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‘I Am Not Retired,’ Says Serena Williams at First Appearance Since U.S. Open Farewell

Written by Kevin V. NguyenPublished Oct. 19, 2022 • 2:42pm
Founding & Managing Partner of Serena Ventures Serena Williams speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt 2022 on October 19, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

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Last month, Serena Williams—arguably the greatest female tennis player ever—got the type of send-off in New York that sure felt like a final farewell. But she’s not ruling out a return to competitive tennis. 

“I am not retired,” Williams said. “The chances [of me returning] are very high. You can come to my house and [see] I have a court.”

The 41-year-old global superstar made her first public appearance since her memorable U.S. Open send-off at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco on Wednesday. Williams came to promote her investment company, Serena Ventures, which raised $111 million in outside funding this year. 

“I started this company a while ago, so I just jumped right into that,” Williams told TechCrunch editor Jordan Crook in front of a packed audience. “I didn’t even think about the whole retirement.

“I still haven’t really thought about it. But I did go on the court the other day and [realized] for the first time in my life that I’m not playing for a competition and that felt very weird,” Williams continued. “It was like the first day of the rest of my life, and so far, I am enjoying it. But I’m still trying to find that balance.”

Founding & Managing Partner of Serena Ventures Alison Rapaport Stillman (left), Founding & Managing Partner of Serena Ventures Serena Williams (center), and TechCrunch Deputy Editor Jordan Crook (right) speak onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt 2022 on October 19, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

William’s post-tennis life started long before she stopped playing. Five years ago, she partnered with former J.P. Morgan portfolio manager Alison Rapaport Stillman to launch her venture capital firm, which she said is focused on investing in consumer-facing technology that serves women and people of color. 

According to Williams and her firm, 78% of Serena Venture’s portfolio is made up of companies started by those underrepresented groups, with companies that include Tonal, Impossible Foods, Noom and Esusu, to name a few. 

“It was supposed to be about creating opportunities for others,” Williams said. “But it ended up being sort of the opposite. 

“We’re looking for founders with a personal connection to the problem they are trying to solve,” Williams added. “I want to know that [the founder] is not doing this to fill in a space or take advantage of an opportunity, but because it is near and dear to them.” 

When asked about how she reconciles her fiery on-court persona with that of the investing world, where gratification isn’t always immediate, Williams said that the two are polar opposites. 

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“The tennis [Serena] is very intense, but as I got older, the meaning of my name has enveloped me,” Williams said. “I am very calm and chill.

“I waited 17 years to win my first Grand Slam,” she said jokingly. “So I can wait.” 

Should she not play competitively again, Williams is already one of the wealthiest athletes in the world. She maintains a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nike that goes beyond her playing career and, recently, even netted her the biggest building on the company’s campus. She is also married to Alexis Ohanian, the cofounder of Reddit, and the two have a young daughter together. 

Williams’ discussion at the tech conference was preceded by actor and comedian Kevin Hart, who was also promoting his own firm. Her appearance drew so many viewers that security had to block the entrance to stop more people from coming in. 

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Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at [email protected]


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