It turns out tennis champion and philanthropist Serena Williams has been running her own Venture Capital company, Serena Ventures, investing in technology startups since 2014. Among some notable investments that Serena Ventures has made is in Andela - the company that is traing African youth to become software developers and place them on projects once they are ready.

Williams made the revelation via an Instagram post in which she emphasized that Serena Ventures invests in companies that embrace diverse leadership, and individual empowerment.

"In 2014, (yes I know I can keep a secret) I launched Serena Ventures with the mission of giving opportunities to founders across an array of industries. Serena Ventures invests in companies that embrace diverse leadership, individual empowerment, creativity and opportunity.Slide right to see a few brands in our portfolio. We have so many exciting things coming up!"

Some of the investments that Serena Williams' Serena Ventures has made.

What makes an African startup, African?

For several weeks there has been a debate going on in Africa's technology startup ecosystem about whether e-commerce giant JUMIA, which recently had a succesful listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), is African or not. The debate has been clearly split between two groupings: one that says that JUMIA is not African given its headquarters, CEOs, majority shareholders, and key staff; on the other hand you have people who say it is African given that it was initially JUMIA Nigeria which was run by Africans and the fact that it does all its business on the continent. For me, the more important question is does it matter?

In the context of Andela, and Serena Williams investing in it, it was co-founded by Nigerian Iyinoluwa Aboyeji (who has since left the company) and it trains African youth to become software developers and become employable. More importantly, Andela has grown from strength to strength as witnessed also by its last $40 million Series C funding round led by CRE Ventures, helping Andela expand across Africa. In the global technology and finance world we live in, state lines are rather blurred.

As far as Serena Ventures is concerned, along with Serena Williams, Alison Rapaport is Vice President and oversees portfolio management and sourcing new investments. Alison previously worked at J.P. Morgan Asset Management in Multi- Asset Solutions and led the development of the firm’s Alternative Beta offering.


Cover image credit: Serena Williams wins Olympic gold. Wikimedia Commons

Share this article via: