Serena Williams’ “secret” venture capital portfolio includes one of Africa’s best-known startups

Grand slam champion by day, investor by night.
Grand slam champion by day, investor by night.
Image: Reuters/Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Andela, the developer training and outsourcing company with operations in four African countries, already has a high-powered roll call of  investors including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and a former US vice president.

It turns out Serena Williams, the 23-time tennis Grand Slam champion, is another.

Through Serena Ventures, an investment fund founded in 2014 which has remained secret until an Instagram post this week, Williams has backed 30 companies across e-commerce, fashion and social good.

Part of the company’s thesis, Serena wrote, is backing companies “that embrace diverse leadership, individual empowerment, creativity and opportunity.” And Andela ticks all of those boxes. With a diverse team of co-founders and executives as well as local lead directors in countries where it operates, Andela admits budding African developers into a highly selective program (it has an admission rate of 1%), trains them to become globally competitive and outsources them to global companies in need of development talent.

It’s a model that’s proven enough to win significant investor backing with Andela among the best funded start-ups in Africa. Its $100 million Series D round, which Serena Ventures participated in earlier this year, is one of the largest ever single rounds raised by an African-focused tech company and brought the total venture funding raised by the company to $180 million.

Alongside Andela, Serena Ventures has also backed Coinbase, the San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange, Masterclass, the online learning platform and Wave, a remittance service that’s available in five African countries.

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech and innovation in your inbox