🗒️ Serena Williams will retire from tennis with a $260 million net worth and GOAT status. Next up: Her $111 million venture capital fund with nearly 60 investments
Fortune: In a Vogue feature published Tuesday morning, tennis icon and 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams announced that she would be retiring from the sport to focus on family—and her venture capital firm, Serena Ventures.
“I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” she wrote for Vogue. She says raising her daughter, Olympia, has never felt like a sacrifice the way tennis has. “These days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”
Across a decades-long career that began when she was 5 years old, Williams, who turns 41 next month, has amassed an unrivaled track record. She won her first Grand Slam singles event at age 17 in 1999, and, with her sister Venus, has won 14 Grand Slam women’s doubles events. In the 2012 Olympics, Williams nabbed the singles tennis gold medal; she and Venus have three Olympic gold medals for doubles. The Women’s Tennis Association currently ranks her the No. 1 singles player in the world.
In 2017, Williams was the only woman to make Forbes’s list of the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes, coming in at No. 51. On last year’s list, she jumped to 28th place. With a $260 million net worth, and over $94.5 million awarded in prize money, she is the highest-earning female athlete of all time.
Fortune: Over the past few months, the startup community has been hit particularly hard by economic uncertainty. Following unprecedented losses, SoftBank signaled that they would cut headcount and exit stakes in some of their most noteworthy investments. Leading venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital and Y Combinator have issued stark warnings to founders telling them to brace for a serious market downturn. These rare public statements are a harbinger for trouble: As venture capital funding dries up, many startups will not survive.
I’ve founded and led four startups to successful exits over the course of my career, and I’ve seen how quickly market downturns can reshape the startup landscape. We know the pain that existing startups will go through over the next few months, but what about founders who are only now launching a new business? Is there any hope for VC funding, or should they instead try to do it themselves and bootstrap the business?
Today’s founders are in a better position to bootstrap their business than those of us who launched companies 20 years ago. There are no longer significant capital requirements to buy premises or equipment, as it’s far more feasible to build a company on nights and weekends while renting computers from AWS or Azure for pennies.
Building a business the old-fashioned way–where you don’t spend a dollar until you have a dollar in revenue–may be a foreign concept to today’s founders, but it’s more viable than ever as we enter a period of economic turbulence.
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Fast Company: Did you ever have to write a letter to your younger self at school? It’s a humbling feeling to look back and wonder what you wish you could have communicated to your past self.
As I develop my next venture, 2045 Studio, I realize how much more I know now than eight years ago, when I quit my job in finance and took a terrific gamble on my career.
When I started building my first business, Jopwell, I knew I was up against difficult odds. For one, I had never started a business before (I was only 24!). I was not (and still am not) an engineer. And I was going to be a Black founder.
That last point means that I belong to a group that, at the time, received less than 1% of venture capital funds. In 2021, 8 years later, that number had only increased to 1.4%.
Another obstacle at that time which still exists today was the lack of representation at the investor level. Black investors make up only 3% of the VC industry. In a survey conducted by BLCK VC, 90% of firms with more than seven investors didn’t have a single Black investor on their team. In an industry that is driven by personal connections and relationships – whether you’re an investor or a founder – the disparities in venture capital allocation are clearly tied to who is signing the checks for whom.
MidWest Con: DisruptArt and the Art Academy of Cincinnati are honoured to host you in the city of Cincinnati for an intimate weekend of education, networking, and conversation focused on the impact of blockchain across industries. I will be speaking on 2 panels there.