Tennis Industry magazine


Our Serve: Spirit of Innovation

The inaugural Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge shows a healthy side of the tennis business.

By Peter Francesconi

When I first heard the idea for an industry “innovation challenge,” I admit I was skeptical. The Tennis Industry Association was planning the 2017 Tennis Owners & Managers Conference and Future of Tennis Forum, and was considering adding a competition in which industry businesses of all types would have a chance to showcase their innovative tennis product or service.

The idea was to not only help highlight some of the innovation going on in this industry, but also to give participating businesses publicity, provide them an audience and potential customers, and create an environment where they could find investors and support to help them grow — which helps the industry.

The Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge was a competition in the style of the “Shark Tank” TV show — finalists would have a few minutes to pitch their product or service to a panel of judges and in front of an audience. The judges would then pick one winner, who would receive a cash prize and the attention that comes with it.

I had two concerns: First, I wasn’t sure that many businesses would be interested in this challenge; second, if there was interest, choosing just one winner in an industry as diverse as ours may prove difficult.

I was certainly wrong on the first concern. Thirty-six companies of all types and sizes completed the online application for the Innovation Challenge. Submissions ranged from court surfaces to software to on-court aids to rating systems, among other innovations. The response was great to see and heartening for our industry. Besides the companies that participated in the challenge, you can be sure there are many more that are similarly committed to helping this sport grow.

My second concern wasn’t quite so easy to dismiss. The TIA and its judges had a formidable task of whittling down the 36 submissions to six finalists, and then choosing one winner. But, guided by the expertise of international performance strategist Carlos Salum, a member of the SportsCouncil Silicon Valley and moderator of the Innovation Challenge, the task was skillfully handled. The winner of the inaugural Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge is Tennibot, a robotic ball collector that detects balls on the court using cameras, sensors and complex algorithms.

I look forward to seeing this competition continue — and flourish — in the years to come. It’s off to a rousing start.

Peter Francesconi
Editorial Director

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About the Author

Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.



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