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March 1, 2022

Partnering with Serena Ventures Fund to Support Founder Diversity

business meeting

We are thrilled to announce our investment in Serena Ventures Fund I. The firm, whose inaugural fund raised $111 million, is a leader in backing diverse founders who are solving problems for diverse communities. Partnering with Serena Ventures aligns with our broader commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

The firm is led by tennis star Serena Williams and partner Alison Rapaport Stillman, CFA. Fund I is the culmination of extensive personal investments that Serena has built over the years, accelerated by Alison’s arrival in 2018. Serena has backed big winners across tech and consumer businesses, including household names such as Billie, Masterclass, and Daily Harvest.

Serena is legendary not only as a tennis player but also as an advocate for underrepresented communities in business. She has allocated 61 percent of her personal investments to funding founders of color and 57 percent to female founders. As a result, founders of all backgrounds turn to Serena Ventures at the earliest stages of growth. Serena Ventures has demonstrated a commitment to supporting diverse founders from Day 1, helping ignite powerful change in the world.

When a company is little more than a vision, it’s particularly important for the founder to find investment partners who understand deeply the opportunity ahead. Serena is uniquely suited to offer that type of guidance to founders across industries, given her board experience at Poshmark, Survey Monkey, and Spring Hill Entertainment as well as her extensive endorsement deals. As consumer companies across the board face rising customer acquisition costs, brand and organic acquisition become increasingly important. Serena and her team are uniquely positioned to help companies think through efficient growth from the start.

Our investment in Serena Ventures is the latest example of a much broader commitment to DEI at Norwest. This commitment extends to how we hire, how we make investment decisions, and how we support our portfolio companies. As of August 2020, Crunchbase found that Black and Latinx founders raised just 2.6 percent of the total $87.3 billion in funding that had gone to all founders for the year. Crunchbase also found that during the first eight months of 2021 only 2.2 percent of all venture funding went to companies founded solely by women. It is our responsibility to make positive change on these fronts.

There is a long road ahead to ensure equitable access to capital for founders of all backgrounds, but Serena’s growing team reflects her commitment to reaching that goal. We’ve known Alison for years, and it’s been a joy to see her institutionalize this fund and hire such a powerful team.

The entire Norwest team extends a big congratulations to Serena Ventures. We are excited to support their mission and expand access to capital for a more diverse set of founders.