CHARLESTON, S.C. — April 12, 2018 — The third edition of the Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge — a “Shark Tank”-like competition to identify the most innovative and creative product or service in the tennis industry — took place this week during the Tennis Owners & Managers (TOM) Conference in Charleston, S.C., and the winner was Tweener Lighting, a unique LED lighting system that attaches to existing fencing around tennis and other sport courts.
Presented by the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), the Innovation Challenge took place on April 9 during key tennis industry meetings at Wild Dunes Resort. Three companies, which had been selected from 20 overall applicants for this Innovation Challenge, each gave a five-minute presentation on what makes their tennis product or service special, unique and important to the growth of the sport.
In the final analysis, the panel of judges picked Tweener Lighting System, which is based in France, as the winner of the third Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge. Tweener Lighting CEO Florent Colliau presented to the panel of five judges and to a tennis industry audience, and even plugged in and turned on one of the LED lighting bars that attaches to the top of the fence surrounding a court, eliminating the need for separate lighting poles or “masts.”
Colliau said the benefits of the patented outdoor lighting system are the lower cost to buy, install and operate; the “plug and play” ease of installation, in many cases just one day per court; lighting with no shadows and no glare, even on high balls; and design integration with the fence itself.
“I think most people understand why this system is good,” Colliau said after the competition. “Winning this competition is very big for us. This will give our product more legitimacy. We are recognized by the French Tennis Federation, and now we’ve come to the U.S. as a top innovation in the tennis industry.”
Colliau also exhibited the Tweener Lighting System in the Resource Center at the TIA’s TOM Conference, where he said he met with many racquet sports facility owners and managers who wanted to know more about his product for their own facilities. Also, he said an equipment manufacturer was interested in talking more about the production of the unit, and a potential investor reached out to him.
“What I like about Tweener is that they took something that has been an accepted way of doing things and looked at it in a different way, and that to me is innovation,” said Dr. Stuart Miller, senior executive director of the International Tennis Federation and one of the judges for the Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge. “Innovation is just as much about improving an existing system as it is inventing something new.”
The other two finalists in the competition were Armbeep, a portable motion-analysis device that helps players and coaches master, and PlayByCourt, a community-based, two-sided online platform that facilitates the process of booking lessons, court times, and clinics for tennis players.
“The Innovation Challenge is designed to provide a showcase to the most creative products that can increase awareness, engagement and participation in tennis, as well as improving playing performance,” says Carlos Salum, president of Salum International Resources and a member of the Sports Council Silicon Valley, who was the moderator for the Innovation Challenge. “Like our previous editions of the Innovation Challenge, our applicants for Charleston embodied this spirit of innovation, and the three finalists all had strong presentations that connected with the tennis industry audience.”
As the winner of the Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge, Tweener Lighting System received a $1,000 cash prize, in addition to a national news release to about 2,000 media outlets with a potential audience of 30 million consumers; coverage in Tennis Industry Magazine; a membership in the TIA; and other benefits.
“We were thrilled with the quality of our Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge applicants and finalists,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “Many thanks to all those who took the time to apply and to tell us about their innovative product or service which is helping to grow tennis and industry businesses. The TIA is pleased to offer this unique platform to entrepreneurs, with an eye toward increasing tennis participation and enjoyment for all consumers.”
Judges for the Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge in Charleston were:
- Rishi Bhatnagar, CEO of Syntelli Solutions;
- Walid Fattah, entrepreneur and co-founder of Kourts;
- Mac Lackey, entrepreneur, executive at SportsEngine and chairman of ISL Futbol;
- Dr. Stuart Miller, senior executive director of the International Tennis Federation;
- Royce Wolfe, principal of Thru Traffic Marketing LLC.
The inaugural Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge took place in March 2017 in Miami, and the winner of that competition was Tennibot, a robotic tennis ball collector that detects tennis balls on the court using cameras, sensors and complex algorithms. In August 2017, just as the US Open was beginning, the second Innovation Challenge took place in New York City, and the winner there was In/Out a $199 device that attaches to the net post and calls lines, analyzes shot placement and statistics, and records HD video.
Plans are in the works for the next Tennis Industry Innovation Challenge for January 2019 in Orlando, Fla. For more information about the TIA, visit the TOM Conference and the Innovation Challenge website.
About the TIA
The Tennis Industry Association, the not-for-profit trade association for tennis, is THE unifying force in the tennis industry whose mission is to promote the growth and economic vitality of the business of tennis by working closely with its industry partners and in support of the USTA in their development of initiatives to increase tennis participation. Core TIA activities include producing more than 70 U.S. and global research reports annually on participation and consumer/trade research, managing the largest relational database, along with hosting annual TIA Tennis Forum, Leadership meetings and the TOM Conference at major tournaments and events. Visit TIA’s website or call 866-686-3036.