This is the tennis superstar’s first venture into Silicon Valley and, according to a SurveyMonkey spokesperson, came about at the suggestion of fellow board member and Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Sandberg joined the board last summer after suffering the loss of her husband Dave Goldberg, who had been the company’s CEO before he unexpectedly passed away.
It’s easy to make the connection to the Valley through William’s fiancé and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. However, Sandberg and her husband had been longtime friends of Williams and SurveyMonkey was looking to change things up on the board.
Williams’ “voice on the board sends a strong message to our company, investors, and the industry,” said SurveyMonkey’s current CEO Zander Lurie. “We want change agents at our table.”
According to Fortune, Lurie and Williams started talking about the possibility of working together after meeting up at a dinner party at Sandberg’s house last fall. “Everything just came together easily,” Williams told the magazine.
Aside from being one of the top tennis players in the world and the highest paid female athlete, banking $77.6 million in her career from prize money so far, Williams has also launched several businesses around her extraordinary tennis achievements. She once had a special line with Puma and inked endorsement deals with Nike and J.P. Morgan Chase. She also has her own apparel line called Aneres (her name spelled backwards) and launched her own collection of handbags and jewelry on the Home Shopping Network (HSN).
Williams sees an opportunity to put those achievements to good use in the tech world, as well. “As a business professional, I’m constantly asking questions. I want to hear the positive and the negative to figure out where I can improve,” she told TechCrunch in a statement. “Like SurveyMonkey, I’m driven to ask what’s happening, and why. We also share a fierce commitment to letting all voices be heard.”
SurveyMonkey, which competes with online survey startup Qualtrics, gathers customer feedback from online surveys and, according to Fortune, the majority of Fortune 500 companies use the service to gain insights. But survey data depends on the types of questions asked and knowing what to ask. That unique insight can be hard to get in a room full of the same types of people.
Note also, Silicon Valley doesn’t have a great track record with women or diversity so far. Williams is a great get for the company’s board as she is able to add that fresh (and needed) voice, along with her outstanding career track record to help shape SurveyMonkey’s future.
Additional reporting by Ingrid Lunden.