Serena’s Big Swing
By Alan Soclof
3 BIG STORIES
1. Serena’s Big Swing
Serena Williams venture fund, Serena Ventures, raised $111M. The company’s fund will focus on FinTech, marketplaces, Web3, and others.
Serena has been an angel investor for 9 years in pre-seed and Series A rounds and has quite the track record. She’s invested in 13 unicorns and has seen 6 exits.
Some of these investments include:
- Daily Harvest
- Wheels Up
And many more.
Who is the biggest winner with this raise?
Serena Ventures currently has 50+ portfolio companies and a whopping 60% of them have founders of a diverse background.
There is nothing I love more than when capitalism is a vehicle for positive change and the world will become a significantly better place now that Serena has $111M to invest.
Side note: Remember who Serena’s husband is? Alexis Ohanian, Founder & former CEO & of Reddit and now GP of Seven Seven Six Ventures.
This leads to my most confident prediction yet:
Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. (their four-year-old daughter) will not have to worry about money.
2. An Epic Bandcamp
Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, announced the acquisition of Bandcamp, an online music shop that supports independent musicians. The terms of the deal were not announced.
Since its inception in 2008, BandCamp has earned independent musicians over $1B. Musicians receive ~82% of revenue earned on the platform, a strong contrast to the likes of Apple Music and Spotify.
What is Epic’s angle here? Why would they acquire a music company?
Concerts in the metaverse, baby.
Epic Games shared their desire to be THE Metaverse destination, which they see as a “multi-trillion dollar” opportunity.
Concerts are a big part of this equation and Fortnite has already seen serious success in this medium. Both Travis Scott and Marshmello each had over 10M digital attendees.
The issue with these concerts is there likely was a significant cost to secure high-end talent. Enter Bandcamp, where there is a plethora of phenomenal talent at a much more reasonable cost.
The acquisition will enable Epic to have a strong, consistent pipeline of performances and benefit from the upside of turning these artists into stars.
Prediction: WIthin the next couple of years, there will be concerts weekly in Fortnite Land.
3. Shares’ Late Push
Shares, a stock trading app with a specific focus on social features, has announced a $40M Series A led by Valar Ventures as well as the official launch of their app in the UK.
Shares is jumping into an incredibly populated space in the UK and the rest of Europe where there are strong incumbents like:
- Trade Republic—$5B valuation, more than 1M customers, and 400 employees
- FreeTrade—~€650M valuation, more than 1M users in October of 2021 and 300 employees
So how could someone showing up to the party this late succeed?
WhatsApp. Well, sort of.
Within the Shares app there is a phenomenal feature that Trade Republic and FreeTrade do not have: a group chatting platform that resembles WhatsApp incredibly closely.
I think the social component will be a significant attraction for new users, and the simplicity of it will be huge too.
Gone are the days when a friend manages 9 of their other friends’ portfolios. Everyone can just hop in the chat!
Prediction: Shares will be a massive winner or the incumbents will adopt the WhatsApp-like feature too
CHART OF THE DAY
The Bigger CVC Picture
- There was a lot of interest from the readers around CVCs from the last edition, so I wanted to zoom out and give a more macro view
- The number of mega rounds from CVC in 2020 has more than 3xd since 2017
- Amount of money invested by CVCs nearly doubled to $73.1M from 2017 to 2020
- We should expect the 2021 numbers from CB Insights later this spring!
What They Do: Created the world’s first diamonds made from atmospheric carbon
Amount Raised: $18M Series A
Lead Investors: Helena
Why It Matters: The diamond industry is massive. In 2019, the value of polished diamonds sold was $26.7B globally.
The best sales point for Aether is the fact that their diamond manufacturing process has a net negative carbon footprint. Pretty cool.
The push into sustainability is amazing and real, but I don’t know if consumers will be looking to buy anything other than a real deal diamond for their special day. That’s my concern with Aether.
What They Do: Market data platform for the subscription economy
Amount Raised: $10M Series A
Lead Investors: Bertelsmann Media Ventures
Why It Matters:
Antenna is a company I have been following closely for a while. They have a unique approach to tracking company’s subscription services by working with credit card companies and analyzing consumer data.
Antenna started making their mark by tracking streaming services but are quickly becoming much more. Check out this sweet thread by CEO Rameez Tase breaking down the company’s next steps.
What They Do: Competitive investing platform for Web3, crypto, and NFT assets
Amount Raised: $2.2M seed round
Lead Investors: Gaingels, Great Oaks Venture Capital
Why It Matters: This is an interesting one. I could really see this company taking off, as they are pressing all of the right buttons. Plus, their phenomenal team includes one of the earliest engineers at Palantir.
At the same time, there are some red flags, like this quote from the press release:
“We are creating the place where degens and traditional investors come together.”
Degens as a good thing? Yikes.
The future of companies like this is incredibly uncertain and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
The Host Co.
What They Do: Digital commerce marketplace for short-term rentals
Amount Raised: $1.85M seed round
Lead Investors: HearstLab
Why It Matters: There are over 10M AirBnB-like rentals, and Host Co. wants to give hosts another stream of income through features like a pre-stocking snack pantry and connecting consumers with local, artisanal products.
The platform has resonated closely with guests as 90% of guests check out the marketplace and 40% purchase a product.
The rapid success of Host Co. is further exemplified by the 1,100-person waitlist on their app. With a seed round in hand, Host Co. is looking to scale and catch up with their massive demand.
What They Do: Improve employee administrative experiences
Amount Raised: $3.2M seed round
Lead Investors: Dundee Venture Capital
Why It Matters: Whistle looks to make life a lot easier for employees through innovative products, including “Whistle Payments,” a platform that allows employers to do things like:
- Assign budget for travel, team lunches, and holiday gifts
- Distribute micro-bonuses, instantly rewarding things like culture-building behaviors or training seminar completions
Another product that is interesting is “Whistle Insights,” a platform that tracks employee feedback and development through various business metrics, employee feedback forms, and more.
Whistle is rocking and rolling.