Serena Williams and Bumble among Series A investors in Alice

13 Dec 2019521 Views

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Serena Williams at the US Open. Image: Zhukovsy/Depositphotos

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Serena Williams and Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd have backed business community platform Alice.

On Thursday (12 December), Alice, a platform that guides business owners through the growth of their company, announced two interesting new investors.

The first of the new backers is the popular dating app, Bumble, while the second is Serena Ventures, the VC fund founded by professional tennis player Serena Williams.

Alice, which was launched in 2017 by Carolyn Rodz and Elizabeth Gore, began when the founders were discussing the social and economic opportunities that women, minority, immigrant and veteran business owners can offer the world.

‘We are working to ensure that women, people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community and all under-represented groups in business are given equal access to funding, networking and services’
– SERENA WILLIAMS

The duo went on to launch a 100pc virtual accelerator, Circular Board, which became the fastest growing accelerator for women, according to Fast Company, working with nearly 300 women on six continents.

According to the company, these women – with companies such as a solar bike manufacturer in London, a chain of healthcare facilities in Mongolia and a breast milk bank in Oregon – have collectively raised more than $65m.

From an accelerator to an AI-powered platform

Following the success of the virtual accelerator, Rodz and Gore realised they could create a positive impact on even more under-represented business owners with technology. They set up Alice, a platform that uses machine learning to help business owners by matching them to personalised opportunities and resources.

Alice now has a community of more than 100,000 companies on its platform, and is tracking data and trends to increase the success rate for entrepreneurs.

Alongside Bumble, the company has partnered with Mastercard, Salesforce, PepsiCo, the eBay Foundation and Silicon Valley Bank. These business partners offer funding, mentorship and other resources for business leaders using the platform.

The Series A funding round

In a statement, Alice wrote that the funding from Serena Ventures and Bumble “will provide access to critical growth resources, guidance and small business opportunities for everyone with an entrepreneurial spirit”.

To mark the investment round, the company wants to “pay it forward” and provide a financial grant to one small business owner using the platform. Users can apply for this grant on the company’s website.

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Serena Williams said: “Alice helps connect business owners to resources important for their individual industry growth.

“As an investor in the company, we are working to ensure that women, people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community and all under-represented groups in business are given equal access to funding, networking and services that are vital to success.”

Bumble and Serena Ventures join SVB Group, Silicon Valley Bank’s parent company, as lead investors. There was additional participation in the round from Cathie Reid, Jean Case, Phyllis Newhouse, the Shatter Fund and Signia Venture Partners. The amounts invested were not disclosed.

Gore, who is president and chair of Alice, said: “Having business leaders like Serena Williams and Whitney Wolfe Herd [founder and CEO of Bumble] as part owners in Alice has created a dream team of savvy investors.”

Stakeholders

Bumble and Williams will help facilitate the expansion of Alice’s machine learning capabilities to provide more resources to users, depending on their stage of growth, location, industry and other factors.

Wolfe Herd said: “Alice could not be a better fit for Bumble as we expand on our mission to create empowering connections in people’s work lives as well as their personal relationships.

“At the end of the day, we work to give women the tools they need to make the first move, and investing in Alice’s platform – geared towards uplifting women and under-represented small business owners – is a great way for us to continue to get more involved in our local communities and ultimately help create positive change in the broader business community.”

As part of the investment, Alice also included a morality clause, which “reinforces the commitment of both Alice and its investors to ensure Alice board members and voting stockholders are held accountable for choices that could affect Alice’s workforce and community”.

The company wrote: “The clause requires stockholders to use corporate governance mechanisms to vote for removal of any board member in the event of a #MeToo event, racial discrimination, and/or sexual orientation discrimination incident.”

Serena Williams at last year’s US Open. Image: Zhukovsy/Depositphotos

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com