In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Paul Anton, co-founder and CEO of huupe, creators of a smart basketball hoop. Paul discusses how his love of the game and experience in AR led to a motion-tracking, backboard-housed basketball trainer. We also cover content creation and connecting the world through basketball.
Can you tell us about what you’re working on at huupe?
Paul Anton: huupe is the world’s first smart basketball hoop. With a screen for a backboard, our system allows you to train like a pro, track your performance, and play against other huupe users right from your home.
How did you come up with the idea? What key insight led you to pursue this opportunity?
PA: Basketball was my first love. I grew up totally in love with the game and still am today.
My favorite person to play with has always been my little brother, Frankie. In 2011, I moved 1K miles away for university, but Frankie and I didn’t let the distance separate us, and we continued to play basketball against each other by recording shots on our phones via Snapchat.
Several years later, I attended law school in San Francisco, where I caught the startup bug and founded Real Shot — the world’s first real-life video game that allowed users to play basketball remotely using augmented reality glasses.
Fast-forwarding to 2019, when one of my childhood friends, Lyth Saeed, and I both found ourselves in Milwaukee on break from work and school. I invited Lyth over to play Real Shot, and we played for hours.
He loved it, but then he mentioned an idea that would change everything. He asked me, “do you think we could take your game [Real Shot], and put it on a backboard?”
My jaw dropped because I knew that this was the big idea. We both stopped everything right then and there and started building.
How did you turn your idea into a company?
PA: After founding two companies prior to huupe, I knew the first thing we had to do was validate the idea by building a prototype. We bought a TV screen, a projector, cameras, LiDAR sensors, glass, acrylic — we tried everything and eventually built a prototype that worked! It wasn’t sexy, but it was functional.
From there, we demoed for friends, family, and investors, and everyone loved it. We were able to raise $1M fairly quickly after that from two large angel investor groups and one VC.
The first person we brought in was our head of manufacturing Adam Jaber, and the second was our CTO Dan Hayes. Since then, we’ve scaled to 10 people on the team, raised over $3M, and have iterated on hardware six times before reaching the final design.
We built in stealth mode for three years and just launched earlier this year, with a product that has lasted outside, under intense weather and basketball conditions. Now, we’re taking $100 down payments for pre-orders on our website and will be delivering our first batch of huupes this year!
How big can this get? What’s the addressable market and how do you go about capturing it?
PA: There are 450M basketball players globally, and basketball is the fastest-growing sport in the world. 4M basketball hoops were sold last year alone. Obviously, the basketball market is there.
So, we’re really focused on building the most amazing product we can right now. We need to believe in and stand by our product 1,000%. We need to want to use it ourselves.
Once we do this, we know we will capture a large part of the market. The fastest way to do this is to partner with and get our product out to as many influencers as we can.
Outstanding product in hand, it’s all about a great user experience and great content.
Who is the core customer? How are you acquiring customers? And how will you grow the customer base?
PA: Our core customer is anyone with a home and driveway space who loves basketball.
We’re acquiring customers by building a product that basketball players actually want and then getting our content in front of them.
Social media is the most valuable tool we have right now. It has allowed us to reach millions of people without spending a single dollar on marketing or sales
Luckily, a couple of our investors have pretty large social media followings, which helped us grow a lot at first. Then, House of Highlights organically posted a video of ours, which helped us go viral.
Virality is built into our product, but we haven’t even scraped the surface of how great our content can be.
Looking at your road map, what are some of the milestones you’re targeting over the next 3-6 months?
PA: Our roadmap this year is totally focused on delivering, shipping, and installing our first batch of huupes! It’s a wildly exciting time.
We also have several BIG partnerships we’re going to be announcing soon, and we are continuing to shoot content every day. We’re executing on all the things we can control right now.
Anything else you’d like to share with readers?
PA: We built huupe to connect the world through basketball. Our true North Star is to one day have users from all over the world playing basketball together. This has never been done before.
We want kids in China, India, Greece, Germany, Spain, and every country in the world to be able to log onto their huupes and play with each other. Basketball transcends race, creed, color, religion, and politics. Now, with huupe, basketball will even transcend physical distance.
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