October 17, 2021

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Maria Sharapova on why she invested in home fitness startup Tonal

Maria Sharapova is a retired Russian professional tennis player. She was ranked No. 1 worldwide in singles by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) on five separate occasions, and she is one of 10 women to hold the career Grand Slam. She is also an Olympic medalist, winning a silver medal in women’s singles at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

In 2020, she retired from tennis at age 32. Beyond her investment in home fitness startup Tonal, Sharapova has put money in wellness brand Therabody and wearable weights company Bala Bangles.

Why I Invested-Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

  • Name of startup: Tonal

  • Year founded: 2018

  • Valuation: $1.6 billion

  • Investment level: Series E

  • Number of employees: 510

  • Location: San Francisco

  • Other major investors: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Serena Williams, Barry Bonds, Sue Bird, Michelle Wie, and Drew Brees

Why she invested, in her own words

I’ve always tried to avoid having a gym in my house, because my entire life had been built around working out and being fit. When I was home, I wanted it to be my sanctuary. Only to find out by 2020, my basement had become a gym, and my first piece of equipment was from Tonal. At the beginning of 2020, I was at a business conference, and there were a lot of founders and entrepreneurs in the health and wellness space. There was also a board member from Tonal at the event, who I had known for a few years. He told me about Tonal and put me in touch with Aly [Orady, Tonal’s founder and CEO].

During the conversations I had with Aly in the early stages, I felt that he had a vision in the fitness space, in particular with a focus on strength training. It was aligned with how I viewed it. In the early part of my career, fitness and strength training weren’t a big part of my training regime. I had spent a lot of time on the tennis court. It was very repetitive. As you get a little older, you get accustomed to the repetition, and you know the technicalities of what you are doing in your specific sport. It is not so much about the quantity, but the quality of your work. I started to pivot, and that’s where the world of strength came into my sports journey, especially because I had a shoulder injury from a very early age. I had to work on my shoulder strength and, ultimately, strength for my entire body.

Over the years, I had gotten to know a lot of brands in the health and wellness space. I was often trying out different watches, heart-rate monitors, and fitness equipment. I had a sense of how to apply these different gadgets, and it was nice to be able to understand what worked and what didn’t work. Tonal works—it does what it is supposed to do. Aly and I felt that when it comes to the female audience and strength, there’s an intimidating perspective of it being too strong and too bulky. For me, it’s the opposite. Strength can set you up for everything you want to do in fitness. It maintains your muscle strength, bone structure, and gives you more energy, so you can burn more when you are doing cardio or other exercises. I had to learn all of this the hard way, as I came from a repetitive sport.

Every call I have with the Tonal team we are always trying to find ways to make the products better, always listening to the customers that are using it. The world of fitness is so personal and individual. That’s what Tonal is catered to do. It does this through the technology that’s made for you, not just made for all your friends. I think that’s what is so impressive. And that’s what I learned in my career—not everyone is the same. And not everyone needs to use the same weights and reps.

When I was younger and became a sponsored athlete or associated with brands, in the immediate future I thought about it as a financial blanket. But ultimately, what I learned, especially from brands like Evian and Nike, it was almost like an MBA. Not only do you learn about the products, but also about the teams, the marketing, and the product innovation. I was always scared to only be known as a tennis player and an athlete. I wanted to jump into the world of entrepreneurship. Because that way, I was using my mind, and numbers and mathematics. And by having these great brand partners, I have found I can apply those lessons to this new chapter of my career.

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This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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