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Written by Jonathan Shieber

Starbucks will anchor the new $400 million food-focused Valor Siren Ventures fund

Starbucks is serving up a steaming hot $100 million cash commitment to anchor a new food-focused fund in partnership with the consumer and tech-focused focused private equity firm Valor Equity Partners.

The behemoth of burnt-coffee said that its commitment to the Valor Siren Ventures fund is an attempt to focus on “new ideas and technologies that are relevant to customers, inspiring to partners (employees), and meaningful to Starbucks business.”

The Starbucks announcement was short on details, except for a general statement that it would focus on investments in companies developing technologies, products and solutions related to food or retail.

As a company, Starbucks has been incredibly innovative — rolling out new tech-enabled services to customers. The company has one of the most popular mobile payment services, is dabbling with cryptocurrency payments and has a robust on-demand delivery service through UberEats.

Meanwhile, Valor has a long history of investing in both technology and consumer food businesses. The firm has investments in companies that run the gamut from SpaceX, Tesla and Addepar to food services companies and restaurant chains like WowBao, Fooda and Eatsa.

With its commitment, Starbucks joins a growing number of food and beverage companies that are embracing venture capital. Kellogg’s, Tyson Foods and General Mills all have affiliated venture funds, and even Chipotle is starting an accelerator program.

“We believe that innovative ideas are fuel for the future, and we continue to build on this heritage inside our company across beverage, experiential retail, and our digital flywheel,” said Kevin Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks, in a statement. “At the same time, and with an eye toward accelerating our innovation agenda, we are inspired by, and want to support the creative, entrepreneurial businesses of tomorrow with whom we may explore commercial relationships down the road. This new partnership with Valor presents exciting opportunities, not only for these startups, but also for Starbucks, as we build an enduring company for decades to come.”

Serena Williams joins Bumble’s investment fund as an investor

Serena Williams, the global sports and fashion icon and investor, is doubling down on her relationship with the dating app Bumble with today’s announcement that she will serve as an investor in its Bumble Fund. 

Launched in 2018, the Bumble Fund backs early-stage businesses founded and led by women of color and underrepresented groups. The fund’s commitments range between $5,000 and $250,000, with an average check size of $25,000.

“In my life, and today more than ever, I’ve learned how impactful one woman’s voice can be when given a platform to speak and be heard,” said Serena Williams, in a statement. 

Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has been investing in women and minority-owned businesses through Serena Ventures since 2014. She also serves on the boards of the tech companies Poshmark and SurveyMonkey. 

She began her relationship with Bumble in January, culminating with a starring role in the company’s most recent Super Bowl commercial earlier this year, and will be leading the Bumble Fund pitch competition next month, along with Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd.

That competition launches today on Bumble Bizz and is open to U.S.-based entrepreneurs who identify as women, with a priority given to founders from diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Companies have until March 27, 2019 to submit.

“When we launched our #InHerCourt campaign with Serena Williams this past January, we were amazed by the overwhelming response we received from women globally who felt empowered by our message,” Wolfe Herd said in a statement. “In teaming up with Serena for the Bumble Fund, we want women everywhere to know that we are here, we are listening and we believe in you.”

Through Serena Ventures, Williams already has invested in more than 30 companies, while the Bumble Fund has made nine investments to date. Recent deals include investments in the business advisory service, Alice; the workout and training app, Gixo; diversity and inclusion training toolkit provider, Translator; and the probation and parole support service, Promise.

“I am passionate about building on this progress and opening doors for women of all backgrounds, especially women of color, to share their message and trust in their potential to accomplish great things,” Williams said in a statement. “By joining forces with the Bumble Fund, we will continue amplifying female entrepreneurs and creating a place for them to personally and professionally champion their growth.”

Here’s the first trailer for Stranger Things Season Three

Yes. We’re as stoked as you are.