There exists a startup project called ACE that provides funding and promotion resources to young aspiring tennis players at the critical junior age with hope that they don't drop out of professional sports. Obtaining the requisite funds for equipment, travel and entry into tournament is often a challenge for tennis players and those behind the ACE project think that they can significantly raise young tennis players' chances for long-term success.
ACE is a sort of conduit to connect interested investors with tennis players looking for funds. The idea is that supporting the players at an early age will provide those investors with a major return on investment on the back-end. Eventually, TokenStars -- the parent company for the ACE project -- looks to expand to football, poker, basketball, hockey and then to film actors, music bands and models.
The twist to this talent agency model is the use of tokens. This is not about a direct investment from investor to athlete, but instead a type of cryptocurrency exchange that is based on use of the blockchain. As such, TokenStars claims to be the first crowdfunding talent agency and considers traditional talent management agencies (i.e. IMG, Octagon and CAA) as its competitors.
"We expect decentralized promotion to bring a significant revenue stream for the players -- for example, this does not happen in IMG's case, because only top players like Maria Sharapova get dedicated managers," explains TokenStars CEO Pavel Stukolov, who has a background as a venture capital investment manager. "Most players don't even have Instagram pages."
Despite being very different from the traditional talent agency, TokenStars has adopted what it considers to be a standard commission rate of 10% of the players' net prize money (excluding local taxes) and 20% of players' sponsorship revenue.
Apparently, the concept of introducing crowdfunding to the talent agency world is working. TokenStars says that it has raised $1.5 million to date, with token holders adopting any number of three roles: scout, promoter and/or analyst. All token holders are considered analysts to start. Scouts are motivated monetarily to introduce promising players to the company and promoters handle the social media aspects of players' profiles while also seeking to secure sponsorship opportunities in exchange for further compensation.
The TokenStars team strongly believes that there is a huge, untapped market of young tennis players unjustly looked over by the IMG's of the world.
"Large sports agencies like IMG yearly sign just a few contracts per country, leaving more than 95% of prospective athletes out of the game," says Stukolov. "In result, many talented juniors are desperately looking for other opportunities and willing to negotiate."
Investors must agree if they are willing to put up the cash to obtain tokens soon after the initial tennis project launched.