Serena Williams sends 4am message and fulfils ‘evolve’ promise with milestone

Serena Williams bids farewell to tennis after US Open defeat

Serena Williams has been used to succeeding against the odds throughout her career, but now the 23-time Grand Slam champion is making remarkable strides as a venture capitalist. The 41-year-old announced her retirement from tennis last September, via an article in Vogue magazine, where she confirmed that she was “evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me”.

Those things included spending more time with her family but also developing further into the world of venture capital, much like her husband and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian.

Williams started providing funds for startups 10 years ago and thanks to her endeavour, network and resources, she has now built a significant portfolio. Her company, Serena Ventures, closed a $111m (£89.3m) debut fund last Spring.

Having spent 319 weeks as number one in the world of tennis, she is now ranked ranking fourth on Insider’s Seed 30 list of top female investors and 73rd on the Seed 100 list, according to Business Insider.

But what really makes William’s super-successful venture tick is her focus on traditionally overlooked founders. More than half of the companies in her portfolio are founded by women and 47% of its founders are black.

Wemimo Abbey, a cofounder of the fintech startup Esusu, explained how invested Williams is in her clients after describing a message she took from the sporting superstar in the middle of the night.

Abbey told Business Insider: “I’m like, ‘Wait, Serena Williams is thinking about Esusu at 4 in the morning. This is really cool. That’s how you know you made it.”

Esusu allows minorities and immigrants to boost their credit scores by reporting their rent payments to major credit bureaus. It is precisely the type of startup that Williams has built her venture capitalist reputation on.

She told Insider in an email: “Coming from a sports background and a sport that was an individual one, I’ve developed a habit of trusting my gut. So when it came to venture and founders, it wasn’t hard to apply it. I also know what it looks like to be incredibly talented and not given the exposure because of the colour of your skin. It’s another reason I love investing — to close that gap.”

Williams’ portfolio of angel and fund investments includes no less than 90 companies in which she made early investments. 16 of them have gone on to have valuations in excess of $1billionn.

Her move from sport into venture capitalism is an unusual one, but she decided to ramp up her activity in investing when she discovered that only 2% of venture capital in the US goes to female founders.

Williams wrote in Vogue: “I kind of understood then and there that someone who looks like me needs to start writing the big checks.”

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