Competitive athletes know that the game doesn’t end on the field or court, and there is more work to be done even after practice ends.
Durham-based TopCourt capitalizes on the dedication-bordering-on-obsession of athletes with content that blends tennis education and entertainment through a subscription-based service.
“Anyone who’s passionate about the game of tennis, looking for inspiration, looking to improve their game in the most efficient and cost-effective manner is a great fit for TopCourt,” said Taylor Meyer, Co-Founder of TopCourt.
More specifically, Meyer says that could be junior players looking to get a competitive edge in tournaments or adult league and club players looking to improve. The 13-person startup has buy-in from some of the top players and coaches in the world, like Canadian tennis pro (and former Wimbledon finalist) Genie Bouchard and doubles tennis legends Bob and Mike Bryan, aka The Bryan Brothers.
The platform offers Hollywood-production-level videos of top tennis pros divided into three main categories: instruction, with each pro teaching the technique for their best shots; drills, where the pros share what they do on a daily basis with modifications for different ages; and stories that the pros share of their journey in the tennis world, as well as behind-the-scenes material.
Members “study” TopCourt material off the court, Meyer says, then put learning into action on the court. Some people bring their phone out with them and follow along with drills in real-time.
Meyer says gamification techniques are coded into the platform, meaning, for example, that members are rewarded for staying on the platform with signed memorabilia and opportunities to meet and play with the pros at filming shoots.
Blurring the lines
Meyer says that the e-learning and entertainment—or “edutainment”—hybrid is growing quickly, especially with the rise of e-sports and the necessity of virtual environments that Covid-19 has made ubiquitous. TopCourt is a Covid-native, having launched in June 2020 with members in over 30 countries.
“You’re seeing people wanting to learn,” Meyer said, “and wanting learning to be more efficient, more seamless and more fun. That’s right in line with the e-sports boom that’s going on as well.”
Meyer played varsity tennis at UNC, where he met teammates-turned-TopCourt Co-Founders Zach Hunter, Alex Rafiee and Peter Fox. Meyer and Hunter previously launched and exited UConnection, a food and drink app for college students that they sold to AroundCampus in 2016, before the four of them (plus a fifth partner) started Durham-based Hyperspace Ventures in 2017 with the goal of helping entrepreneurs build their products.
Hyperspace Ventures is a technology company that offers software, design, marketing and venture capital services. Hyperspace also built the Own Your Golf Game and Learn to Win sports apps, both similarly focused on digital sport instruction.
Hyperspace got the TopCourt team off the ground by leading a $1.3 million seed round, building the software and leveraging connections with top tennis pros.
Meyer says what’s most exciting about TopCourt is that it helps grow the sport, and it makes world-class training—which is ordinarily expensive and scattered geographically—more accessible.
“Having a platform like this really enables anyone, whether you’re in a super-small town in the middle of Africa or at the heart of one of the biggest tennis academies in the world,” Meyer said, “to get inside tips and learn from the absolute best in the world.”