Less than 1% of American venture capital-backed founders are Black. In 2018 firms led by women received only 2.2% of all venture funds. There is a serious problem in the venture capital space and ultimately, Black people are suffering because of it. As always, a Black woman is stepping up to do something about it. Tennis star Serena Williams has publicly launched her firm, Serena Ventures, to focus on early-stage investments in startups led by people of color and women.
Serena Ventures has already invested in more than 30 companies, including the Wing, MasterClass, and Brandless. Serena Ventures has quietly been investing in companies since 2014, in fact. On her Instagram page Williams announced, “I launched Serena Ventures with the mission of giving opportunities to founders across an array of industries.” Serena Ventures will also work to mentor young founders and emerging entrepreneurs. This mentorship aspect is critical and somewhat unique. For entrepreneurs who’ve traditionally been left out of the venture space, having knowledge and a network is extremely important, beyond having access to capital.
Serena is arguably the best tennis player of all time. She is now a wife and mother. Still, this latest move brings her legacy even further. Ideas and creativity are abundant in the world. Black entrepreneurs certainly have no lack. It is the access to capital in order to build and scale these ideas, however, that separate hustlers from those who make the covers of business publications. Venture capitalists operate as gatekeepers in many ways, deciding which companies will be given a shot to grow and bring their goods and services to the masses. Without Black people at the gate, far too few Black founders will find their way past the entrance.
According to the company’s website, Serena Ventures will provide funding for early-stage companies that value “individual empowerment, creativity and opportunity.” Those values are very much aligned with our community and the entrepreneurs it produces. We look forward to many more Black founders being able to introduce themselves to the world, thanks to the vision of Serena Ventures.