The innovation story every frustrated entrepreneur needs to hear

We live in a time of innovation abundance, where our ability to explore and develop new ideas is exponentially greater than it was even 10 years ago. This can be both liberating, and disheartening –  the curse of infinite possibility. It’s time all of us frustrated entrepreneurs heard a story reminding us how joyful and simple innovation can be.

Chris Meade, his brother Greg, and their childhood friend Mike Delpapa were watching ESPN one evening when they decided they should invent a cool game.

Much like the protagonists of Baseketball, they just wanted a game that was easy to ‘get’, easy to play, and didn’t require a squad of athletes. Just like those great games they’d played in grade school.

What they landed on was a permutation of volleyball and four square. Two short volleyball nets set up as an intersecting cross. Four players, one per ‘square’, and a single volleyball. A single hit per player, games to 11, with the winner staying in the game and one loser being pushed out to make way for another player.

They stitched and rigged a makeshift net, took it to the beach, and started to play. Almost immediately, others wanted in on the game. By the end of their beach visit, wannabe players were lined up, waiting for a turn.

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That was the birth of CROSSNET. A game that is now on a rocket trajectory.

I recently had Chris on my podcast. His story is incredible, and incredibly motivating for frustrated entrepreneurs.

Hope you enjoy the show as much as I enjoyed talking to Chris.

Got instant love?

I loved that the first thing Chris and his friends decided to do after inventing CROSSNET was go out and play the game. And more important, see if others wanted to play along.

As he told me, people who saw them playing on the beach wanted in. And they didn’t need to read a rule book or have special skills to have a blast.

When it comes to innovation, remember the first, most important step: do people love what you invented without explanation or coaching? Click To Tweet

It got to the point that Chris would just leave the net at the beach, and come to reclaim it in the evening – often to the protests of players who wanted more.

Even before Chris and his friends had an actual business, they created a buyer list of stoked players who wanted their own net when they became available.

Got complementary skills?

There’s no better story than that of an entrepreneurial venture started by friends.

The only problem is, the cast of characters is often not strategically chosen as much as decided by friendship. A problem if you’re trying to run a company.

To their benefit, Chris and his cofounders have complementary skills: Greg is the business brain running the company, Chris is naturally drawn to marketing, and Mike is an engineer who runs operations and production.

Got a checking account?

From the start, the team financed CROSSNET with their own bank accounts.

They weren’t independently wealthy. Instead, they grew the business organically. They bankrolled ten nets, used the profits to order twenty, and so on.

All too often, entrepreneurs focus on investment as a primary goal. While being bankrolled gives you runway, it also gives you a new master to answer to. Far too many entrepreneurs I’ve spoken to have found their ability to focus on their business diminished by their new need to placate noisy investors.

Got a distributor?

As the company grew, the task of packing, shipping and managing orders became onerous. That’s when Spreetail, a distributor best known for distributing Razor scooters called.

According to Chris, Spreetail found CROSSNET online. They stepped in to manage the day-to-day orders, adding CROSSNET to their book of products they sold online at Walmart, Target, Amazon, Home Depot and eBay, among others.

Not only was this a wonderful channel to mass distribution. It also took the task of managing fulfillment off the founders’ plates, enabling them to focus on building their company.

Got Latvians?

This was, hands down, the best story Chris shared.

One morning, he woke up to find his inbox clogged with congratulatory notes. What a masterstroke of brilliance, getting a pro volleyball team to play his game.

The thing is, he hadn’t.

The Latvian volleyball team had gotten ahold of a CROSSNET game, and filmed themselves playing. The video went viral, and the rest is history.

Got game?

It goes without saying that you should check out CROSSNET this summer. If you haven’t already ordered one, click here.

See you at the beach!

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