When you’re Venus Williams, one of the most famous athletes in the world, you bring a lot of name recognition to any enterprise you partner up with. When you also have a track record as a successful entrepreneur and investor – again, like Venus Williams – you bring a whole lot more to the table than just star power.
One company banking on that is HumanCo, an Austin, Texas-based private holding firm and business incubator. In August, Williams joined HumanCo’s board of advisors and also signed on as a strategic investor.
Williams will undoubtedly raise HumanCo’s public profile because of her fame, but the tennis superstar also adds needed capital and entrepreneurial experience to the mix.
Her status as founder of Happy Viking, a plant-based protein company, is especially important because HumanCo focuses on businesses and products that contribute to healthier living and sustainability.
“(Williams’) track record of building successful, impact-driven businesses across the lifestyle industry makes her the perfect new member of our board of advisors,” HumanCo CEO Jason H. Karp said in a press release. “I’m confident that her incredible history and business acumen will help HumanCo set a new standard in the consumer goods industry.”
For Williams, it’s an opportunity to share her expertise with a company she has a great deal of personal interest in – including the health issues she shares with Karp.
“It’s not every day that you meet a fellow entrepreneur whose life trajectory mimics yours in a unique way,” Williams told Fortune magazine in November. “When an autoimmune disease diagnosis caused me to completely change my lifestyle, I quickly learned that what you put into your body has profound effects on how you feel.”
When Williams met Karp and learned about his similar struggles with an autoimmune disease, the two “immediately connected” over the need for a trusted industry source that can educate consumers on the importance of clean and high-quality ingredients.
“After learning about HumanCo’s mission to build, acquire, and scale wellness-focused brands, it became clear to me that I needed to get involved,” Williams said.
HumanCo, co-founded in 2019 by Karp and Ross Berman, bills itself as a “mission-driven” holding company that aims to reverse what it sees as a scarcity of healthy and sustainable consumer goods. Its goal is to advance the health of consumers using a long-term strategy built around products that lead to healthier outcomes and improved trust. The company focuses on three main areas: food and beverage, beauty and wellness, and technology
Williams isn’t the only high-profile athlete to invest in HumanCo. Former tennis star Andy Roddick did as well, along with this wife Brooklyn Decker, an actress and model. Other investors include actress Scarlett Johansson, actor Ed Norton, former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, former Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb, singer Nick Jonas, Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes, Vista Equity Partners, 8VC, and JAZZ Venture Partners.
In September, HumanCo raised $35 million in bridge round funding from those and other investors. It used the money to acquire a majority stake in Against the Grain, a family-owned and Vermont-based food company that makes grain-free and gluten-free products.Other companies in HumanCo’s portfolio include Coconut Bliss, an organic and plant-based ice cream brand; Monty’s, which makes plant-based dairy products; and Snow Days, an organic frozen comfort food brand founded by HumanCo.