The world's most famous tennis star is doubling down on her tech focus, investing in a startup with the goal of adding more than 100,000 Black engineers to the industry within the next decade.
Serena Williams is making "a strategic investment" in interviewing company Karat to "significantly scale" its Brilliant Black Minds program, which gives free interview practice, feedback and coaching for aspiring Black software engineers. The investment was for an undisclosed amount.
A Seattle-based startup that helps companies interview candidates remotely, Karat has grown significantly over the last few years, raising $110 million in 2021 in a Series C funding round led by Tiger Global that values the company at $1.1 billion. It calls its flagship product the "Interviewing Cloud," essentially an "interviewing-as-a-service" platform which trains technical interviewers to conduct live technical interviews.
This isn't Williams's first rodeo investing in the tech sector. She has her own VC firm, Serena Ventures, which raised $111 million in its inaugural fund and launched in 2014.
This specific investment will focus on closing what Karat calls the "Interview Access Gap," which according to the company disproportionately impacts Black software engineers, of which only 50% have experienced a technical interview before looking for a job. The gist is that more interview practice means a greater shot at success, with Karat survey respondents with more than three practice interviews reporting being six times more likely to have an engineering internship than those that have never had a practice interview.
“The technology industry is focused on solving some of the world’s biggest challenges. My focus is ensuring the solutions to those challenges are developed by all of us,” Williams said in a statement.
For context, only 5% of all software engineers in the U.S. are Black, a consequence of structural inequities like limited early exposure to STEM curriculum, as well as fewer professional networks and access to opportunities and industry connections.