post in April 2019. It is currently headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, California and actively pursues early-stage, series A, B, C, and seed investments. Serena Ventures boasts a diverse portfolio of 64 companies across the consumer products and services, information technology, TMT, healthcare, e-commerce, and wellness industries. According to the firm’s website, 53% of these 64 companies are founded by women and 76% have founders with historically underrepresented backgrounds. Some of the key companies that the 23-time Grand Slam winner-led firm has invested in the last 8 years are:
Lolli, Inc – Serena Ventures, 776, and Night Media led the company’s $5 million pre-series A round in March 2021. Lolli is a partnership-based web browser extension and application that offers its users the chance to win rewards in cash or bitcoin when shopping at select websites.
MasterClass – The EdTech startup raised over $4.5 million in its Series A funding rounds led by Serena Ventures and Javelin Venture Partners in January 2015. Williams also offers her own courses through their subscription-based services.
Tonal – Tonal is a smart home gym system that also offers comprehensive strength training regimes through streamable classes. In April 2019, Serena Ventures participated in its $45 million Series C funding round led by L Catterton Ventures.
OURS – Ours is an online wellness company that focuses on couples and pre-marital counselling through live and pre-recorded sessions by qualified professionals. Williams participated in the company’s $5 million pre-seed and seed led by Lakehouse Ventures in May 2022.
Hued – With a vision to streamline access to standardized healthcare for the largely neglected African and Latin American groups, the healthcare startup raised over $1.6 million from Serena Ventures, Black Founders Matter, Halle Tecco and others in August 2021.
Billie, a women-focused personal wellness startup, and Olly, a food product startup, are among the 10 exits that the firm has made thus far.
In an interview with Vogue in August 2022, Williams made it clear that her future lies with her family and Serena Ventures. In fact, the 6-employee firm had only recently received $111 million worth of foreign funding to empower its venture capital pursuits. Her latest investment has been in Karat, a tech startup that aims to help African-American software engineers get hired.
Her relentless pursuit of empowering women and people of colour in the venture capital sector will undoubtedly inspire many to follow suit and change the industry for the better.