How These Women Investors Crushed It In 2020

In an investment industry known for big egos, overconfident analysts and “activists” who routinely tell CEOs how to run their companies, investor Nancy Zevenbergen and her team of four portfolio managers differentiate themselves by simply listening.

Zevenbergen, 61, founder of $5.7 billion (assets) Zevenbergen Capital Investments, believes the crucial job of an investor in today’s economy is to uncover the next great entrepreneur or technological innovation early on. The style is about “optimism and a view toward what the future might be,” she says. According to Zevenbergen, her task is to be curious and “understand the ‘crazy’ visions of new leaders and become investors alongside them.” If she likes a company, her Seattle-based firm will load up and watch from the sidelines, tracking the business patiently and holding their shares so long as growth doesn’t stall. Rarely do they worry too much about valuation.

This humble approach to investing has yielded results that make Zevenbergen among the best investors in the world. She has stuck by mercurial Elon Musk and owned Tesla for about a decade; Tesla’s stock is up 730% this year, and is the top performing stock of the ten years. She discovered Ottawa, Canada-based ecommerce company Shopify and its founder CEO Tobi Lütke in late 2016 when it was trading below $50; it now trades for $1,170.

Last September, Zillow chief executive Rich Barton decided the real estate platform would begin buying homes, leading to complaints from skeptics who sent its shares cratering 20% to below $30. Zevenbergen’s team liked Barton’s experimentation and built a large position. Fifteen months later, Zillow now trades for $140.

Nancy Zeverbergen
Seattle-based Nancy Zevenbergen calls investing with a less than five-year time frame “truly speculative.” Case in point: She’s owned Amazon since it traded in the $60s and still holds shares after a 90-fold rise. Tim Pannell for Forbes

With stock-picks like these, Zevenbergen’s Innovative Growth Fund (SCATX) and Genea Fund (ZVGNX) are up a staggering 126% and 154%, respectively, in 2020. Of over 1,000 peer funds tracked by Morningstar, the two mutual funds rank in the top percentile. 

Zevenbergen created her firm from her living room in the late 1980s with just $500,000 in assets while she nursed a young child. Her flagship strategy has beaten the S&P 500 Index by around four percentage points annually since 1987, but 2020 was a watershed. Assets more than doubled soaring towards $6 billion, based on performance and inflows to her mutual funds.

Zevenbergen is not the only woman fund manager who has crushed competition in 2020. Forbes found at least a half a dozen firms led by women-led funds that have blown away their peers and drawn in tens of billions of dollars in assets collectively since the start of January.

Cathie Wood, founder of Ark Investments, had the best year of anyone. In 2014, Wood, 65, created Ark with the idea of packaging stock-picking into tax-efficient exchange traded funds, and focusing exclusively on breakthrough innovations in genomics, robotics, financial technology, autonomous driving, digital services, and artificial intelligence. 

Six years later, Ark manages nearly $44 billion in assets, up from just $300 million at the end of 2016. This year, Ark funds have pulled in over $10 billion in new assets, led by extraordinary returns. Her flagship Ark Innovation Fund (ARKK) has seen assets soar to $17 billion, fueled by a 154% gain in 2020 and a 46% average annual return over the past five years. Her $6 billion Ark Genomic revolution ETF is up even more this year. “I wanted individual investors to catch the wave,” says Wood of today’s enormous technological change. Her funds were designed for those “willing to step out and away from fixed income and into some of the most exciting stocks in history.”

Ark publishes its financial models, trading logs, and research to the investing public, and the firm’s analysts are happy to engage in discussion on Twitter, opening themselves to criticism and mockery. Wood’s $4,000 a share valuation of Tesla a year ago drew many scoffs on Wall Street. But her heady valuation was spot on. Short sellers have been burned by Tesla’s rise, while female investors like Zevenbergen and Wood have been patient bulls. On Friday, Tesla was added to the S&P 500 Index.

Female investing success in 2020 extends well beyond soaring growth stocks. Women-run funds are leading the way in everything from small cap stocks, to emerging market debt portfolios, dividend paying companies, and sustainable investments.

Amy Zhang, portfolio manager of the Alger Small Cap Focus Fund (AOFIX) and Mid Cap Focus Fund (AFOIX) was hired in 2015 to expand Alger’s presence in niche small and mid-cap stocks. When Zhang arrived at Alger, the Small Cap Focus Fund had just $16 million in assets. Now, after a 54% return in 2020 and a 30% annual average return over the past five years, Zhang’s Small Cap Focus Fund has $7.5 billion in assets.

Top holdings include refrigerated logistics upstart CryoPort and fast casual restaurant Wingstop. Her Mid Cap Focus Fund, launched in mid-2018, has attracted over $500 million in assets as it has soared by 84% in 2020, bolstered by casino operator Penn National Gaming and power equipment manufacturer Generac.

Long before sustainable investments became a prolific buzzword, Karina Funk, an MIT-educated engineer at Baltimore-based mutual fund giant Brown Advisory, was a pioneer in bringing sustainable investments mainstream. Funk, 48, a vegetarian who watches her carbon footprint by biking to work, launched the Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth Fund in June 2012, alongside David Powell, with a goal to back about 35 companies with products improving social and environmental sustainability, or efficient operating footprints.

Its focus on companies like Ball Corp. and American Tower has made it one of the best funds on the planet during down markets. Even in 2020, the fund has gained 38% despite its defensive posture, thanks to savvy picks like life sciences conglomerate Danaher and Etsy, which has empowered many small businesses during the pandemic. Funk can be a tough customer. She exited Facebook in the fall of 2018 due to data privacy concerns.

“Sustainability is a means, not an end in and of itself,” she told Forbes as part of a profile three years ago, when the fund’s assets were just $1.1 billion. “Our end goal is performance. We achieve that by finding fundamentally strong companies using sustainability strategies to get even better.” The fund’s assets have since soared to $4.6 billion.

Other female-led funds that have done well include Capital Group’s $128 billion American Funds New Perspective (ANWPX), led by a team of managers including Joanna Jonsson and Noriko Chen, and the $36 billion in assets JPMorgan Equity Income Fund (HLIEX), led by Clare Hart. The New Perspectives fund has beaten its benchmark by four percentage points annually over the past decade, while Hart’s Equity Income Fund has returned an annualized 11.65%, two percentage points annually above its benchmark, according to data from Morningstar.

Rebecca Irwin, Natasha Kuhikin and Kathleen McCarragher of the $1.3 billion in assets PGIM Jennison Focused Growth Fund (SPFAX) have returned 68% in 2020 and 25% over the past five years, ranking in the top decile of peer funds. At Alger, Ankur Crawford, co-manager of the Alger Spectra Fund (ASPIX) and Alger Capital Appreciation (ACCAX) has seen returns surpass 40% this year.

In fixed income, Tina Vandersteel of the $4.4 billion in assets GMO Emerging Country Debt Fund (GMCDX) has been able to outperform emerging market bond indices despite underweighting China and many Gulf-states due to her skepticism of the veracity of their economic data.

The bull market of 2020 is also creating new opportunities for female fund managers to shine. Two years ago, Julie Biel of Los Angeles-based Kayne Anderson Rudnick, was a rising star at the $30 billion (assets) firm and excited about the looming public offering of software company DocuSign. Known for investing in established businesses, Kayne had never participated in an IPO. Biel was late in her pregnancy as the IPO progressed and trying to win an allocation. She needed a doctor’s note to fly to the Bay Area to meet with DocuSign’s management. Kayne eventually won a large block of shares, quickly becoming one of its largest outside investors.

Biel also began to manage the firm’s KAR Small Mid- Sustainable Growth strategy around that time and made DocuSign the fund’s top holding. Its shares have risen 225% in 2020. This year, Biel’s fund has returned 42% through November. In December, Kayne decided to launch a mutual fund version, launching the strategy, called the Virtus KAR Small-Mid Cap Growth Fund (VIKSK), with Biel in charge.

Like Zevebergen and Wood, Biel is starting small and manages just $60 million. But the investment industry rewards performance above all, hinting at much larger things to come. Entering 2021, Biel’s portfolio is loaded with hidden gems like Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and MarketAxess that could grow for years to come. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

Antoine Gara

 Antoine Gara

I’m a staff writer and associate editor at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, mergers, and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a member of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to agara@forbes.com. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara

.

.

More Contents:

Australia: Hays identifies insurance skills most in demand this year http://www.asiainsurancereview.com – January 13[…] | 12 Jan 2021 Other News Australia Brokers C-Suite People Claims Within Australia’s insurance job market, the skills in greatest demand this year include those of brokers with a Tier 1 qualification an […] – such niche expertise is in short supply yet growing demand as insurance companies move this to businesses’ customer facing systems […]1

Asia: Majority say technology has improved access and affordability of health services http://www.asiainsurancereview.com – January 13[…] A slight majority of respondents report sourcing health information from social media; a far lower proportion consult formal medicine […] Around one-quarter (24%) have also sought to improve their mental health, a need underscored by the 34% who say the COVID-19 crisis has caused them greater stress, anxiety or depression. Income levels do not dictate health and wellness optimism. The Health of Asia Barometer developed for this report reveals a striking contrast between the less and mor […]1

India: COVID-19 has created huge awareness of protection plans http://www.asiainsurancereview.com – January 13[…] has created huge awareness of protection plans By Jimmy John | 12 Jan 2021 Other News India Life & Health The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about huge awareness in the Indian market of the need and benefits of protection plans, and the life insurance industry must take advantag […] there were huge opportunities created and the industry must bring in greater professionalism to the market,” he said […]N/A

UAE: Salama appoints new CEO http://www.meinsurancereview.com – January 13[…] from his position of CEO, according to the company in a statement lodged with the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) […]1

Is link building outdated? Why we should still consider it | Marketing Donut http://www.marketingdonut.co.uk – Today[…] NAP citations, when the NAP information is consistent across different websites and listing platforms, can have an incredibly positive effect on your website’s SEO performance, especially for local businesses. Google My Business Listing: Simply having a Google My Business listing is not nearly enough. Google wants businesses to update and optimise their My Business listings with complete and honest information […]N/A

Smoke break while fixing up a Triumph motorcycle (1960s) : OldSchoolCool http://www.reddit.com – Today[…] Now, government mandated marketing (which I’m sure includes negative product placement) has convinced us that smoking is a mora […]N/A

Communism Test http://www.idrlabs.com – Today[…] The current test was created by professionals certified in the delivery and scoring of numerous psychological measures, who have worked professionally in various fields of psychology including social psychology, political psychology, and personality testing. Free online tests such as the IDR-CBT are intended solely as informative and entertaining first looks at th […] answer regarding any aspects of an individual’s personality traits, overall character, or psychological state. Though developed and statistically validated by psychology professionals, free online tests such as the present communism test do not provide professional assessments, scorin […]131

Light/Dark Triad Test http://www.idrlabs.com – Today[…] IDRlabs is not affiliated with any of these researchers or their institutions […] ” Frontiers in Psychology […] Furham, Richard & Paulhus: The Dark Triad of Personality: A 10 Year Review (Social and Personality Psychology Compass Volume 7, Issue 3, 2013) pp […]5

What’s love got to do with it – Teddington Theatre Club – Arts Richmond http://www.artsrichmond.org.uk – TodayWHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT 13 Feb 2021 – 14 Feb 2021 9:00 am From 9am Online Join Teddington Theatre Club on their YouTube Channel on 13th and 14th February 2021 as the […] The event is free to view, with more details and running order available via the TTC website closer to the date […]   This event is free to view, but if you would like to make a small donation then it would be greatly appreciated […]0

FTSE 100 stumbles as sterling rallies strongly after Bank of England governor reiterates negative interest rates scepticism http://www.proactiveinvestors.co.uk – Today[…] after last week’s unrest remains to be seen, but in any event, the spotlight is being shone on social media, despite the likes of Twitter and Facebook having banned his account. “The feared outcome of a Congressional review of social media underlined the broader concern that for big tech, increased regulation is on the way […] This was partly due to fears that big tech companies, in particular social media firms, could come under tougher regulation, said market analyst David Madden at CMC Markets. “President Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have been suspended because of allegations that his comments sparked the riot in th […]0

Rane ONE http://www.nlfxpro.com – Today[…] and Feel                                                 • (2) Line/Phono Inputs  Instant Access Software FX with 2 Metal FX Paddles                          • (2) TRS/XLR Microphone Inputs  Ultra-ligh […] With 6 radio-style FX buttons, instantly activate any combination of software FX with a single press, fine-tune with depth and beat parameter controls, then activate with th […] for fast/slow contour adjustment, internal tension-adjust, reverse switch, and a new to Serato software cut in adjustment control, DJs will be able to get just the right feel they need for maximu […]2

OTC Dynamics | $MMNFF MedMen Announces Additional US$10 Million Senior Secured Convertible Note Financing Under Gotham Green Facility http://www.otcdynamics.com – Today[…] gross proceeds under its senior secured convertible facility (the “Facility”) led by funds affiliated with Gotham Green Partners (“GGP”) together with certain additional amendments to the facility an […] and third-party consents or failure to satisfy other conditions to such proposed dispositions; the loss of markets or market share; the permanent or temporary loss of licenses and permits reducing revenues; the dilutive impact of raising additional financin […] com/news/home/20210112005717/en/ Contacts: MEDIA CONTACT: Tracy McCourt MedMen Chief Revenue Officer Email: communications@medmen […]1

The Beauty Trends & Innovations Conference | Beauty Trends Conference http://www.beautytrendsconference.com – Today[…] 30 Morning Refreshment Break With Informal Networking Social Media & Influencer Strategies | Panel Discussion & Q&A 11.00 The Unstoppable Power Of Social: Determine Winning Social Media Strategies & The Value Of Influencer Marketing To Guarantee Brand Engagement & Prove Social ROI Establish a truly authentic voice on social and execute successful social strategies to ensure an engaged consumer base With Instagram an […]1

RANE One Professional Motorised DJ Controller – DJbox, Dublin, Ireland http://www.djbox.ie – Today[…] 2-inch Motorised Platters with Quick Release Acrylic Disks • Trusted RANE Build Quality and Feel • Instant Access Software FX with 2 Metal FX Paddles • Ultra-light MAG FOUR Crossfader • High/Low-pass Filter & 3 Band EQ […] With 6 radio-style FX buttons, instantly activate any combination of software FX with a single press, fine-tune with depth and beat parameter controls, then activate with th […] 2-inch Motorised Platters with Quick Release Acrylic Disks • Trusted RANE Build Quality and Feel • Instant Access Software FX with 2 Metal FX Paddles • Ultra-light MAG FOUR Crossfader • High/Low-pass Filter & 3 Band EQ […]

I’ve Interviewed 300+ Successful Women. Here’s What I’ve Learned About Creating a Career You Love

Over the past few years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of successful women. They have every type of journey you could dream of: There are women who have reached the C-suite in Fortune 500 companies and well-funded startups, women who have started and run their own ventures, and women who have made dramatic career turnarounds.

They’re all extraordinarily unique, of course, but there’s one thing they have in common: They’ve charted the path to work that they love.

That doesn’t just mean big jobs with important tiles and sizable paychecks (though in some cases, that’s true). Instead, these women have thoughtfully built careers around their innate strengths, their personal passions, and the type of work that brings them meaning and purpose.

Yes, creating a career like this may seem like a lofty goal. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from these interviews over the years, it’s this: Every single one of us has the power to find work we love. It’s just a matter of confidently taking steps to get there. As Katie Fogarty, founder of The Reboot Group, shared on my Facebook Watch show, Work It: “Do not wait for people to give you permission. Seize your permission. Seize control of your career.”

Ready to get started? Straight from some of the most successful women in the world, here are five crucial lessons about taking the reins and crafting the professional life of your dreams.

Today In: Leadership

1. Expand Your Idea Of A Dream Job

Often, we have a pretty narrow view of our ultimate goals. We envision achieving a specific job title or working for a particular company. But what happens when we achieve that singular goal, and it doesn’t live up to expectations? That’s all too common—and so the most successful women I’ve interviewed have made it clear that it’s key to widen your perspective.

For example, Kristin Lemkau, Chief Marketing Officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., emphasizes that it’s critical to be flexible when thinking about your dream job. If you’re only focused on getting your current boss’ job, for example, you may miss other options—inside or outside of your company. “By staying flexible and open,” she explains, “you might encounter an opportunity that you had never before considered.”

Lindsey Knowles, VP of Marketing at Winc Wines, echoes this sentiment. “Be open. And try different things. There’s so much you can’t know until you do it,” she shares. “Until you’ve been in a few different types of workplaces, you can’t know what your preferred working style is or the types of problems you like to solve.”

2. Pursue What Matters To You—Not To Anyone Else

Similarly, we’re conditioned to believe that the traditional markers of success, like money or a C-level title, will make us happy, too. But for most people, that’s not the full story. Instead, it’s key to dig deep and understand the very personal factors that drive meaning for you—whether that’s constantly learning new skills or being involved in radical social change—and pursue jobs that incorporate those elements.

According to Aditi Javeri Gokhale, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Northwestern Mutual, a good place to start is thinking about the people you want to work with and the issues you’re passionate about. “I have always identified with jobs where I have a good connection with my leaders, with the mission of the company, and with the team that surrounds me.” When you have that connection, it’s easier to excel at—and enjoy—a job, no matter what your title is.

3. Be Intentional About What You Say Yes To

Cathleen Trigg-Jones, journalist and founder of CatScape Productions, once explained to me her strategy for evaluating opportunities. She would yes to the things that would move her closer to her dreams, and she would say no to the things that didn’t serve her. (Even if they looked like good opportunities on paper!)

This simple rule can move you toward a career you love in two important ways. First, it pretty much guarantees that you get to do more of the work you’re excited about. Second, you get to incrementally step further away from the tasks you don’t enjoy and that don’t help you get where you want to go—even if there are certain aspects of them that may be tempting. Keep following this formula, and you will organically move in the right direction.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Risks

If you want a meaningful professional life, you have to be willing to take risks. Why? “If you don’t do things because you’re scared to fail, you’re not really getting the best out of yourself,” Sabrina Macias, Senior Director of Global Communications at DraftKings, once told me. “Risk is healthy; it makes you more creative.”

A risky move, of course, doesn’t necessarily spending your life savings to start a company—maybe it’s accepting a position you’re not sure you’re qualified for, asking for more responsibility, or volunteering to head a bigger project than anything you’ve ever tackled.

Maybe it’s simply giving yourself permission to try something wildly different. Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn, explains the concept this way: “Stop and ask yourself what would make you happy, and design that.” That might be advocating for a new offering at your company or working on that creative side project you’ve been thinking about. “Just start doing it,” she said. “You’ll be amazed at how many people will be drawn to somebody who is doing things differently—and enabling other people to do things differently.” But that’s the key: You have to first be willing to do things differently.

5. Know That Change Is Inevitable

Finally, know this about career paths: What you want and what works for you is likely going to change over time. As Carol Lovell, founder and CEO of STOW put it: “The meaning of success for me has altered throughout my life. What you think it means at 25 is very different to what you know it means at 50.” The lesson? Don’t be afraid to adjust course when you realize that you’ve changed.

On a smaller scale, even if you have a specific goal you’re working toward, you’ll undoubtedly encounter new information, opportunities, and roadblocks that make you rethink your course. And that’s OK. “It’s not a matter of creating this rigid plan of like, do this step, do this step, no matter what,” explains former CEO and board director Shellye Archambeau. “And things will happen! There will be roadblocks, things will happen that’ll cause you to change and that’s okay. You have to be open to that.”

The road to a career you love isn’t easy. It requires saying no, taking risks, and sticking to your guns. But as a result, you’ll be doing the work you’re passionate about and building a life that works for you. Take it from hundreds of women: It’s worth it.

Carrie Kerpen is CEO and co-founder of Likeable Media, an award-winning digital agency that achieved Crain’s 6th “Best Place To Work in NYC.” She is the author of WORK IT: Secrets For Success From The Boldest Women In Business and the host of the popular podcast All the Social Ladies. Follow her on Twitter @carriekerpen or visit her at carriekerpen.com.

Source: I’ve Interviewed 300+ Successful Women. Here’s What I’ve Learned About Creating a Career You Love.

34.3K subscribers
After running through what to wear for a job interview with a friend, I thought it might be fun to run through some options depending on the kind of workplace you’re interviewing for. If you’ve got your own tips on what to wear to a job interview or if you have a go-to piece, I’d love to see it or know what it is! Hope you’re wonderful! X Jodie

A New Study Reveals Hiring Effective Female Leaders May Be the Best Thing for Your Company’s Success

Do you believe in your company — its mission, purpose, and what it stands for? Belief in a company is one of the main factors behind why employees work and what they do.

The belief that the company is moving in the right direction, has room for personal and professional growth, and that the employee plays an active part in the strategy are all crucial to keeping employees engaged.

For leaders guiding the way, belief in a company is something that is earned and must come naturally for employees. And according to a new study, attracting and promoting more females into leadership roles is the way forward.

Employees respond better to women-led companies

A recent Peakon study found that employees of women-led companies, meaning those with more than 50% female leaders, feel a stronger connection to the company and their products.

When over 60,000 employees were asked the question of “how likely is it that you would recommend [Company Name] products or services to friends and family,” those at women-led companies answered 0.6 points higher than employees at male-led companies.

Women-led companies also answered higher in terms of satisfaction in the company, an important part of being an active, efficient employee.

Female leadership could be a major enabler in driving the company culture, and female-led companies are proven to be better in communicating mission and strategy, and managing more engaged employees.

Why belief in a company and its products is so important

Belief in the company is also strongly tied to the company strategy. When employees believe in the company — the origin, mission, and value the company offers to consumers and clients — they will subsequently have stronger belief in the strategy as well.

According to Roger Dooley, an experience marketer and author, believing in your company and its product makes you more persuasive. Employees with a strong belief in their product will be more able to effectively sell products or services the company offers, and will have a stronger connection to the company itself.

Belief in a company and its values is also critical to employees’ commitment and persistence. Employees with stronger belief in their company tend to be more willing to continue in their hard work when they trust the path the company is moving on.

According to the Harvard Business Review, belief in a company and its goals will enforce motivation throughout all of the employees — both to get work done when needed, and to keep up the same work ethic when it gets harder.

Belief in a company also helps leaders. When your company supports the same goals, it becomes easier to manage and communicate.

In Authentic Happiness, psychologist Marty Seligman writes that employees become their “happiest” selves when they are doing work they find worthwhile. Leaders who are able to motivate others to work towards a communicated, shared goal — and a shared belief in the goal — are able to maintain morale and engagement throughout the employee lifecycle.

Moreover, belief in a company and its goals also creates a feeling of solidarity among employees and their leaders. If at any point there is a disconnect between employees and leaders, it can be mended quickly and easily when there is a strong belief that the company is going in the right direction.

Ari Weinzweig, a founding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, points out that belief in a business is one of the most productive foundations that employees and leaders can both share. It creates a shared purpose that may otherwise not be found, as most beliefs are formed before a person is even old enough to be in the job force.

Forming a community where there is a belief in a business allows for clearer actions towards the shared belief, and helps everyone’s job within a larger company make sense.

Clearly the research proves that you must care about the belief in your company strategy and its product. But we must not ignore the key component. As Peakon’s study revealed, investing in female leaders will help you bring deeper conviction about the company and its services, and therefore empower your business to grow in a sustainable way.

By:By Marcel Schwantes Founder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core @MarcelSchwantes

 

Source: A New Study Reveals Hiring Effective Female Leaders May Be the Best Thing for Your Company’s Success | Inc.com

21.4M subscribers
Why are there so few women leaders? Weaving together scientific research and personal narrative, Alexis Kanda-Olmstead explains why women may be reluctant to take on leadership roles and what we – women and men – can do to disrupt the powerful internal forces that undermine women’s leadership aspirations and confidence. 1. Alexis Kanda-Olmstead leads talent and diversity initiatives at Colorado State University for the Division of University Advancement. Throughout her twenty-year career in higher education, Alexis has worked to help students, faculty, and staff actualize their potential as leaders through self-knowledge, personal empowerment, and service. As a student and practitioner of women’s development, social justice, and organizational psychology, Alexis believes that with grace and humor we can create positive change that benefits everyone. Alexis is a blogger on women’s issues and the founder of AKO Collective, a women’s leadership development company based in Northern Colorado. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

 

Inside Serena Williams’ Plan To Ace Venture Investing

 

.

n Serena Williams’ calendar—which is to calendars what Jackson Pollock paintings are to art—Saturdays are designated family time. The Saturday I’m with her in Rome (she was in New York earlier in the week and will be in Paris the following one) carries extra significance. Exactly four years ago, in exactly that Eternal City, she met her husband, Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of online community Reddit.

The two celebrate, in part, with the kind of outing anyone who’s not the most famous woman athlete in the world takes for granted: a stroll in a hotel garden with their joint venture, 22-month-old Olympia, in tow. It’s more romantic than it sounds: The Rome Cavalieri goes so far as to call its 15-acre garden a “private park,” littered with marble and bronze, lions and unicorns.

The regal surroundings befit a historic figure of American sport, who has 23 Grand Slam titles and has blown away any number of barriers and stereotypes. And the unicorns? Between Reddit and his $500 million fund, Initialized Capital, Ohanian does his part. But it turns out that Williams has quietly been playing that game, too. She’s now the first athlete ever to hit Forbes’ annual list of the World’s Richest Self-Made Women, with an estimated fortune of $225 million, the vast majority of it having come via her brain and brand rather than her backhand. And over the past five years, she’s been quietly dropping money into 34 startups. In April, Williams formally announced that Serena Ventures is open for business, to fund others and launch companies herself.

Athletes are richer than ever, thanks to the explosion in TV rights fees for live sporting events, which trickle down to players. The 50 highest-paid athletes in the world made $2.6 billion last year, versus $1 billion 15 years ago. And Williams is hardly the first to put newfound disposable income to active work—in the NBA alone, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have all launched media companies, and Durant, Andre Iguodala and Carmelo Anthony are active venture capital investors. But she is one of the few specifically gearing investments around a single north star: herself.

“I want to be a part of it,” she says, sitting at the hotel. “I want to be in the infrastructure. I want to be the brand, instead of just being the face.” Given her longtime background in style and design, that means overweighting on fashion lines, jewelry and beauty products. Yes, she’ll keep competing at tennis—her resilient comeback last year after giving birth burnished her as a cultural icon who transcends sports. And sure, she’ll happily continue to rake in easy endorsement money from the likes of Nike and JPMorgan Chase—her $29 million total income over the past 12 months is the highest of her career.

But like a ground stroke with torque, Williams bets she can eventually dwarf those figures by leveraging some of her own cash with her name and fame.

The story of how sisters Serena and Venus Williams reached the top of the tennis world is the stuff of Hollywood legend: a black father with limited tennis experience homeschools his two daughters and teaches them on the streets of Compton, California, to penetrate and then dominate a lily-white sport. “You’d see different people walking down the street with AK-47s and think, Time to get in the house,” she remembers of those early years. “When you hear gunshots, you get low.”

Their father’s insistence that his precocious daughters avoid the private tennis academy machine and well-oiled junior tournament circuit left a mark on the younger one, especially after she won her first Grand Slam title at age 17. “It really shaped me for the rest of my career both on and off the court in terms of taking a chance and how to be different and how to stand out,” Williams says of his strategy. When everyone zigs, she zags.

So at Serena Ventures, she focuses on companies founded by women and minorities. Yes, there’s a social purpose to that decision. But as with her tennis upbringing, she’s also finding opportunity by avoiding the herd. Just 2.3% of the total venture capital invested last year in the U.S. went to women-led startups—and even when including firms with both a male and female founder, you’re just at 10%. The numbers are worse for black and Hispanic founders. Yet some 60% of Williams’ investments so far have gone to companies led by women or people of color. “What better way to preach that message?” asks Williams.

The only way to find enough of those companies right now is to nurture them early, something that Williams got hooked on after investing and losing (eventually) $250,000 in a startup in the years before Serena Ventures. “I learned you can’t overspend, but I also learned that I love seed investing,” she says. Of the 34 companies she’s backed through Serena Ventures, more than three quarters are early-stage.

“It’s fun to get in there. I don’t gamble. I don’t jump off buildings,” says Williams. “I’m the most non-taking-a-chance kind of a person, but I felt like seed was where we wanted to be.”

Given the exponential riskiness involved in pre- and early-revenue companies, Williams has built a team of Silicon Valley mentors around her, much as Patrick Mouratoglou has guided Williams on the court and WME’s Jill Smoller has handled her endorsements—almost a quarter-billion worth—for nearly two decades. There’s Chris Lyons, from Andreessen Horowitz, who is an informal advisor and friend. “She is more passionate than 99% of the people in this space,” says Lyons. “She’s reaching out to me regularly asking what we think of companies.”

There’s Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, a longtime friend, with whom she serves on the board of SurveyMonkey. “I always ask her advice in a lot of different areas,” Williams says. (The tennis star is also on the board of the social shopping platform Poshmark.)

But one mentor stands above the rest—the one she married. “I’ve been really leaning on Alexis,” she says. Williams had never heard of Reddit when the pair met in 2015 and Ohanian knew little about tennis. But they bonded over ambition. “She is determined to be great at everything she does,” says Ohanian, who Forbes estimates is worth $70 million on his own.

What Serena Williams Wants To Hear In Pitch Meetings| 32:11

His venture firm’s targets are traditionally more tech-focused—big scores include Instacart and Patreon. But in living through Ohanian’s deals, Williams has learned. Initialized and Serena Ventures have even co-invested on a few, including Gobble, which does weekly dinner-kit deliveries, and Wave, which offers no-fee transfers on money sent to Africa by phone. “I’d like to call us a more modern business family,” says Williams.

The rate of Williams’ investments has ramped up in lockstep with the onboarding of a portfolio manager. Alison Rapaport, 29, was fresh out of Harvard Business School with an M.B.A. after a five-year stint in JPMorgan’s asset management group, when she got connected with Williams through Andreessen’s Lyons. Williams told Rapaport to come to the interview with three investment ideas, along with the numbers and rationale behind them. Rapaport did her homework on the investment ideas—and diligence on her potential new boss, who earlier in the week posted on Instagram how much she liked Taco Sunday. Rapaport arrived at Williams’ home outside San Francisco for a Sunday meeting at noon armed with investment ideas and two bags of takeout, make-your-own tacos, and she handled Ohanian’s rapid-fire follow-up emails with aplomb. “I knew this was our girl,” Williams says.

Serena Williams slides around the red clay of the Tennis Club Parioli in Rome a few days ahead of the Italian Open, practicing to an eclectic mix of musical genres whose only commonality is that they’re sung by powerful women, from Rihanna to Adele to Pink. As word spreads around the club that the world’s most famous tennis player is hitting balls in their midst, a crowd predictably gathers, the youngest among them squealing “Serena!”, the oldest snapping and sharing pictures.

Williams is by far the most famous female athlete in the U.S.—and only Tom Brady and Tiger Woods finish a tick ahead among all athletes in terms of awareness. And that fame carries almost no brand downside—her appeal rates above average across all demographics, from Millennials to blue collar to high income, says Henry Schafer, who tracks Q Scores, which measure the likeability of a celebrity.

After 20 years in the spotlight, Williams knows how to handle the star power. At the end of the two-hour session, she gracefully obliges several with autographs and selfies. But more important: She has figured out at Serena Ventures how to harness it.

The past decade has given rise to the celebrity VC investor, spurred by the success of people like the actor Ashton Kutcher and the musician Nas, who both have their own funds. The recent IPOs for Uber and Lyft included scores of musicians and Hollywood A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jay-Z and Olivia Munn, who got in early and cashed in big. Overall, Ohanian is skeptical of the trend. “The advice I generally give to founders is don’t take money from celebrities,” he says. “The only exception is when they are really going to add value. Because in most cases, they are not really familiar with this world and if you are doing it to feed your ego, it’s a bad idea.”

So Williams tries to put money in deals where her fame and brand and platform grow the pie. As one of the better product endorsers of this century, it’s something she’s honed in ways that most musicians and actors (who turn up their noses at most product deals) have not. She counts nearly 30 million followers across social media—her posts of herself wearing Nike’s swoosh generated more than $2 million in promotional value for the brand over the past 12 months, according to Hookit, which tracks celebrity influence on social media. “Serena is a once-in-a-generation voice, reaching a global audience that extends well beyond tennis,” says Hookit CEO Scott Tilton.

And that voice is amplified exponentially when dealing with an early-stage brand, rather than one like Nike. She shared a pair of videos in an Instagram story of her entourage eating Daily Harvest meals ahead of her hosting duties for the Met Gala. She collaborated with Neighborhood Goods, which brings a pop-up approach to retailing, for her clothing line. “Using her platform to talk about our mission was the biggest support we’ve had besides her capital,” says Georgina Gooley, cofounder of Billie, which makes razors priced to eliminate the “pink tax” that makes female-targeted products cost more than similar versions for men.

The dating and networking app Bumble added Williams as an endorser for 2019, including a Super Bowl ad. The pair also partnered in a pitch competition in which two winners with female founders were chosen for funding from Serena and Bumble. Three executives of companies in the Serena Ventures portfolio—Daily Harvest, the woman-centric co-working space The Wing, and Lola, a natural tampon brand —networked at the first-ever Bumble Fund Summit in April. “She is facilitating a place for people to connect with one another,” says Jordana Kier, Lola’s founder.

That kind of investor-as-rainmaker power translates into another benefit: deal flow. For more mature deals, traditional venture firms need to take large ownership stakes to hit return targets. Williams, though, is happy to ride along. “Firms know Serena is a hugely valuable strategic investor,” says Ohanian. “I think it is the best of all opportunities, and she can essentially cherry-pick from the top VC firms on deals that are interesting that come her way and at the same time she still has her own deal flow from folks who want her to invest.”

nother benefit of early-stage investing: Even with 34 checks written, she has still sunk only an estimated $6 million into these companies. As venture investing goes, given her net worth, it’s still low-risk stuff. And the returns so far seem promising; Serena Ventures says they currently value the portfolio at more than $10 million and double the initial investment. Nearly half of the companies have had follow-up rounds of venture investment since Williams invested, and Serena Ventures even seems poised to score its first exit after Unilever announced plans to buy supplement firm Olly Nutrition in April. Five of her investments are up at least fivefold. Top performers include Billie, Daily Harvest, MasterClass and The Wing.

But Serena Williams wouldn’t be one of the all-time great competitors without also needing to invest more in herself. While she’s known as a fashion icon, she has cashed in only via others’ platforms, whether endorsements or partnerships. Now that’s changing. Smoller, her longtime endorsement agent, recalls a recent meeting at Nike. “I was talking, and Serena interrupted me and started asking all these questions about their distribution channels, KPIs and growth strategies,” he says. “I looked around and saw their faces. . . . She’s at a level where she wants to understand the process and methods, which I think a lot of people don’t expect.” In May last year, Serena Ventures launched a self-funded, direct-to-consumer clothing line, S by Serena. She kept waiting for someone to fund a company for her to design clothing, she says, but “I was thinking of this the wrong way. I had to invest in myself.”

The line includes dresses, jackets, tops, denim and more mostly priced under $200. She’s excited about an S by Serena show for New York Fashion Week in September. The line got a boost in October when Williams’ close friend Meghan Markle was spotted wearing the collection’s “Boss” blazer, which quickly sold out on the website. Williams returned the favor when she hosted a baby shower for the Duchess of Sussex in February. Williams plans to launch an S by Serena jewelry line this year and one of beauty products in 2020.

With all this commerce, Williams says she’ll continue to abbreviate her on-the-court schedule, prioritizing the Grand Slam events that burnish her brand. While a dinosaur in the tennis world at 37, she still figures she has two or maybe even three years left. “I am in no rush to get out of this sport,” she says. But in Serena Ventures, she’s laid the foundation to keep playing the game her entire life. “I want to create a brand that has longevity, kind of like my career,” she says. “It’s not fancy, it’s not here, it’s not out, it’s not trendy, it’s a staple, like my tennis game.”

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read all of my Forbes stories here.

I am a senior editor at Forbes and focus mainly on the business of sports and our annual franchise valuations. I also spend a lot of my time digging into what athletes earn on and off the field of play. I’ve profiled a bunch of athletes that go by one name: LeBron, Shaq, Danica and others. I also head up our biennial B-School rankings and our annual features on the Best Places for Business (metros, states and countries).

Source: Inside Serena Williams’ Plan To Ace Venture Investing

9 Things Successful Women Never Do

Often I was the only female FBI agent on my squad. I learned how to be successful amidst a variety of situations and circumstances. Most importantly, I learned what not to do if I wanted to compete in a male dominated environment.

I learned that my success was inexorably linked to the choices I made regarding attitude and subsequent actions. More often than not, it was the choice I made to kick myself into high gear rather than relying on someone else to do the kicking.

While every woman has her own definition of success, here are 9 things that successful women never do:

1. Successful Women Never Ignore Their Fears

If you want to move up, and ahead, you need to confront your fears head-on. Never waste valuable energy trying to avoid them; instead, use mental toughness to manage your thoughts, emotions, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success in business and life.

Suppressing a negative feeling only gives it more power, fueling our fears and slowing us down. In fact, trying to control what we fear will increase the likelihood it will happen.

2. Successful Women Never Run From Conflict

As a female FBI agent, I got burned by conflict, criticism, and unfairness—just like everyone else. The difference is that I did not cower into accommodating others to avoid enduring those negative feelings again.

People who shy away from conflict assume that conflict always looks aggressive, overbearing, and disrespectful. This is not true because conflict can camouflage itself in many forms. We need to be alert for any behavior from others that is attempting to manipulate our emotions or thoughts. Once we recognize conflict for what it is, we make a choice on how we respond to it, rather than react out of fear or ignorance.

3. Successful Women Never Listen To Their Inner Critic

I needed to nip that inner critic in the bud and eliminate inner voices of doubt and anxiety. I did this by choosing to focus my attention on positive feedback and constructive criticism—limited as it might be at times.

Mental toughness is being able to control how your mind thinks, rather than letting your mind control you. The key is learning how to manage your emotions with self-talk and using the right (and positive) words when controlling your thoughts.

4. Successful Women Never Expect Perfect Circumstances

Forget about finding the perfect job or waiting for perfect conditions before making a leap. Learn to differentiate between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering.

It’s easy to say that conditions are poor, nothing is going your way, and that you’ve been dealt an unfair hand. These are all excuses as you move further down the road of surrender.

Use what is at your disposal to keep moving forward in life—take a tip from MacGyver and learn to make the best of your situation. Mental toughness is approaching your circumstances with the right perspective and not expecting a break.

5. Successful Women Never Look At Their Past As A Mistake

I made a lot of mistakes as a new agent. At times it was embarrassing, but I vowed to learn from each one of them.

Some mistakes from our past can be painful or bad, but instead of wallowing in misery, look at them as opportunities to learn something that you didn’t know before it happened. Walk beside friends and colleagues who have made mistakes—you can learn from them, too.

The past does not define us, it simply prepares us for our journey toward success and wisdom.

uncaptioned

6. Successful Women Never Miss Opportunities To Shine

I knew that many times the best way to be successful was to do what others were unwilling to do.

Identify those things that others hesitate to take on. It can be small and simple—it doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, do it well and you will instantly differentiate yourself from the pack.

Then keep going because you never know where it will lead; often, we don’t know what opportunity looks like until we’re closer to it.

7. Successful Women Never Fail To Keep Their Cool

No matter my situation, I knew I was in total control of my life.

One of my favorite quotes is from St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Pray as if God will take care of all; act as if all is up to you.”

Many people make excuses for themselves by saying luck determines whether they are successful or not. Mentally strong leaders are in control of their own luck because they see success or failure as something over which they are in control. Luck may have had some role in their present circumstances, but they don’t waste mental energy by worrying about what might happen.

Control your own luck by seizing opportunities to improve your life and situation. The result will either be a lucky break or the regret of a road not taken.

8. Successful Women Never Fail To Do Their Research

When I interviewed a suspect, I made sure I knew what I was talking about.

When you are meeting with potential investors, clients or customers, make sure you know what you are talking about—know where the landmines are before you open your mouth.

Do your homework; be polished, poised, and prepared.

9. Successful Women Never Say Quit

No matter how hard the investigation or how difficult the assignment, “quit” was the only four letter word I never heard in my 24 years in the FBI.

When you say “quit” or “can’t,” you are sacrificing ownership and control over your attitude and behavior. It shows you have created your own boundaries. When you say quit, you are sending a message about your fear of failure and a lack of grit in testing your limits.

LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. LaRae is the author of “Secrets Of A Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.” See her site and follow her on Twitter TWTR +0% @LaRaeQuy.

I’m Nancy F. Clark the curator of Forbes WomensMedia, author of The Positive Journal, and CEO of PositivityDaily. After studying physics at Berkeley I started out in roc…

Source: 9 Things Successful Women Never Do

%d bloggers like this: