Sports Technology Startup Spotlight

Startup Spotlight :: SwingVision

In this startup spotlight, we feature SwingVision, a tennis tech startup that has developed a smart video analysis solution on an iPhone. We talk about how they started and how they grew even through an evidently challenging period. Read on to learn what has worked for them and what they are focusing on going forward.

Who Is And What Does SwingVision Do?

SwingVision (Mangolytics Inc) is a startup that is using mobile technology to help aspiring and everyday athletes track their tennis shots, and get the insights to help them improve. Their main product is an iOS app that runs on either an iPhone, iPad or Mac and also has a Watch app. Using the iPhone/iPad’s cameras and computer vision algorithms, the SwingVision app can identify and track various metrics of a tennis game or practice in real-time. There is also the option of using other camera devices (such as a GoPro or an Android phone) to record the game, then upload the video into the SwingVision app to run a post-game analysis. They have a free version that provides 2 hours of recording/analysis per month. The pro version provides unlimited recording/analysis at pretty reasonable subscription rates. The ultimate aim of SwingVision is to provide athletes with an affordable and accessible tool that was once available only to professionals.

The Why And How It Started?

The founders – Swupnil Sahai and Richard Hsu, were roommates at UC Berkeley who played tennis together regularly. They saw that professional tennis players had access to a wealth of data about their performance, and they wondered how they could have that too. On top of that, seeing what Strava is doing for cyclists and runners, they wanted something similar – an app that tracks their tennis game and monitors their performance.

SwingVision How it started: developing in Swift > Apple Watch App > Tesla Autopilot > SwingVision iOS App

So in around 2016, while working on his PhD, Swupnil picked up programming in Swift and developed an Apple Watch app to track tennis swings, shots and to manually keep score on the wrist. Fast forward a couple of years, Swupnil has spent some time at Tesla working on their Autopilot program. His experience solving complex computer vision challenges led him to see that the technology that tracks cars and pedestrians could well be applied to track swings and shots in tennis. Noting that the iPhone hardware was powerful enough to process video in real-time, that coupled with the fact that lots of people had iPhones, it made sense to develop an iOS app. And that was how SwingVision started.

How It Has Been Going?

Investors + Apple

Since they officially launched in 2019, the founders have managed to convince professional players, James Blake and Andy Roddick to invest in their company. More recently, they became part of Apple’s App Store Small Business Program and have been featured on the App store as well as being mentioned multiple times on Apple keynotes between 2020 and 2021. This has been helpful in getting lots more exposure and interest. Here’s an Apple keynote in Sep 2021 where SwingVision was featured as Apple announced their A15 bionic chip and the Apple Watch Series 7:

TechStars Melbourne + Seed Funding

In early 2020, SwingVision was accepted into the TechStars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator program. It was a great match as Tennis Australia was one of the corporate partners of the accelerator. In fact, one of the things that resulted was a partnership/agreement where more than 2200 Tennis Australia Coach members were given free access to a SwingVision Pro Subscription. That meant lots more dedicated professional usage and opportunities for productive feedback and understanding the needs of different groups. Of course, TechStars was also instrumental in helping SwingVision improve their product-market-fit, fine-tuning their pitch and making valuable connections within the sports industry.

To top it off, this June, SwingVision raised a $2M seed round led by Tennis Australia’s new venture capital arm, Wildcard Ventures. Techstars, Amino Capital and Afterwork Ventures also participated in the round, as did Mike & Albert Lee (Co-Founders of MyFitnessPal), Jason Liu (CFO of Strava) and Ben Wu (CEO of Brex). SwingVision plans to use this capital to continue growing the team, expand to Android, and grow the subscriber base internationally as they look to capture a dominant position in the market of 87M global tennis players

Selecting/filtering shots for replay

Impressive List Of Features

I won’t be listing out every single feature since there is quite a bit. But here are some that I thought stood out, and they are a combination of maximising what the existing technologies are capable of (at each point) and what is really useful for users. (They are not listed in any particular order)

  • The algorithms that identify the shots and where the shots landed on the court. [This is the basic core of the product which they have done really well]
  • The algorithms that identify plays in matches and automatically trims the video footage to create segments/highlights. [Which is a winner feature for all levels of players]
  • Apple Watch app for manually keeping score and bookmarking/tagging shots. [They started off with the Watch app and it got fully integrated into the computer vision stuff]
  • A dashboard/app for coaches to manage teams and having coaching specific tools (e.g. voice over & annotations); and the ability to integrate with different coaching tools (e.g. coaches eye)
  • The ability to challenge line calls using the newer Apple Watch (series 5 or newer) [They knew this is what a lot of users wanted and they capitalised on the latest available tech to implement it]

To put all this into context, they have built all the above (and more) in a relatively short period of time and with a team of fewer than 10 people. For that, I reckon it’s pretty impressive. They have worked closely with tennis federations and have taken in lots of feedback from users, and in the end, they recognise it was the experience and not simply the features that really matter.

So What Next?

Growth Strategy :: SwingVision has seen tremendous growth in the app uses/downloads even through the Covid pandemic. They have also formed some good partnerships with tennis federations such as USTA and Tennis Australia and had some great outcomes. In fact, they have just started a partnership with LTA and are planning to continue using this approach to widen their outreach.

Product Roadmap :: As mentioned earlier, with the $2M seed funding raised in June, they have lots planned ahead. Besides building an Android app, some other things in the pipeline include a fully automated umpire, live streaming of tennis games, real-time coaching (feedback on technique), supporting multiple cameras on the court, a personalised recommendation of sports equipment, and more.

Consequently, with more partnerships and more developments underway, it means they need to grow their team. Especially engineers in iOS/mobile development, machine learning, software product design, and also marketing and salespeople. Those who are interested in what they are doing should check out the jobs being advertised on angel.co. If you would like to learn more about them, they can also be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Finally, I leave you with a pitch that Swupnil did at Tennis Tech Stage on November 17, 2020 below. Thanks for reading!

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