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Serena Williams, Karat’s champion of brilliance, discusses her transition from tennis to investing, and how she’s reinventing yet another game
“We want to build products for the communities we want to serve.” -Serena Williams at TechCrunch Disrupt.
It’s been a welcome return to in-person event season this fall, and naturally, Serena Williams, Karat’s champion of brilliance, didn’t disappoint in her first keynote appearance since retiring from tennis. At TechCrunch Disrupt, Serena shared insights on her investment thesis and the importance of empowering founders, investors, and practitioners.
Most noteworthy was Serena Ventures’ commitment to inclusion and empowerment, which goes beyond the founders they support. According to Allison Rapaport, a partner at Serena Ventures, 40% of the funds’ limited partners are women or people of color. Rapaport also shared that the fund prioritizes inclusion in all aspects of their open operations, recently using an all-women legal team to draw up the papers for an investment round.
Inclusion extended beyond the main stage as well. Our team was able to join a lively discussion about advocating for yourself and elevating others, hosted by the Women Attending Disrupt panel that morning. There were hundreds of women in attendance, and hearing the panelists speak about their experiences and how they navigated their careers while also learning to advocate for themselves and support other women was inspiring.
That type of active inclusion is critical to expanding diversity in tech and creating a more equitable wealth-creation engine. This reinforced the key message from the previous session featuring entertainer and investor, Kevin Hart. “30% of venture deals are secured with people who already built a relationship,” shared Michael Elanjian, Head of Digital Investment Banking & Digital Private Markets at J.P. Morgan, which makes access at all levels of business and technology paramount–not just for increasing diversity, but for creating value.
Simply putting his money to work wasn’t enough for Kevin, who noted the importance of his working relationship with HartBeat Fund partner, Robert Roman. Roman, Hart explained, “understands that I needed to understand, and that let me learn how I can add value.”
Another important area of focus for Serena was failure. Learning from failure is near and dear to our hearts as we scale the Brilliant Black Minds practice interview program with our Partners of Brilliance.
As Williams put it, failing is “a great opportunity to learn. I don’t even like the word failure. I feel like it should be called, ‘I had an opportunity to learn.” That’s what it should be called to me because I feel like that really creates the very next best thing.”
Check out Serena’s full session below and click through to our Brilliant Black Minds homepage to hear more about her mission to double the number of Black engineers in tech!