Retail Zipline said today that it was infused with $9.6 million in Series A funding, led by Emergence and with participation from Serena Williams through her venture firm, Serena Ventures.

Retail Zipline is a communication and “execution” platform provider that is designed to help store-level associates deliver an improved shopping experience for customers. Current brands using the company’s suite of products includes Lush Cosmetics, The Lego Group and Torrid.

“This new investment will fuel Retail Zipline’s growth so the company can expand the team and continue building products that improve the lives of retail associates, a demographic that comprises one in four American jobs, yet has historically been underserved,” the company said in a statement.

Emergence focuses investments on early-stage enterprise companies. The company said its portfolio includes Salesforce, Box, Zoom, “and others who together have a collective worth exceeding $100 billion.” Two principal executives from Emergence, Santi Subotovsky and Kara Egan, will be joining the board of Retail Zipline.

Egan said the firm looks for companies “that are one-step ahead, shaping their strategies based not only on what the current market lacks, but where their industry is headed.” Egan described Retail Zipline as a company “that has created a new way to deliver engaging on-brand customer experiences by giving employees the right tools to execute HQ’s vision.”

For her part, Williams joined the funding round because it aligns with Serena Venture’s goal of funding companies that serve underrepresented groups. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that more than 48 percent of retail sales associates in the U.S. are female, and more than one-third are people of color. The funding of Retail Zipline is Serena Ventures’ first investment in company offering a retail SaaS product.

Serena Willaims

Serena Williams  Lexie Moreland/WWD

Williams said as someone with “an incredibly active life, I understand the need to be dynamic, and capable of quickly adapting to shifting priorities, but I’m also aware of the stress a fast-paced work environment can impose.”

“Retail Zipline is tackling this issue head-on in retail — a notoriously stressful industry — by pioneering products that help store associates get organized, communicate efficiently, and deliver amazing customer experiences,” Williams said adding that she was looking forward to “support them as they change the way retail works from the bottom up.”

Last year, Williams launched her namesake clothing line. And last month, she joined the board at Poshmark. Earlier this month, WWD reported that Williams was an investor in wedding gown brand Floravere.

Retail Zipline said it offers “large and small retailers alike the ability to take operational information like sales promotions, product launches and best practices from HQ — which come from many siloed departments and change rapidly — and structure it in an intuitive and engaging way. This makes it easy for employees in stores to understand the context, prioritize work, and collaborate with teammates quickly so they can deliver on the brand promise.”

Melissa Wong, cofounder and chief executive officer of Retail Zipline, said she spent a decade “working at a top global retailer trying to engage store teams and make sure they delivered on our vision, but the solutions that were available didn’t solve our execution and communications challenges.”

“Other industries have benefited from new workflow tools, but retail has been left behind,” Wong explained. “That’s why we built Retail Zipline. We’re by retail, for retail. Our core mission is to build products that meet the needs of America’s most populous workforce: retail employees. We are grateful to have the support of Emergence and Serena Ventures, who have partnered with us to make our vision of improving retail worker’s lives and the in-store experience a near term reality.”

Retail Zipline said its current product suite was informed by feedback from tens of thousands of store associates, managers and retail executives, among others, and focuses on four application areas that are run on a dashboard for mobile devices as well as for desktops.

The applications include messages and tasks, a resource library, store surveys and group communication functions.

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