Serena Williams backs Andela

Serena Williams backs Andela

Tennis champion founded Serena Ventures in 2014 to invest in innovative companies across various industries.

Tennis champion Serena Williams revealed details of her secret investment fund last week, with Africa-focused coding accelerator Andela one of its portfolio companies.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion announced in an Instagram post she had founded Serena Ventures in 2014 to invest in innovative companies across various industries.

Though the fund has remained a closely-guarded secret since then, it has so far invested in 30 companies, among them cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, ed-tech platform Masterclass, remittances company Wave, nutrition company OLLY and haircare startup The Wing.

Also on the list is Nigeria-based Andela, which is also active in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and helps solve global tech talent shortages by building distributed engineering teams using African software developers.

The company secured a US$100-million Series D round in January 2019, which made it one of the best-funded African tech start-ups ever after taking its total secured funding to more than US$180-million. This was the round Serena Ventures participated in.

Andela, which in the last four years has hired 1,000 developers out of more than 100,000 applicants, already counts amongst its investors a number of other celebrities, most notably Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg - via the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative - and former United States vice president Al Gore, who is chairman of Generation Investment Management, which led January's Series D round.

The latest funding will see Andela accelerate the development of its technology platform to identify, develop and match talent at scale, increasing its presence and impact across Africa.

Given its goals, it is a sensible fit for Serena Ventures based on Williams' description of its approach to investing.

"In 2014, (yes I know I can keep a secret) I launched Serena Ventures with the mission of giving opportunities to founders across an array of industries. Serena Ventures invests in companies that embrace diverse leadership, individual empowerment, creativity and opportunity," she said in the post.

"Serena Ventures focuses on early-stage companies, and giving them the opportunity to be heard. As we grow, we hope to mentor young founders and take burgeoning entrepreneurs to the next level. Serena Ventures extends relationships, encourages collaboration among portfolio companies, and expands partnership opportunities across my vast network. Similar to many of the companies we have invested in, we are just getting started and are hoping to make a difference."