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Tennis world: Serena Williams raises $111 million for new venture fund.

The tennis star’s firm, Serena Ventures, will invest in founders with diverse points of view.

 

 

Serena Williams in Hollywood in November. Her firm, Serena Ventures, is an active angel investor with a portfolio of 60 companies.
Serena Williams in Hollywood in November. Her firm, Serena Ventures, is an active angel investor with a portfolio of 60 companies.

Serena Williams’s early-stage venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, has raised an inaugural fund of $111 million that will invest in founders with diverse points of view, she told the DealBook newsletter. The investment firm led by the tennis star is already an active angel investor with a portfolio of 60 companies that includes SendWave, MasterClass and Daily Harvest.

“I’ve always been fascinated with technology, and I’ve always loved how it really shapes our lives,” said Ms. Williams, who has been investing for nine years. “When I met my husband, that was our first conversation. That’s how we met. I was talking about investments.” Ms. Williams’s husband is the Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Ms. Williams, who holds 23 Grand Slam tennis titles, was inspired by a talk between Caryn Seidman-Becker, the chief executive of the security company Clear, and Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase.

Onstage at an event, Ms. Seidman-Becker said less than 2 percent of venture money went to women. “I go up to her afterward and asked, ‘Tell me about this 2 percent — I know maybe you misspoke,’” Ms. Williams recounted. “And she says, ‘No, it’s true.’ And I literally couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that 98 percent of all of this money we’re talking about — billions of dollars — goes to one type of individual.”

Serena Ventures doesn’t require that its founders come from historically underrepresented backgrounds, though it says about three-quarters of its portfolio company founders do.

The founding partners of Serena Ventures are Ms. Williams and Alison Rapaport Stillman. Ms. Williams’s other business activities include fashion lines, entertainment deals and a seat on the board of Poshmark. Ms. Rapaport Stillman previously worked at JPMorgan, Wasserman and Melo7 Tech. The fund’s limited partners include Norwest, Capital G (Alphabet’s growth fund) and LionTree.

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