Serena Williams may be all business when it comes to her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, but her personal life has inspired some major decisions in creating her portfolio.
“I met with this company, ‘Mommy and Me’ — which I invested in a while ago — and they are really bringing help and information to moms after they [give] birth,” the tennis icon told the crowd during an Advertising Week panel on Tuesday. “You get so much information before [having a baby], I was overloaded by what to do — so much so that I was frightened when it came time to give birth.”
“I was like, ‘You know what, I’m just not gonna do it.’ I was late, I was at my dad’s house and I was killing time. I think I was one of the few people who wanted to keep the baby inside,” she recalled. “I was so terrified, but one of the things that this particular company is doing is helping women, so that’s just a touch of what’s in our portfolio … it’s been fun to work on.”
The firm, which the 37-year-old got up and running in 2014, has also invested in food delivery brand Daily Harvest and tampon subscription service Lola. When starting out as an investor, Williams was specifically drawn to companies with female founders that she can relate to, she explained.
With stroller brand Colugo, she again credited being a mom to now-2-year-old Alexis for being a hands-on kind of investor.
“They just want design feedback and I throw my baby in it and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is so much better than that other stroller that I started to hate with all my heart. I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to work a stroller,’” she joked.
But to live up to the champion’s standards, hopeful entrepreneurs need to show their work ethic up front.
“You have to trust your instinct,” she said while chatting alongside Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan at the industry event. “We meet with different founders and if they don’t seem like they’re a reputable individual and they’re just in it for a quick run or they’re just in it because it’s cool to raise money or start a company — it’s so not cool, it’s a ton of work — if we see that you’re not really ready to put in those 20 hours sometimes a day, we understand that they may not be the company we want to invest in.”
In addition to her diverse investment portfolio, Williams also launched her fashion line — S by Serena Williams — last year and saw it recently get the New York Fashion Week treatment.
“That went beyond anything we could have ever dreamt of,” she said of seeing her designs on the coveted runway. “It was last minute, they were like, ‘We want you in New York Fashion Week,’ and I was like, ‘I get to show at New York Fashion Week! This is a dream come true! OK, how to do I get to Milan?’” she recalled thinking. “You know, I’m always thinking on the next level, so it’s been some tough days and some great days, but it’s business.”
Williams also sits on the boards of Verizon Media, Survey Monkey and Poshmark.