Mark Cuban, different buyers, put $250,000 in basketball tech firm GRIND
Thomas Fields, founder of GRIND Basketball.
The term has become popular in professional basketball, but Thomas Fields really “trusted” the process when he attracted money from investors, including Mark Cuban, to expand his business.
Fields is the founder of GRIND, a sporting goods company, and convinced the owner of Dallas Mavericks to get into the business. The 26-year-old Houston native received $ 250,000 for his appearance on “Shark Tank” for his portable shooting machine.
In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, days after his appearance on Shark Tank on May 7, Fields recalled the process of introducing GRIND into Mach 2020, days before the sport was suspended due to Covid-19.
“It literally took two weeks for the pandemic to hit,” Fields said. “After that, we worked in a Covid world, so we don’t even know what this non-Covid world looks like.”
Throw the sharks
In business terms, GRIND has done well during the pandemic. The basketball machine is set up for a single user and automatically returns the ball to the player, allowing 1,000 hits per hour.
Fields said the company had revenue of around $ 217,000 in the first five months from lockdowns and large gatherings banned. The product currently retails for $ 1,595, according to its website. Similar shooting machines sell for over $ 5,000 on Amazon.
And Fields notes that GRIND folds into a duffel bag in 90 seconds, weighs about 100 pounds, and describes the product as “affordable and accessible to any athlete who wants it”.
When asked about recent sales, Fields declined to disclose numbers, citing privacy concerns for his new partners. “Shark Tank” invited Fields to the show after six rounds of interviews. The last pitch took place in Las Vegas last September.
Mark Cuban on ABC’s “Shark Tank”
His fiancée applied for the show before the company started. Fields said he watched pre-recorded episodes that air on CNBC and made notes. And while he was quarantined in Las Vegas before meeting the sharks, he continued to study the process of his one-off pitch.
“All I could do was practice,” Fields said, adding that he was in “run mode” when he arrived. He put up a cast including the Cuban, the new owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Alex Rodriguez, CNBC employee Kevin O’Leary, and businesswoman Barbara Corcoran. After the pitch he got two investors – Cuban and Corcoran – who took over 25% of the company.
“I love the product,” Cuban told CNBC in an email. “I ordered one while the show was filming.”
Fields added, “It was great going through this and after knowing that these two believed in me as an entrepreneur and loved the product, that was more than enough validation to say the company was going to be special.”
Batteries not included
Shortly after recapping the show, Fields remembered more about GRIND’s process. He pointed to 2017 when he was recovering from four ACL surgeries, one of the more extreme injuries in sports, especially basketball. At this point, Fields knew that making it into the National Basketball Association was not achievable.
Fields said he learned to weld thanks to a friend and started working on the concept of the GRIND machine. He raised early investors, but no one provided money. So he started working at Raising Cane’s, a popular fast food chain and local car wash, and saved nearly $ 25,000.
Fields said he had become a “self-taught mechanical engineer,” paid $ 300 a month, and worked on prototypes and proof of concept in his garage.
“Just perfect the machine and make it great,” recalled Fields.
Even Rodriguez welcomed Fields’ persistence on social media. “I got a lot of love, but in the end he was out,” Fields said of Rodriguez.
Today the shooting machines are made in Idaho and Fields has eight employees, including four engineers. GRIND also has an NBA team deal with the San Antonio Spurs, who use the machine for their youth camps.
“We targeted the Spurs because they have the best and largest youth organization in the NBA,” Fields said. “It was strategic and we didn’t partner with them because they were around.”
GRIND is working on a battery that can be added to the machine. This was one of the problems Cubans faced before investing. The machine uses an extension cord for power supply. Fields noted that Cuban told him the product was not portable because it still needed an electrical outlet.
“Ultimately, we don’t want customers running around with 100-foot extension cords,” Fields said. “We want them to be ready and to worry that they will be better.”
Nike and Peloton ambitions
Fields enters a competitive exercise equipment market. The sector is projected to reach $ 89.2 billion in 2025, according to Grand View Research. GRIND also competes with the technology sector as companies like Apple sell subscriptions to exercise and fitness training.
“The way I see it, there is only so much software can do to an individual,” Fields said. “There’s so much hardware can do to a consumer too. I’ve always believed it brings the best of both worlds.
“I believe our hardware solves a real problem that no software can ever figure out – you can get your shots made and missed, pass the ball automatically, and allow you to shoot more than a thousand shots an hour. No software can. ” “”
Fields says he wants to build GRIND as a combination of Nike and Peloton.
“It is a perfect time for us to change the world of basketball through interactive sports equipment,” said Fields. “I think the future is bright for us. We’re much more than a shooting machine company.”
And now the process continues.