Tennis star Serena Williams is leading a notable group of investors in the bitcoin rewards company Lolli, which has raised $5 million.
The money was raised in the company’s pre-series A round. Williams invested in Lolli through her company Serena Ventures, launched in 2014 which has a mission of giving opportunities to founders across a range of industries and who embrace diverse leadership according to its website.
Joining her is her husband Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, Night Media, and prominent YouTubers including Casey Neistat, Phil DeFranco, Cody Ko, and co-founder and CEO of Machine Zone Gabriel Leydon.
Lolli, which incentivizes shoppers to go to its partner stores with bitcoin rewards sent to a wallet, now boasts of over 1,000 merchants and 250,000 users. Co-founder Alex Adelman said the company currently offers an average of 7% bitcoin-back rewards at retailers such as Microsoft and Booking.com. He added that Lolli users have also earned more than $3 million in bitcoin rewards to date.
Williams said she was positive about the investment. She felt Lolli made bitcoin more accessible, to the average crypto enthusiast.
She said: “I’m excited to announce my investment in Lolli, a company on a mission to make bitcoin more accessible. Earning and owning bitcoin is a step towards financial inclusivity for all people.”
Since the launch of Serena Ventures, the tennis champion has invested millions into dozens of impactful diverse-led startups. Among the companies she has invested in are Mayvenn, an online marketplace for hair extensions that helps boost the incomes of hairdressers, Lola, which makes organic tampons and sexual health products, and Propel, a Brooklyn startup digitizing food stamps and other financial services for low-income Americans.
Adelman welcomed Williams’s investment. He said: “We started out with the idea of educating people about bitcoin. So we just attached it to something that everybody does: shop. People think about investing when they think about bitcoin, but there’s probably less than 1% of the world that would consider themselves investors. Everybody would consider themselves a shopper. The ultimate goal is financial empowerment and financial inclusion, which are also key reasons Serena Williams and her team support Lolli.”
This is not the first time Lolli has successfully raised funds from investors. Last year, Lolli raised a $3 million seed round led by PathFinder, with participation from Digital Currency Group, You Tuber and make-up artist Michelle Phan, and actor Ashton Kutcher.
Serena Williams on stage at TED, via Flickr