Tennis Australia will follow the lead set by US governing sports bodies such as the NFL and NBA and launch its own venture capital fund to back tech startups.
Wildcard Ventures will invest in early-stage startups using technologies that benefit the sports, health and entertainment industries. The fund will also create a syndicate for investors to back the ideas alongside some of the biggest names in tennis.
The move follows on from a successful sportstech program backed by Tennis Australia last year.
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said the VC fund is part of a long program of innovation by the organisation, which partnered with Techstars, Victoria University and LaunchVic last year to run the Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator. A second cohort will take part in 2022.
“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,” he said.
“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 investment team includes Techstars MD Todd Deacon and TA’s head of innovation Dr Machar Reid as Wildcard’s general partners, with Lauren Coridas as operations manager. Their brief is to identify early-stage technology companies globally to back.
The fund’s advisory committee is a Who’s Who of local and global investment, including Rampersand’s Paul Naphtali, Blackbird’s Nick Crocker, Foundry’s Brad Feld, Dana Settle from Greycroft Partners, Techstars chair David Cohen, TDM’s Ed Cowan, and Hannah Brown, former head of investments at Sky (UK).
Greycroft Partners founding partner Dana Settle 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 Sportstec.”