From tennis player to venture capitalist: Serena Williams’ career arc

in one Fashion In a feature published Tuesday morning, tennis icon and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams announced she was retiring from the sport to focus on her family and venture capital firm Serena Ventures.

“I’m evolving away from tennis towards other things that are important to me,” she wrote for Fashion. She says raising her daughter Olympia has never felt like a sacrifice like tennis has. “Today, if I have to choose between building my tennis resume and building my family, I’ll choose the latter.”

In her decade-long career that began at the age of 5, Williams, who turns 41 next month, has built an unrivaled track record. She won her first Grand Slam singles tournament in 1999 at the age of 17 and has won 14 Grand Slam women’s doubles tournaments with her sister Venus. At the 2012 Olympics, Williams snatched the individual tennis gold medal; She and Venus have three Olympic gold medals in doubles. The Women’s Tennis Association currently ranks her as the top singles player in the world.

In 2017, Williams was the only woman to make it to number 51 on the Forbes list of the 100 highest paid athletes in the world. She jumped to number 28 on last year’s list. With a net worth of $260 million and over $94.5 million in prize money, she is the highest-earning female athlete of all time.

From the court to the corner office

While Williams didn’t set a firm end date for her tennis career, she suggested in an Instagram post that the US Open, which begins later this month in Queens, New York, could be her final tournament. “The countdown has begun,” she wrote. “I will enjoy these next few weeks.”

She has slowly shifted her balance towards Serena Ventures, she wrote in her Fashion Article: “Each morning I’m so excited to walk down the stairs to my office, hop on Zooms, and start reviewing the decks of companies we’d like to invest in.”

Williams says she’s fallen in love with pre-seed and early-stage seed financing since making her first investments nearly a decade ago. She was one of the early investors in online education subscription platform MasterClass – one of the 16 unicorns her company has funded – alongside Impossible Foods, Tonal and French NFT company Sorare.

“Think of Sorare as a new revenue stream [for female athletes]’ Williams said wealth in a January interview. “It can have a huge impact on women’s sport; Collecting, trading or supporting the teams and favorite players really brings so much more than ever. As a consultant, I see a lot of emerging companies… it’s exciting and it’s going to be so impactful.”

The businesses Williams has backed are largely hallmarks of the career she’s leaving behind: health, wellness and athletics. Serena Ventures’ team of six has raised $111 million in debt financing so far in 2022. The company has made 55 investments so far. Almost 80% of the portfolio are women and minority-founded companies, “because that’s who we are,” she wrote.

She’s name-checked a handful of female inspirations, including Billie Jean King, former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Clear Secure CEO Caryn Seidman-Becker, who Williams credits with letting her know women only get 2% of venture capital.

“I kind of understood then and there that someone who looks like me has to start writing the big checks. Sometimes like attracts like,” Williams wrote. “Men write these big checks out to each other, and for us to change that, more people who look like me need to get into this position and give themselves money back.”

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