Serena Williams is joining the SurveyMonkey board

Kara Swisher
Here's how tennis superstar Serena Williams has built a brand off the court
Here's how tennis superstar Serena Williams has built a brand off the court

Tennis star and entrepreneur Serena Williams is joining the board of SurveyMonkey, along with Intuit CEO and chairman Brad Smith, the online survey company said. Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman and Turbonomic's executive chairman Bill Veghte are stepping off as directors as part of the move.

As most know, Williams is one of the most famous athletes in the world, having won the most Grand Slam singles tennis titles in history. Her most recent addition to that stellar performance was a win at the Australian Open.

Smith, who may or may not be good at tennis (I didn't ask), has run the iconic financial software company a very long time and has served on many tech boards, including at Yahoo.

Other SurveyMonkey directors include board chairman David Ebersman and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, whose late husband David Goldberg was SurveyMonkey's CEO.

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That's a job now filled by longtime Silicon Valley exec Zander Lurie, who said the changes come as he has settled into his role. Lurie was previously an exec at GoPro.

Zander Lurie, CEO of Survey Monkey
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

"I have been on the job 15 months, working on the forward vision and strategy here, and it's natural to reassess board," he said in an interview.

Adding the high-profile Williams, who also runs a fashion company, to the board came at the suggestion of Sandberg, Lurie said.

Williams said this is her first corporate board seat, and she wanted to move to new arenas that suit her recent business efforts in fashion. "I am an entrepreneur and I am drawn to opportunities that are innovative," she said. "The more I learned about this company, the more I felt their core values were close to mine."

She also has gotten to know Silicon Valley better via her engagement to longtime techie Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and other startups. "I am engaged to a techie, so I guess that makes me engaged to tech," she joked.

Alexis Ohanian and Serena Williams
Mike Coppola | Getty Images

Lurie said Williams "obviously has totally different skills sets ... we are well represented with Silicon Valley experience, but to know Serena is to know what greatness looks like." Among her attributes, he added, were also her activism, philanthropy and voice around issues like the gender pay gap.

Adding Smith, Lurie added, means he gets a mentor on "how to be a world-class CEO."

"I've actively used SurveyMonkey products and have been inspired with the caliber of leadership that has guided this amazing company through the years," Smith wrote in a blog post.

In another blog post this morning, Sandberg also weighed in about the pair. "Brad Smith is one of the most respected CEOs in Silicon Valley," she wrote. "Serena is an activist, marketer, brand builder and one of the greatest athletes of all time."

She added: "SurveyMonkey is near and dear to my heart. Dave loved the company, its mission of helping people make better decisions, and his colleagues that he worked with every day."

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