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Get an inside look at Serena Ventures, from our founders and investments to special projects and events.
KID-FOCUSED SHORT VIDEO APP ZIGAZOO LAUNCHES A TIKTOK COMPETITOR FOR GEN Z
Zigazoo, the startup known for its TikTok-style video-sharing app for kids, is launching a separate app targeted at Gen Z users. The new app will take the flagship name and is meant for ages 13 and older, whereas the original kid-focused app is for Generation Alpha (3-12) and has been rebranded to “Zigazoo Kids.” Previous users in the younger age range will be automatically migrated to Zigazoo Kids. Zigazoo is invite-only and launched on Saturday, March 25.
ESUSU PARTNERS WITH SURE TO OFFER RENTER'S INSURANCE TO ITS NATIONWIDE COMMUNITY
Sure, the insurance technology leader that unlocks the potential of digital insurance, today announced it has partnered with Esusu, the leading financial technology company leveraging rent reporting for credit building, to offer renters insurance through the Esusu Renters Marketplace. Esusu... is now using Sure's digital insurance infrastructure to provide renters insurance to the millions of Americans shut out of the financial system.
SERENA VENTURES BACKS SOLO FUNDS AS FINANCE PLATFORM TOPS 1M REGISTERED USERS
SoLo Funds has acquired over 1 million registered users and over 1.3 million downloads to make it “the largest and first Black-owned personal finance platform” to do so, Rodney Williams, co-founder and president of SoLo, told TechCrunch. The community finance company defines the claim “as a business-to-consumer personal finance banking solution, U.S.-based and Black-owned with registered users or downloads above 1 million. Black-owned is defined as Black majority ownership.”
STEARS SWITCHES ON NIGERIA’S FIRST REAL-TIME ELECTIONS TRACKER FOR THE 2023 POLLS
In 2019, an interactive map and dashboard created by Stears, a data and media company, displayed results in near real-time as they were announced by INEC, Nigeria’s elections organizer. It was the first such platform for election results in Africa’s largest democracy. Fresh from a recently closed $3.3 million round of funding in which Serena Williams’ venture capital fund participated, Stears has relaunched the election service on November 7th ahead of the coming polls.
HOW ESUSU’S COFOUNDERS TURNED 326 REJECTIONS (AND A LONG NIGHT OUT IN THE COLD) INTO A UNICORN
On this episode of Fortune‘s Leadership Next podcast, co-hosts Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt talk with Esusu cofounder and co-CEO Wemimo Abbey, who earned a spot on the 2022 Fortune 40 Under 40 list. They discuss the company’s business model—which helps renters and lower-income Americans build their credit while maintaining secure housing—and what drives its success. They also cover what Abbey and Esusu’s cofounder and co-CEO, Samir Goel, went through on the way to turning the company into a unicorn.
TEAL HEALTH ANNOUNCES AN $8.8M ROUND TO TACKLE CERVICAL CANCER
Female-focused telehealth startup, Teal Health, is popping up today to announce an $8.8 million seed round with a roster of heavy-hitting investors on board — including Serena Williams’ Serena Ventures, Chelsea Clinton’s Metrodora Ventures, and Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective. The February 2020-founded San Francisco-based startup’s first product will be a service that supports women to collect their own samples for cervical cancer screening in the comfort of their own homes.
ZITTI SOAKS UP SOME FUNDING SAUCE SO RESTAURANTS CAN MANAGE THEIR FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN
“Our objective to save [restaurants] money on their food costs... ideally many times over, so it’s been received incredibly well,” [Founder and CEO Dante DiCicco] added. “We’ve already had a significant amount of conversions from our pilot group to become customers.” The company is now back with $3.5 million in a seed round co-led by Oceans Ventures and Serena Ventures with Crossbeam, its pre-seed investor, also participating.
SERENA WILLIAMS BETS ON THE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR TOPICAL PAIN RELIEF MARKET WITH A NEW COMPANY
“My trainer said, ‘He who recovers best is the one who wins,’” Williams said, according to Forbes. “We all as athletes are putting our body on the line every single day. It’s so important to be able to recover.” The tennis star felt her latest venture was timely because in all her years of playing on the field, there seemed to never be the right product to relieve her soreness. Now, she is betting on herself to find the solutions she wishes existed during her time.
JUNO RAISES MILLIONS TO PROVIDE FAMILY-FIRST HEALTHCARE FROM INGLEWOOD TO HARLEM
Hinson, Juno’s founder and CEO and a physician by trade, is building a healthcare model that offers in-person care in diverse neighborhoods across the country. The startup’s modern take on a healthcare visit means that it competes with heavyweights such as One Medical and CityBlock Health. But that hasn’t stopped investors from recently leading a $12 million Series A in the startup, a round co-led by Serena Ventures and NEXT VENTŪRES.
ELLE FEATURE: I USED AN AI SOFTWARE TO MAKE A WIG
Like everything else in life, Black women are obliged to deal with the limitations imposed upon them. And when it comes to the wig-buying procedure, this includes limited parting space, low, thin hair density from root to ends, and a significant amount of shedding. There was a new lesson to be learned for every unskilled overseas vendor who was uninterested in learning about the market and consumers they were selling to.
UNICORNS: DIGITIZING AFRICAN ECONOMIES IN A NEW ERA
Wemimo Abbey, co-founder of Esusu, a company which reports rent payments to major credit bureaus helping renters establish their credit scores and owners maximize returns, says the company was born out of personal struggles. Wemimo grew up in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria, and was raised by his mother, along with two sisters, after his father passed away when he was just two years old. Despite having less than a secondary school education, his mother ensured he went to one of the best high schools they could find. This took the family from the lush tropical climate of Lagos to the freezing climes of Minnesota in the US.
SERENA VENTURES JOINS MaC TO BACK NIGERIAN DATA FIRM STEARS
“One of the main reasons I invested in Stears is not because of my love and appreciation for Africa, but because Stears has strategically thought of how to increase the investment community on the continent,” Williams said in an emailed statement. “They’re aware of the complexities and have leverage with data and technology and I truly respect what they’re doing.”
HALP, THE DIGITAL STUDY ABROAD COACHING PLATFORM, RAISES $4M LED BY LERER HIPPEAU AND SERENA VENTURES
“Halp makes learning accessible for everyone, starting with international admissions coaching,” said Matthew McLellan, co-founder, and CEO of Halp. “Studying abroad is a catalyst to evening the global socio-economic playing field. We help students manage the entire journey on-platform, supported by a personal coach - for free. We make the experience simple, online, affordable, and more effective. Halp drives above-market placement rates and allows students to graduate with less debt - at scale.”
YC-BACKED FINTECH NUMIDA RAISES $12.3M LED BY SERENA VENTURES TO EXTEND LOANS TO MSMEs BEYOND UGANDA
Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) across Africa make up the bulk — over 90% — of businesses in the continent but are still marginalized in accessing credit from formal institutions because of the nature of their operations. To bridge the gap, Uganda-based fintech Numida has opted to focus its digital lending business on small enterprises as part of its strategy for driving financial inclusion in emerging markets.
JUSTINE SKYE TAPS INTO THE $13B WIG INDUSTRY STARTING WITH A COLLECTION UNDER PARFAIT, A BLACK-OWNED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WIG BRAND
Justine Skye is tapping into the $13 billion wig industry with the help of Parfait, a Black-owned artificial intelligence wig brand. The singer will be launching a line in partnership with Parfait to bring you the best wigs in the game.
ALISON STILLMAN, SERENA WILLIAMS' CO-INVESTOR, SHARES WHAT COMES NEXT FOR THE ATHLETE’S VENTURE FIRM
“I feel like I go to sleep getting messages from her and wake up getting messages from her,” says Alison Rapaport Stillman, who is Serena Ventures’ general partner. “Nothing’s going to replace what tennis was for her, but as she’s thinking about what’s next—it’s exciting to see her as passionate about this as you see her on the court.”
SELENA GOMEZ’S MENTAL HEALTH STARTUP WONDERMIND GETS $100 MILLION VALUATION
A startup cofounded by Selena Gomez, Wondermind, is raising funds at a valuation of $100 million as it looks to capitalize on a boom in the mindfulness trend. Tennis icon Serena Williams’s venture fund, Serena Ventures, led the $5 million early-stage round.
SHOPPINGGIVES EARNS SHOPIFY PLUS CERTIFICATION
ShoppingGives, the social impact commerce platform that is recognized as a top solution for eCommerce and omnichannel brands to create purposeful and profitable customer relationships, today announced that its Shopify app has received Shopify Plus Certification. This certification recognizes ShoppingGives' ongoing 5-star reviews and excellent customer support infrastructure as well as the technology's top-tier security and technical performance.
ESUSU CO-FOUNDER WEMIMO ABBEY ANNOUNCED AS PART OF THE 2022 CLASS OF BLOOMBERG NEW ECONOMY CATALYSTS
Founded in 2021, Bloomberg New Economy Catalysts are a global community of public and private sector innovators, visionaries, scientists, policymakers and entrepreneurs who are radically reshaping the new economy.
SERENA WILLIAMS TALKS INVESTING, BUILDING ON SUCCESS AT CINCINNATI'S BLACK TECH WEEK
Hundreds of techies from around the country gathered at Cincinnati Musical Hall for the highlight of the annual Black Tech Week conference. Serena Williams, arguably the greatest female tennis player ever, talked about her newest venture: funding startups.
LILLII RNB CLOSES $3M SEED ROUND WITH FUNDING FROM SERENA VENTURES AND APERTURE VENTURES CAPITAL TO ACCELERATE GROWTH
Lillii RNB Inc., a retail fraud detection, prevention, and data services firm, today announced the closing of its $3 million seed round co-led by Serena Ventures and Aperture Venture Capital. Lillii RNB’s proprietary Returns Management and Total Retail Loss platform, Freeing ReturnsTM, assists retailers in optimizing their returns processes and identifying fraud and loss that is hidden in their own data. Lillii RNB’s mission is to greatly reduce the over $400B in retail loss that retailers experience each year.
CALICO ATTRACTS SERENA WILLIAMS TO $2.1M SEED TO BUILD
FASHION SUPPLY CHAIN SOFTWARE
A few years ago Kathleen Chan, the CEO and founder of Calico, launched a couple of small fashion companies, but as those companies scaled quickly with the help of Shopify and Facebook ads, she noted a lack of tools to help her manage the back office of a business specifically geared to fashion.
WEB3 STARTUP NESTCOIN RAISES $6.45M IN PRE-SEED CAPITAL TO MAKE CRYPTO MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR AFRICA
Nestcoin, a global web3 startup, has raised $6.45 million in pre-seed capital, according to a press release. The Nigeria-based company aims to make crypto accessible primarily in frontier markets and their new funding will go toward their mission.
CREDIT BUILDING STARTUP ESUSU REACHES UNICORN STATUS, GIVING BOOST TO BOTH DIVERSE FOUNDERS AND RENTERS
With a $130 million Series B announced this morning, credit building platform Esusu broke the billion-dollar valuation barrier, making it one of the few startups with a Black founder to reach unicorn status. In the last decade, less than 2% of the unicorns that have emerged in the U.S. have Black founders.
FOODY COOKS UP MARKETPLACE FOR CULINARY CREATORS
Husband-and-wife co-founders Daniel and Brenna Stitzel are developing a way for foodies to monetize their culinary creations and closed on a round of $1.5 million in pre-seed funding to officially launch Foody.
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