Tennis Australia’s New Venture Capital Arm Follows NFL’s Lead

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As the Australian Open begins, SwingVision, a real time video analysis tool, will be replaying some of the tournament’s best matches and highlighting its most unforgettable moments thanks to an AI technology created by a former Tesla engineer.

SwingVision’s courtside presence isn’t an accident. The company is the first investment of Wildcard Ventures, the venture capital arm of Tennis Australia, the national governing body of the sport.

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Led by two industry veterans, Machar Reid and Todd Deacon, Wildcard Ventures launched operations a few months ago and has already raised millions for startups.

Tennis Australia is catching up with a trend among sports teams and leagues. A decade ago, the NFL created 32 Equity, a venture capital fund designed to provide new revenue streams to the league. F.C. Barcelona, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and most recently Minnesota Twins have followed suit.

“In essence, we are using the leverage that we have at our disposal as a business to springboard early-stage companies to success, but at the same time, benefit from some of the commercial upside,” Reid told Sportico.

Their syndicate fund is designed to connect emerging sports tech and entertainment startups with high-net-worth individuals in the tennis world.

“It’s not a pre-committed fund,” Reid said. “We haven’t gone to the market and raised 30, 100 or $250 million. What we’ve done is essentially say to the tennis family and high-net-worth individuals that we’re in a position to bring forward some really cool and hopefully lucrative opportunities on a deal-by-deal basis.”

The fund for SwingVision has participation from Techstars, Amino Capital, Strava CFO Jason Liu, and MyFitnessPal co-founders Albert and Mike Lee. Former tennis players Andy Roddick and James Blake were the first investors in the project. Founded by ex-Tesla engineer Swupnil Sahai and a Berkeley data science professor, Richard Hsu, SwingVision raised $2 million in its seed round.

“We’re essentially committing some Tennis Australia money, but at the same time, bringing the opportunity to limited partners externally,” Reid said. “We asked ourselves can this project become successful without us? Yes, we believe that it can. Will they become more successful more quickly if we’re involved? Yes, we believe that that can happen also.”

SwingVision already has surpassed $250,000 in quarterly revenue in 2021. While the U.S. accounts for 45% of its subscriber base, the company has clients around the world. The real-time A.I. video analysis tool comes with a membership that costs $149.99 a year. Currently, 3,000 coaches that work under Tennis Australia’s umbrella are using the technology to train players. Reid is aiming to find more opportunities to integrate the tool throughout the year in different tournaments for player development.