advertisement
advertisement

What Serena Williams has learned from venture investing

The athlete and entrepreneur talks about partnerships and business models as she launches her jewelry line.

What Serena Williams has learned from venture investing
[Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for IMG]

Tennis star Serena Williams says her five years as a venture investor have helped inform her newest entrepreneurial foray—a fine jewelry line with pieces priced from $299 to $10,000.

advertisement
advertisement

Williams, who revealed in April that she’d quietly been investing in early stage companies since 2014, tells Fast Company that the experience of investing has made her keenly aware of the importance of business structure and strong partnerships. Serena Ventures is an investor in more than two dozen companies, including Tonal, Brandless, The Wing, MasterClass, and Andela.

“If you’re going to partner with someone, make sure you have good partners,” Williams says. She also notes: “Make sure you have a great business plan on how to do it and how to structure it.”

The jewelry line, which Williams launched via Instagram last week, is produced in collaboration with K.P. Sanghvi, a global diamond manufacturer. Williams says the jewels are ethically sourced and conflict-free.

Serena Williams Jewelry marks a departure from the athlete’s eponymous clothing line, which launched in 2018 and sells moderately priced apparel—$30 for a T-shirt, $129 for a dress—directly to consumers via serenawilliams.com. The jewelry line will launch with Fred Meyer Jewelers online and in a handful of stores before expanding to jewelry retailers and department stores.

Williams admits that part of the appeal of partnering with K.V. Singh and retailers was to benefit from their deep knowledge about the jewelry business, where, she says, understanding consumer trends can make or break a company. “One thing that’s really big right now is a delicate look; we wanted to incorporate that in a strong way,” she says. “A lot of our stuff looks very soft and very delicate, but I wear this to train,” she says, smiling and tugging on her necklace, “and I’m probably training harder than the average person.”

Serena Ventures has set out to invest in companies with diverse leadership. The firm, along with Bumble‘s Bumble Fund (in which Williams is an advisor and investor), Female Founders Fund, Reign Ventures, BBG Ventures, and others, are among a relatively new crop of financiers focusing on funding women and people of color. Yet these underrepresented groups still get a fraction of all venture dollars: Firms led by female founders last year raised less than 3% of all venture capital, according to PitchBook; the most recent major study on African American founders and financing, now four years old, showed black founders raising less than 1% of venture capital.

advertisement

Williams offered a solution for ambitious female or diverse founders struggling to raise capital. “They should contact us,” she said. “We don’t write all the checks—not even close. But we can get you in touch with the Andreessen Horowitzes and Initialized Capitals of the world, who are writing those checks.” Andreessen Horowitz is the large venture firm founded by Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, and Initialized Capital was launched in 2012 by Garry Tan and Alexis Ohanian, Williams’s husband. She adds: “Who knows, maybe some day [we] will, too. The wheels are turning.”

advertisement
advertisement