Meet Covid-19 success story Chris Meade and CROSSNET®.
In this episode of the Value Innovators Show, we feature a truly inspiring story. It starts like this.
We begin with three guys sitting around watching late-night sports.
We soon find them with an idea!
Soon thereafter, an early morning trip to Walmart takes place.
Later that day, the idea gets mocked up.
Excitedly, they invite some friends over and play their new game for hours. This video shares the rest of the story!
Visit CROSSNET at https://www.crossnetgame.com/
The Show Transcript
Hello. Hello everyone. This is Sherman Mohr, the blue ocean strategist, and in this week’s edition of the Value Innovators show I have as my guest today, Chris Meade. I want to tell you a little bit about his work and his background and then let him introduce his great company CROSSNETGAME. So Chris is a young guy, but man he’s been kicking ass and taking names for about 10 years now. and I can tell he’s
and I can tell he’s done work with NBC Universal with Icon International. He founded a company called SeaMeade where he did media work and film work in New York City. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, right Chris! And then he was associated with a startup called the King Brand where I sense his real work, around e-comm, started to take hold. He did a million dollars in sales in one year there, which is a staggering startup number for anybody who does e-commerce
work. I’m in that world. I understand. He then took on a position at Contently, one of the bigger content strategy software as a service companies, and managed a pretty good-size team there and I’m sure developed some skills that relate to some of the success associated with CROSSNET game as well. And then of all things, I was surprised to see a stint with Uber where he launched the Boston Uber Eats market.
I can’t imagine what kind of an experience that was in the heat of that battle back in those days. We were just beginning to learn what Uber Eats was and Chris was on the tip of the spear there, and then somehow, someway, managed to decide that he had to jettison all the corporate experience and launched his own deal with his brother and another colleague called CROSSNET. So welcome to the show Chris. It is a pleasure and honor to have you here. That is as close as I can get to a
Tom Bilyeu Impact Theory introduction. I loved it. Absolutely. Perfect. Tell us a little bit about CROSSNET game. I mean, it’s a combination between obviously Foursquare and volleyball which was brilliant in Blue Ocean strategy terms, but tell us a little bit about the Genesis. Yeah, I’d be happy to see I was working in the full-time job at Uber that really launched Uber Eats with a handful of colleagues.
It’s a New York City fun job. Great job. Absolutely. Love the company, like the company culture, super fun. Great place to be when I was 24 years old, but I just felt like I was job-hopping I’d be at a job for a year. I try to go make another 20 grand and a jump to the next job and I was like is this what the rest of my life is going to look like and we’re on the couch one night my brother and our friend Mike and we simply just had an idea for four-way volleyball. We’re coming up with ideas. Nothing really good was a
coming to mind and we wrote down for way volleyball. We put the idea into Google. Nobody had ever done it before we looked it up like on Instagram couldn’t find anything. So he simply ran to our Walmart. The next morning was probably like 4:00 in the morning when the idea came to us. So barely got any sleep and woke up the next day. We got two badminton sets. Let’s cut out the center and rig them together, we text it all our friends to be home by the be back at our house by the time we got home and we rigged it up and we just played for hours and
everyone talks about having a proof of concept and really fully flushing out of business before you start it. Like that was the only proof of concept we ever needed. We’re 24 and 22 at the time. We had a great time with it. And we figured if we play for hours why wouldn’t everybody else? Yeah. Absolutely, You did a focus group and a proof-of-concept literally all at one time and in the context of probably what was no more than 40 or 50 bucks.
with another 50 and beer and absolutely it is awesome. The only thing that I’ve seen that I thought would be even similar in fun, you’ve probably seen on Instagram the little golf shot that is melded with cornhole and I thought okay, that’s another kind of value innovation where people have looked across industries. They look
across designs and they’ve melded something together. Now you, you still had to take that concept and that great focus group and that, that world into something far more complex, some would say. Yeah, exactly. So it’s one thing having a hobby. It’s another turning into an actual business and, and you know while you guys have set some real bars on Shopify success and they’ve really done a great job of
shedding some light on you guys, opening a Shopify store is a 30-minute process. That’s not the same as having a product to deliver. What were some of the processes you had to go through, for those people inspired by your story to literally get CROSSNET manufactured? Yeah. Tell us a little bit about how you crossed that chasm. It’s fun. I mean, we pulled that our 401ks. We left our jobs. We scrapped up about 10-15 grand to get the first purchase order in.
Well, first we had to invent it right? So you played a role in the design and the patent process there. Yeah. So yeah, we did and luckily somebody our partner, Mike is an engineer by trade. He had just graduated from Northeastern. So kind of nice that we did have to go source out engineering and draftsman, when we had that guy sitting on the couch next to us. So we would kind of come up with a model that we’d like and he draft it up. We found a contact in China and our manufacturer. So the first thing we did was we had to find somebody who would be willing to work with a group of
kids who literally didn’t even know how they were going to pay the rent at the end of the month, but we found a manufacturer who spoke well and we had good conversations, he seemed trustworthy and was willing to work with our budget and we just kept promising this. Hey, work with us for the first hundred units. Like we can’t buy a thousand right now work with this 100 units. We promise we’ll come back and order more and now here we are three years later ordering 30,000 at a time every month. So, you’re still working with the same manufacturer?
Man, people listen up, what Chris is telling you he made good on his commitment. Yeah, exactly. Obviously you, you did get really lucky there. Yeah. Yeah. So we’re lucky that we found a manufacturer that that worked with us build that trust up we’ve had great terms with them. So very happy with that. But yeah, it doesn’t happen overnight. I remember we’d be lucky if we sold two or three a day. We’d be celebrating seeing like 450 bucks in the bank.
We’re still selling the same product. It’s just now they’re selling 500 a day and it just took time. Yeah. Yeah, you did move extremely fast the transition from selling that two or three to literally being placed on the shelves and major retailers like the Dick’s and the Walmarts. Yeah. Good God that does not happen in six or eight months most of the time. To what do you attribute that magic?
You have you seen a hockey stick in sales with the Shopify store and had that to evidence people? Yeah, there’s a little bit of so obviously the sales numbers and stock. So people like to see numbers and we have that all day. But also our product if you look at the outdoor game’s Market when you go down the aisle to store it’s pretty boring. Nothing has really changed. There’s maybe one or two products that are kind of innovative, but it’s not a sexy category. So now you have a four-way volleyball net people go to
see it as they go to the park and people stop and stare. I’ll set it up all day long and I’ll still get people coming up to me, saying, like what is this? Can I play? So the buyers at the stores feel the same way. It’s their job to find the hottest new products and lucky for us. We have one. So, yeah that’s how that conversations have started with either them coming in down to our website or me reaching out. LinkedIn has been super helpful to get connections with the buyers and have people who probably shouldn’t be talking to us talk to us all the time. Yeah.
Well, it’s been remarkable. I look at what you guys have done and all I can think is that three of you must be and obviously, Brittany, your she’s kind of a marketing officer. Yes, a little bit of everything. Yeah, I can sense. She’s kind of an all-hands-on-deck kind of individual, I can tell the three of you guys must all be rowing in the same direction
to accomplish what it is you’ve accomplished. Is that attributable to anything, did they have similar business backgrounds to you Chris, the team itself or not? Not at all. So we all come from different areas. I mean Greg and I are brothers, but he never had corporate experience. The most corporate experience we times at a 4-H Camp. So he never worked a real job and his latest was always e-commerce, but I think what I always attribute to our success, is that when you start a business with friends,
most of the time you have duplicate skill sets or guys are stepping on each other’s toes. But in this situation, it’s three people who have literally, the farthest off from the same skill sets, Mike is an engineer. Who am I to tell him how to open up software and start designing stuff. I don’t even know how the software works. Well, I let him run with it. My brother is incredible at marketing, I let him run with it and I do my sales stuff. So we all have our separate pillars and we all grow together as a team and I’ll be like, oh okay, we just got into Dick’s Sporting Goods and I’m like, okay, let me fix supply chains.
So it’s good that we all grow together. We’re all learning together to be better at our own trades. It was almost as though you guys are three kinds of co-ceos at this point. No egos. Yeah, there aren’t egos right now. Yeah, hundred percent. Nobody has a real title. We kind of just made up titles like three years ago for the legal documentation. I see on LinkedIn you call yourself the revenue officer and I could tell based on your background. That was real.
Natural kind of reasoning. It’s not you guys that need titles oftentimes. It’s the corporate people you call on that are obsessing exactly. Exactly. Yeah, that’s the real reason my title makes sense for the buyer to reach back out to me. So yeah. Yeah, exactly what is the role of Mike the engineer now that’s what the company kind of tasking him to do that now that the product is kind of designed and I don’t say that to diminishing together.
So he’s actually been working really hard. So we just really start indoor model earlier this year. Okay, which is an add-on to the original best-selling cross that our Flagship product. We just released a doubles net. So a lot of people were saying hey, we wish this was two times as long once again, we’re activity or two so we can make it a team sport. So he’s been designing the double neck. And then we also just dropped our pool model.
The video it is beautiful. It is so cool. So I thought when I saw the pool model is man, that is some exercise right? That’s a lot of fun. So between those three things, that’s been keeping him busy. We just expanded our supply chain so large so he’s like working around the clock with manufacturers to make sure the orders are coming in. We’re going from importing one container every two months to importing 16 containers a month. Sometimes it’s an amazing lot of stressful work that he’s,
he’s going at there. I’ll never fully understand but as long as everything’s moving, we’re in good hands, you know, there’s a natural inclination towards logistical issues and can’t grow a company without knowledge and expertise and Logistics. What do you anticipate the company’s next one or two major team additions will be? Do you have any idea where you’ll go next? Yeah. I’ve actually put an offer in yesterday. So fingers crossed that all goes well, but for also right now it’s head of social. We need somebody. I think
our biggest weakness is that we have people loving the game, but we don’t have a unified strategy on social media. We make a lot of our traffic from social media. But if you look across our channels right now, there’s not a defined strategy for Facebook Instagram Tick Tock Twitter. We’re kind of just putting out the same piece of content across all channels and hoping it sticks and I know better than anyone that’s not the way to do it. So we need somebody who can plan and be proactive rather than just reactive. So that’s what I’m really pumped for.
I follow very closely Christopher Lochhead, who’s been the main guy around a term called category design and you guys have become an evangelist for, without maybe even realizing it, the evangelist for outdoor, previous to your indoor models, outdoor sporting isles, you know, making it fun again evangelizing that whole thing at the beach pool and
you have such a distinct product such a unique product that I think the right person running social will be able to leverage the audience in ways that explode things. Absolutely. Yeah, I’m pumped for that and further from there, we would be eventually we build out marketing teams for each product. You know, we have the marketing team, work on just pool content, doubles content so that’s the growth of it the more the good stuff we put up for that. The sales will only keep compounding. So with the the
schools, how did you find some success? Do you know, anecdotally or in real terms? Where do you first get somebody to say, Yeah, we got to have one of those? What happened? Cold call? Was that a relationship already? And yeah, so the first thing I did was I built the company was LinkedIn. I had a LinkedIn portfolio from LinkedIn profile, from my days at Contently and Uber trying to reach out to CMOS. I was 23
going to like AIG in New York City meeting with the CMO, like just crazy stuff, they’re 65 years old and I’m like I’m trying to get their business and so I realized the power of LinkedIn and actually how it works. So the first thing I would do is I would add every physical education teacher. I could to my network every day and add every volleyball teacher. So now when I put up a crossnet in a post and I post every day on LinkedIn multiple times a day. So now they’re familiar with the product. They’re good. They’re seeing it in their timeline, so when it was time for me to cold call outreach
they were familiar. They’d say, Chris, that looks awesome. Like I saw it in your profile a month ago. Let me set up an order but where we really had the breakthrough success was there are magazines called Flaghouse Forts and Gopher Sports, which I wasn’t even familiar with but they send catalogs to gym teachers every quarter and the gym teachers then allocate their budget to these catalogs. So we were fortunate enough to be on the homepage of these, and when you open the page, we’re literally the front page. CROSSNET as the brand new product. So now we get
thousands of orders a quarter from each catalog which only sells to the schools. So now we’re in 5,000 schools. Some of the gym teachers are setting it up and then the kids are like, oh that’s that cool game from Instagram or Tick-Tock, they play it, they they go make their parents and asked them to buy for them and it’s just a snowball. That’s fantastic and you’ve captured the center of influence at the school there and it’s not an expensive product relative to a home.
use. not at all, far cheaper than golf lessons or some other sport. Another aspect, a kid outside jumping around is so vital nowadays. One of the reasons. I reached out to you guys originally and wrote the post that I did; I was studying companies that started up and have managed to excel during covid and you’re one of those examples and I think I know why
but from your sales history now the last six months three months specifically when I wrote the article in March, you guys had seen the uptick already. To what are you attributing that primarily? Yeah, so I think it’s twofold. I’d like to think it’s as an owner that our brand is growing very strongly and the game is shared via word of mouth and is going crazy on it. We’ve seen
organic traffic drove almost a third of our business, which is great. That means a third of our traffic’s free, so we’re very happy about that. But on the other end when covid started, it has created this nightmare where people need to go outside only in their own backyards and get some type of exercise. Here in Miami. I know for the last three months getting outside on the balcony with my girlfriend for an hour working out has been the best part of my day. I don’t care what happens in business but sweating on the balcony has been the best and I have to remind myself that the majority of the
country is not in these high like twenty-four story buildings in Miami. They have a backyard. So families are going outside, the weather’s getting nicer, so that’s why we’ve seen such a high uptick or up well over 500 percent in sales from where we were even a year ago. And people know when they are able to travel freely again to the beach and other places that you take it with you and it’s absolutely you know, this isn’t something that’s going to be limited to their use
during covid. I would be remiss if I didn’t kind of lead you down a path to some of the hurdles that you’ve had to face. Real breakthroughs take place when you experience setbacks. What are one or two of the most significant hurdles yYu’ve had to plow through. One right now, actually, we’re in one; where we’re back-ordered.
For a few weeks, and it sucks to be in that situation when you’re back-ordered and you can’t give your customers the orders right away, but we are a small growing business and people most people empathize with it and understand who we are. We’re not Amazon, I’m not Jeff Bezos. I’m just a 27-year-old kid from the farm in Connecticut who had a great idea. So we’re working through the supply chain where one day of 500 sales up from 50 sales is awesome, for three months, it creates problems. So [0:18:59-0:19:29]
and yeah, we’re dealing with a lot of customer service right now. Our supply chain issues are predicted to end the last week of July. So we kind of have to deal with this 30 more days; to ride out being back-ordered for a bit and then come August will be able to land about 30,000 units per month which will be amazing for us. Yeah, it’s remarkable. You guys will have stories to tell because you’ve dealt with some of the most complex supply chain issues in recent decades.
Absolutely, when you talk about trade and pandemic, yep, you guys have kind of been piled on and kicked while you’re down. I’ve thought about your issues as it pertains to just straight-up cash requirements when you know, you get 500 orders in a day and your ecstatic and at the same time you’re terrified because people behind the scenes don’t
understand that manufacturer has to have a real check in his hand to try to do something for you guys. Have you bootstrapped or have you raised money? We got this whole thing from 10 grand and went cash flow positive, which is an absolute blessing. We didn’t pay herself for almost two years, not a single check, but now we’re reaping the
reward’s big time. We don’t have to have her hands out. We don’t need to give away part of our company, never gone to a bank asking for a loan. And now we could fulfill these 30,000 units and not even sweat it. So its worked and we’re at a really good spot. We could fulfill all of our Dick’s purchase orders and then all future orders pretty confidently. There might be an issue if we start scaling 10x more for this year, but we’ll figure that out one day at a time. Yeah. Now the work the sales primarily.
Are sales coming through the retailer’s now or a majority coming through the site and one-offs like an individual? Yeah. So the site is, actually just ran the numbers yesterday, about 65% of our business and interesting. Yeah, and then retail is about 35% So healthy margins on both fronts. We always love to control the customer data because when we have new upsells new products, I want to keep messaging and there’s where we talk about building a sport.
We have a sport that I didn’t want to be played and without having that customer data, it’s that much harder to educate them. So we’re always going to build traffic to our website. Yeah, I love that philosophy and I would encourage all of our listeners. You know what Chris is talking about here is category creation, not product creation. So when you evangelize that category, Christopher Lochhead says, you own it. Nobody else does and you know, you can’t fool
ecommerce pros. I mean the data is king exactly. So in your previous background as we begin to kind of wrap up here, which of the companies that you worked with corporately, do you feel offered you the greatest kind of skillsets as it pertains to some of the success you’re experiencing now. Yeah, good question. So I own a
videography company. Most of the web photography on the website has been done by myself. So I graduated with a film degree. It’s very nice. Thank you. I like to think so. So a lot of the photography, so I still use that degree in a sense. I still have an eye for photography. I still shoot and save the company a ton of money that way. From the Contently gig, I just had to work rooms. I had the outbound marketing to people and that serves to grow the wholesale channels. So that was really really
helpful job experience. I don’t know how I ever built the relationships without that background. Then on Uber, a lot of cold calling, just a lot of cold calling and it really builds resilience. Not that I ever cold call anymore, at CROSSNET, we don’t need to do that, fortunately, but in the beginning, I had to and Uber helped build my resilience being denied over and over and over again, and that’s what it’s like building a start-up for the first two years. It sucks so bad and then bam, just flip that lever and then it’s like cool.
Things are good. Yeah, very good. It’s so exciting to see you guys growing in this environment. I think it’s inspirational. I think there are probably more people than you and I can count that have either been furloughed and fired and now candidly, they might be scared but they’re giving themselves permission to do something that you gave yourself permission to do and
can learn a lot by studying you guys and your work and I appreciate that. Well, it is very very good. I’m an old dog, but I’m learning new tricks. I’m involved in a couple of startups myself and the tools and the lessons that you’ve used, man, they’re uniform across every startup. There is no shortcut and you guys have kicked it out of the park to some degree because your product design
is so Innovative. Yeah, thankfully. Yeah, we have been very lucky. You gotta make your luck and you guys have done that. So I mean after all you did go to Walmart the next day after the concept. Bought two Nets, sewed them together and invited some friends over. Well, it’s been a pleasure man, Chris if anybody I’m connected to can be of any service to you guys count on our assistance. I appreciate that.
Make sure you give everybody on the team the Blue Ocean Strategist greeting. I’ll send you this link and let you know how everything turned out video-wise. It won’t be as good as your stuff. I appreciate it, man.