Tennis

New VC fund Wildcard Ventures launches

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Tennis Australia launches its own venture capital fund to help advance SportsTech startups from the very beginning of their journey.

Melbourne, 22 July 2021 | tennis.com.au

Tennis Australia is set to follow the lead of America’s top sporting organisations NFL, NBA and MLB by launching its own venture capital fund to help advance SportsTech startups from the very beginning of their journey.

Wildcard Ventures invests in early stage companies that focus on technologies that will benefit the sports, health and entertainment industry. In a world-first, the opportunity is open to investors to join a syndicate alongside some of the biggest names in tennis.

“We’ve been on a journey of innovation for a number of years now as we work to increase our connection with fans across the world by looking at new ways they can play, compete in and consume our sport,” Tennis Australia CEO & Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.

“Wildcard Ventures gives us the opportunity to identify new sports, health and entertainment technologies at the earliest stages, so we can lend our vast experience and global events platform to test and mould these start-ups into companies that will benefit all sports in the long run.

“By setting the fund up as a syndicate opportunity, it allows us to team up with like-minded investors who are also looking to advance the world of SportsTech so we can have a broader impact.”

The core Investment team comprises Techstars Managing Director Todd Deacon, Tennis Australia Head of Innovation Dr Machar Reid and Finance Business Partner Lauren Coridas. The team will be responsible for identifying early stage technology companies from around the world with ambition and the will to succeed in sports and entertainment.

The Wildcard Ventures Advisory Committee includes partners from some of the biggest venture capital firms such as Techstars, Greycroft Partners, Foundry Group, Blackbird, TDM Growth Partners and Rampersand to advise on the viability of the opportunities identified.

“Last year’s inaugural Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator demonstrated Tennis Australia’s experience in identifying and adopting cutting-edge SportsTech and I jumped at the opportunity to join the Advisory Committee of Wildcard Ventures,” Techstars Co-Founder & Chairman David Cohen said.

“My focus has always been on identifying early stage companies in the consumer internet and mobile communications markets and I’m really looking forward to working with Tennis Australia on Wildcard Ventures to bring an entertainment lens to SportsTech,” Greycroft Partners Founding Partner Dana Settle said.

About Tennis Australia & SportsTech

  • Tennis Australia took over the Host Broadcast of the Australian Open and lead-in events in 2015 and has since built its coverage hours and revenue substantially
  • The Australian Open was the first event to introduce coverage of every match court and now provides coverage of 21 courts, including five practice courts, guaranteeing that every point played during the tournament is captured
  • The Grand Slam also developed the use of NetCam in 2018, EyeCam embedded in the umpire’s chair in 2017 and GCam which is used to deliver Augmented Reality graphics from 2018
  • 360° immersive technology at AO 2021 gave fans a choice of more than 12 camera angles inside Rod Laver Arena via the Occulus headset
  • More than 150 cameras across the Melbourne Park precinct provide content for a dedicated behind-the-scenes feed, which gives greater insight into how players prepare for the Grand Slam
  • The development and integration of the player walk-on experience has brought the tournament’s history of champions into the digital age and enhanced the coverage globally
  • Launched and designed the ATP Cup with broadcast content in mind, providing unique insight into the players through team benches, data access and the strategy room
  • Launched the Laver Cup in 2017, retaining a 20 per cent stake in the event
  • Partnered with Techstars, Victoria University and LaunchVic to run the Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator last year. The second edition is due to commence in 2022
  • Developed the leading tennis console game AO Tennis 1 & 2 with Big Ant Studios, along with the free mobile edition which has had more than two million downloads
  • Partnered with Epic Games to produce the AO Summer Smash Fortnite esports tournament held during the AO
  • Held a hackathon with CrowdANALYTIX to find a way to automate the call of forced and unforced errors in professional tennis using machine learning
  • Introduced the Game Insights Group in partnership with Victoria University to provide a new set of statistical data to give fans a better understanding of the stories behind the points
  • Developed the Tennis Lab, which uses state-of-the-art tracking technology to analyse hundreds of players and test 80 per cent of the racquets on the market across the top five brands to build a world-first algorithm that recommends the best three racquets online
  • Partnered with start-up SwingVision to bring game-changing technology to coaches and players through real-time artificial intelligence video analysis from just a single smartphone or tablet.

About Wildcard Ventures

Investment team

Todd Deacon, General Partner

Machar Reid, General Partner

Lauren Coridas, Operations Manager

Advisory Committee

Brad Feld, Co-Founder & Partner at Foundry Group

Dana Settle, Founding Partner at Greycroft Partners

David Cohen, Co-Founder & Chairman at Techstars

Hannah Brown, Ex Head of Investments at Sky (UK)

Nick Crocker, Partner at Blackbird Ventures

Ed Cowan, Investor at TDM Growth Partners

Paul Naphtali, Founding partner at Rampersand

Head to wildcardventures.vc for more information

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