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OpenSponsorship: Serena Williams’ investment serve

April 20, 2022

The GIST: A month after raising $111 million for her venture capital firm Serena Ventures, Serena Williams can’t stop, won’t stop investing. Among the latest companies she’s supporting? OpenSponsorship (OS), a sports marketing tech startup that received a seven-figure investment from the tennis star. That’s what you call an ace.

The company: Launched in 2015, OS helps elite athletes directly connect with brands to work on marketing campaigns. By the end of 2021, the startup garnered $5 million in top line revenue, and facilitated over 10K athlete deals with 400 brands — including inks with soccer star Megan Rapinoe and gymnast Gabby Douglas.

The investors: In addition to Williams, David Blitzer, a co-managing partner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, came on as one of OS’ new investors. The current funding round will help the startup with multiple growth goals, including a planned expansion into the U.K.

Zooming out: Large investments like these validate OS’ pursuit of reversing the traditional company-to-athlete structure of endorsement deals, while putting the onus on brands to become covetable partners to a wide array of athletes. As it should be.

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