When Paul Anton and Lyth Saeed came up with the idea for huupe, they weren’t necessarily trying to cash in on the fast-growing connected fitness industry — they were simply trying to find a way to continue their favorite childhood activity.
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“We grew up playing basketball every day [in Milwaukee], and when I went away for school, we stayed in touch by playing basketball on Snapchat.” Anton, the company’s CEO, told Front Office Sports. “I was in Boston, he was in Milwaukee. We played against each other from a thousand miles away.”
Their long-distance basketball relationship inspired them to create huupe — a “smart” basketball hoop that allows users to take virtual lessons from instructors, track stats and data, play games against friends or other random players via a matchmaking system, or even just watch games on TV while shooting around. It’s the first connected fitness device in basketball, and possibly for any team sport.
Four years, six prototypes, and many broken screens since the company’s formal founding in 2019, huupe is taking its product to market on the back of an $11 million seed investment round that closed in March, plus an earlier seed round in August 2022. Investors include:
- Audie Attar’s Paradigm Sports
- Milwaukee Bucks minority owner Keith Mardak’s Marvan Ventures
- Toronto Raptors player Thaddeus Young’s Reform Ventures
Saeed says that money will go toward getting the product to market — which it plans to do by the end of 2023 — and delivering the company’s first 1,000 units.
The company’s most basic product — a standalone hoop with a 60-inch backboard — carries a $4,000 price tag, which will jump to nearly $5,000 after the presale period. For comparison, a brand new basic Peloton bike costs about $1,500.
While the product was originally developed with everyday consumers in mind, the co-founders began seeing a lot of interest from fitness centers “asking to transform their gym into a smart gym” and shifted their focus to meet the needs of that market.
“We did a pilot program with a gym in Miami and off of just one hoop, they started to get a lot of new members,” says Saeed, the company’s COO. “They’re actually investing in redesigning their whole court right now because of the hoop. So really this whole gym idea kind of fell into our lap and we started building a lot more analytics for gyms.”
Huupe’s basketball-focused investors are helping them get into more gyms — and will also likely be helpful for getting the company to its next big market: The co-founders say they have received pre-orders from college programs and professional teams, though they were not able to disclose which ones specifically.
Still, Anton and Saeed believe that their product has huge appeal for regular consumers. The training programs in the hoop give anyone trying to improve their game access to “NBA-level” trainers, while the matchmaking system allows players to play against anyone in the world — including possibly NBA players working out in a team gym.
And while they know that they can’t disrupt basketball in the same way that other connected fitness products have, they see their product as “enhancing the basketball experience.”
“We’re not bringing anything inside like Peloton was, which is why they had such a boom during the pandemic,” Anton says. “You’re still going to go to the gym… you’re still going to be working out on the hoop in your driveway.”