ImpactAlpha, April 22 – Tennis mega-star Serena Williams has (not-so-quietly) invested millions over the last five years into dozens of diverse-led and impactful startups. Last week, Williams formally unveiled the full portfolio of Serena Ventures, which “invests in companies that embrace diverse leadership, individual empowerment, creativity and opportunity,” according to its website.
There’s Mayvenn, the online marketplace for hair extensions that puts extra income into the pockets of hairdressers. And Lola, a maker of organic tampons and sexual health products. There’s also Propel, a Brooklyn startup digitizing food stamps and other financial services for low-income Americans, and Andela, which trains and hires African coders to fill global companies’ technical skills gaps.
Impossible Foods, whose plant-based burger is going viral, is in the portfolio, as is Brandless, which makes “better-for-you” products more affordable by connecting suppliers directly with customers. Sixty percent of the firms in the portfolio are led by a diverse founder.
Williams is backing diverse founders through funds as well. Last month she invested in the venture fund of dating app Bumble, Bumble Fund, which backs early-stage businesses founded and led by women of color.
Williams’ teammate in Serena Ventures is Alison Rapaport, ex- of J.P. Morgan Asset Management, who oversees portfolio management and sourcing new investments.