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Serena Williams steers funds towards Nigerian data provider

The recently retired tennis star’s Serena Ventures is participating in a $3.3m fundraising round for data provider Stears as it looks to expand beyond Nigeria.

Tennis star Serena Williams’ investment firm has participated in a $3.3m fundraising for Nigerian data provider Stears.

Serena Ventures has joined the fundraising, led by MaC Venture Capital, which also includes participation from Melo 7 Tech Partners, Omidyar Group’s Laminate Fund and Cascador.

Stears, which started out as a consumer data journalism product, now offers financial and economic data to international governments, multilateral organisations and other clients as part of its ambitions to be the leading “pan-African data and intelligence company.”

In a web post, Stears CEO Preston Ideh said that the fundraising would enable the firm to build its database on African economies and markets and expand its intelligence team into Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt. Stears’ focus going forwards will be “making proprietary data, models, tools and forecasts directly available to our users,” Ideh said.

“We know that the market wants more than just articles, no matter how well-researched. It isn’t just about building Stears 2.0 in the 54 African countries; that is not the goal. To be the most trusted source of data and insights in Africa, a $1 trillion economy with 1 billion people, the continent needs deep, reliable, regular streams of data, not just articles or reports,” Ideh wrote.

“To become the most trusted source of data and insights, we have to do three things that haven’t been done in Africa before; first, identify all existing sources of data; second, design a shared language to understand all the data; and third; combine these datasets to create proprietary views of the African market that don’t exist anywhere else”.

The CEO said the firm is looking to hire “PhDs in economics & finance, data science geeks, superstar engineers who want to build, curious growth marketers and prudent accountants” as it expands.

The firm first expanded its data offering on the back of the 2019 Nigerian elections, when it built what it said was Nigeria’s first real-time election data site which attracted two million users and prompted an initial fundraising round of $650,000 led by Omidyar Group’s Luminate Fund and backed by Future Africa and CcHub.

Serena Ventures sets sights on Africa

The fundraising marks the latest African investment by Serena Ventures, whose managing partner retired from a glittering career at the top of world tennis after September’s US Open. Williams is the most successful female tennis player of the Open Era with 23 Grand Slam singles titles and career winnings of almost $95m.

In late September, Serena Ventures announced that it was participating in a $12.3m equity-debt funding round for Uganda-based fintech Numida, which focuses on lending to small enterprises.

The firm plans to double its active client base to 40,000 within the next 18 months by entering two markets selected from Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt or Kenya.

Serena Ventures also participated in a $6.45m pre-seed capital round for Nigerian crypto firm Nestcoin in February.



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