Wildcard Ventures to identify and invest in companies across sports, health and entertainment.
- New entity to be led by Techstars MD Todd Deacon and Tennis Australia execs Dr Machar Reid and Lauren Coridas
- Move follows creation of last year’s inaugural Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator programme
Tennis Australia has become the latest sports organisation to launch its own venture capital fund that will focus on investing in early-stage technology startups.
Wildcard Ventures will initially identify and invest in companies across the sports, health and entertainment sectors, and will feature a syndication model that will enable investors to collectively back them.
The entity will be led by a core investment team of Techstars managing director Todd Deacon, Tennis Australia head of innovation Dr Machar Reid and finance business partner Lauren Coridas. It will also be supported by an advisory committee comprising representatives from venture capital firms including Techstars, Greycroft Partners, Foundry Group, Blackbird, TDM Growth Partners and Rampersand.
The move to form Wildcard Ventures comes after Tennis Australia partnered with American firm Techstars, Victoria University and LaunchVic to create last year’s inaugural Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator programme, the second edition of which is due to run in 2022.
Speaking to SportsPro in June, Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said investments in emerging technologies are a key focus for the national governing body as it looks to diversify its business beyond tennis-related activities.
As well as taking equity in a dozen emerging technology startups, the body has spent the past several years making investments in sports-adjacent areas like music, food, entertainment, esports and gaming.
“Our brand is one of innovation, forward thinking, and I think the proof is in the pudding,” he said. “When you have these federated sporting structures and everyone gets into the weeds really quickly, you really get handcuffed on the ability to grow. We haven’t had that, we’ve been lucky in that way, so we have been able to step out of our lane and innovate and invest in innovations.
“We don’t advertise 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 the commercial possibilities around non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrencies, two burgeoning yet largely untapped areas which could offer a new avenue for monetisation around the organisation’s “great content and assets”.
Tennis Australia’s use of technology at the Australian Open, its flagship tournament, has included the implementation of cutting-edge cameras and augmented reality (AR) applications, while it has also been developing advanced coaching technology built around artificial intelligence (AI) video analysis.
In a statement, Tiley said that, through Wildcard Ventures, Tennis Australia will “lend our vast experience and global events platform to test and mould these startups into companies that will benefit all sports in the long run.”
He added: “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 sports tech so we can have a broader impact.”