Tennis Australia seeks leadership status with sports tech accelerator

Tennis Australia has said its Accelerator programme will allow it to “innovate at a cadence” that is not typical of sport, adding it believes two partners have the potential to enhance the Australian Open fan experience in a unique way.

Ten start-ups from seven countries were recently selected to participate in the first Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator, a venture backed by Tennis Australia.

The project is a joint initiative between Tennis Australia; US seed accelerator Techstars; LaunchVic, a body formed by the Victorian government to encourage the local startup ecosystem; and Victoria University. It is focusing on early-stage sports technology companies that aim to disrupt and drive innovation in high performance sport, grassroots participation, as well as event and media technology.

Tennis Australia head of innovation, Dr Machar Reid, told TheStadiumBusiness.com: “Hundreds of sports and entertainment tech start-ups develop product, with potential value for tennis players and events, each year. Only a very small percentage emerge from Australia, which has historically limited the rate at which we’d like to adopt to the most impressive of these technologies.

“In partnering with a proven global corporate accelerator like Techstars, we immediately improve our sophistication in scanning the market, connecting with the best start-ups and leveraging the very best ideas to benefit our sport.

“Sport has historically lagged other industries in the adoption of technology. Becoming a more active player in this ecosystem, through our accelerator and other associated activities, will allow us to innovate at a cadence that is not typical of sport, never mind tennis.”

Of the 10 start-ups selected, Reid believes two could be particularly useful when it comes to ensuring that Australia’s annual grand slam tournament remains at the cutting edge for sports event fan experience.

MODU is creating what it claims will be the first immersive network for visual and audial media, with content able to be captured and created from any camera-enabled device in the world. Snapscreen is designed for TV and streaming services, enabling viewers to take a photo or snap of a TV with their mobile and instantly get a broadcast quality clip to rewind, personalise and share legally.

Reid said: “The start-ups in the Accelerator are all positioned to deliver value into at least one of our three verticals: the Australian Open, the recreational playing base and the high performance or competitive player. As it relates to the fans at the Australian Open, start-ups like MODU and Snapscreen could really add to the event experience in a unique way.”

The accelerator has attracted some high-profile names in the world of sports business to act in an advisory capacity. They include Nick Crocker, general partner of venture capital fund Blackbird; Javier Sobrino, chief strategy and innovation officer of FC Barcelona; and Gareth Capon, CEO of video editing firm Grabyo.

Looking to the future, Reid added: “The Accelerator will kick off on June 1. The 10 start-ups will spend 12 weeks connecting with us, Techstars and our partners at Victoria University. We’ve already selected upward of 20 Tennis Australia mentors, each with their own mix of digital and other deep subject matter expertise, to help the start-ups get the absolute most out of the 12 weeks.”