Wildcard Ventures to identify and invest in sports, health and entertainment businesses.
- New entity led by Techstars MD Todd Deacon and Tennis Australia executives Dr Machar Reid and Lauren Coridas
- Move follows the creation of last year’s inaugural Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator program
Tennis Australia has become the latest sports organization to launch its own venture capital fund that will focus on investing in early stage tech startups.
Wildcard Ventures will initially identify and invest in companies in the sports, health and entertainment industries, and propose a syndication model that will allow investors to support them collectively.
The entity will be led by a core investment team comprised of Techstars Managing Director Todd Deacon, Tennis Australia Director of Innovation Dr Machar Reid, and financial partner Lauren Coridas. It will also be supported by an advisory board made up of representatives from venture capital firms, including Techstars, Greycroft Partners, Foundry Group, Blackbird, TDM Growth Partners and Rampersand.
The decision to form Wildcard Ventures comes after Tennis Australia has partnered with US-based Techstars, University of Victoria and LaunchVic to create last year’s inaugural Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator, the second of which is scheduled to be take place in 2022.
Speaking to SportsPro in June, Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said investing in emerging technologies is a key focus for the national governing body as it seeks to diversify its business beyond tennis-related activities.
In addition to taking stakes in a dozen emerging tech startups, the organization has spent the past few years investing in areas adjacent to sports such as music, food, entertainment, esports, and games.
“Our brand is a brand of innovation, of forward thinking, and I think the proof is in the pudding,” he said. “When you have these federated sports structures and everyone gets into the weeds really quickly, you’re really handcuffed to the ability to grow. We didn’t have that, we got lucky that way, so we were able to get out of our way and innovate and invest in innovations.
“We don’t present ourselves as innovators and we don’t tell the world that we innovate, we just do it. “
Tiley also revealed that Tennis Australia is actively exploring business opportunities around non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies, two booming but largely untapped areas that could offer a new avenue of monetization around “great content and assets. ” organisation.
Tennis Australia’s use of technology at the Australian Open, its flagship tournament, included the implementation of state-of-the-art cameras and augmented reality (AR) applications, while developing advanced coaching technology based on artificial intelligence (AI) video analysis.
In a statement, Tiley said that, through Wildcard Ventures, Tennis Australia “will give its vast experience and platform of global events to test and transform these startups into businesses that will benefit all sports in the long run.” .
He added, “By creating the fund as a syndication opportunity, it allows us to team up with like-minded investors who are also looking to advance the world of sports technology so that we can have a wider impact. “