Serena Williams was at TechCrunch Disrupt at the Moscone Center on Wednesday, discussing her future as a San Francisco-based venture capitalist, and what she looks for in founders.
As you may or may not be aware, Serena Williams's next chapter after being one of the most decorated tennis champions in history involves San Francisco and Silicon Valley. She has said that she wants bring more diversity to the VC space and to invest in underrepresented founders as much as possible.
Williams moved to the Bay Area at least part-time after marrying Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in 2017 and took a seat on the board of SurveyMonkey. She's since launched Serena Ventures, with the help of Founding General Partner Alison Rapaport Stillman. The firm has so far invested in about a dozen companies, including recipe marketplace Foody, shopping rewards platform Lolli, and carbon-offset credit platform Pachama.
As the SF Business Times reports, Williams appeared on stage today at TechCrunch Disrupt along with Sillman, and spoke about how she sees her career as a competitive tennis player translating to the world of VCs, and about how often she asks Ohanian for advice.
As the to the latter question, Williams says she asks very little of Ohanian, business-wise. (Ohanian currently runs his own VC firm out of Florida.)
"We don't talk about business, at all. No, not at all," Williams says. "I will ask him one question. I'll be like, tell me about this founder. Do you know this? Tell me about him. And he'll give me a whole plethora of information. Like, okay, thank you, all done. Back to the family life."
TechCrunch Deputy Editor Jordan Cook asked Williams right off the bat how the first month of her retirement from tennis is going, and Williams said it's been "interesting" and "weird."
After playing her last match at the U.S. Open in early September, Williams says she was in New York with Stillman "having tons of meetings, and it was really great because I didn't even really think about the whole retirement. I still haven't really thought about it." But, Williams added, she went out on the court the other day, and "I was like, 'Oh, for the first time in my life I'm not playing for a competition.' And it felt really weird."
I guess we should be on the lookout for her challenging random people to matches at the Dolores Park courts again!
Williams said that Serena Ventures plans to invest "very thoughtfully" in web3 (which is basically blockchain stuff and the metaverse), and she said, "I mean, this was actually created to create more opportunity, and it ended up being completely opposite — a bunch of white guys ended up completely separating it even more."
And as for looking out for founders to invest in, Williams says she's after diversity, yes, but mostly she's looking for passion. "I've found that usually when it's near and dear to you, and there's a space available for it, that's the winning combo," she said. "But if you're doing it because, oh, you see it's a great opportunity and it's… something that can be done here, then no matter how big and open it is, it generally is never as good as someone that really has something that they're actually passionate about."
TechCrunch Disrupt kicked off Tuesday at the Moscone Center, and it continues through Thursday.