Congrats to tennis star Serena Williams for becoming one of tech company SurveyMonkey’s board members. New position, new fiancee and new baby on the way!
Tennis superstar Serena Williams is making her first foray into the technology world by joining the board of online survey giant SurveyMonkey, the company announced on Wednesday.
While it may seem like an odd pairing, the match was made through Facebook chief operating officer and SurveyMonkey board member Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg and her late husband, Dave Goldberg, SurveyMonkey’s former CEO, were longtime friends of Williams.
SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie was looking to add more outside board members, especially from other industries. The two hit it off at a dinner party at Sandberg’s house last fall, and it started the conversation about how they could work together.
“Everything just came together easily,” Williams said in an interview with Fortune.
Williams isn’t a stranger to entrepreneurship. She has built a massive business around her tennis achievements, which includes winning 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most in the open era. She’s the world’s highest paid female athlete, with $77.6 million in career prize money, more than twice as much as any other female athlete in history, according to Forbes. That doesn’t include endorsement deals withNike and J.P. Morgan Chase. She also has a clothing business she promotes on TV shopping network HSN.
For Williams, joining SurveyMonkey’s board is an opportunity to put to use her experiences as a player and entrepreneur. “I want to spread this knowledge,” she said.
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For Lurie and SurveyMonkey, Williams brings her marketing knowledge and keen expertise for competition. “Silicon Valley is super competitive and there’s no winner like Serena in any sport in any decade,” he said, calling Williams a “mentor.” He added that Williams brings a different, outside voice to the boardroom, and that’s a good thing for the company.
Founded in 1999, SurveyMonkey provides online surveys to companies to get feedback from customers, potential customers, and employees. Ninety-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies, including Kraft Foods, Facebook, and Samsung, use SurveyMonkey either internally or for marketing purposes. The company, which was last valued at $2 billion, has raised over $1 billion in debt and equity, and an initial public offering is possible in the future. SurveyMonkey competes against fellow online survey upstart Qualtrics.
For both Williams and Lurie, the appointment has a touch of emotion as they both lost a dear friend when Goldberg suddenly passed away in 2015. Williams said that Goldberg was a “loving and inspirational person” and “it’s clear his legacy continues to live on at SurveyMonkey,” where he served as CEO starting in 2009.
“He would give me a huge hug for bringing Serena Williams into the company he built,” said Lurie.
Williams is currently on leave from professional tennis while awaiting the birth of her first child. She is engaged to Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of online message board Reddit.
SurveyMonkey also announced that Intuit CEO Brad Smith would also join its board.