London’s famous inclement weather causes frequent nightmares for travelers, but it helped fuel David Lowe’s entrepreneurial dreams.
“I am a big tennis player but I’d often get rained out,” explains Lowe. “So we’d come inside and play table tennis. But the aesthetics turned me off. We’d be in a murky green room using red and black paddles. I thought, why can’t we change this, incorporate artwork onto the paddles and just make it more cool?”
So he started Uberpong, the custom ping pong paddle company. The startup manufactures and sells paddles that feature graphic designs, artwork, photography, company logos and virtually any other images its customers want.
Lowe decided Austin, Texas, a city he believes to be uniquely supportive of startups, would be Uberpong’s home base, and moved there from the UK in February 2012. He raised initial funding with a Kickstarter campaign.
“I hit my goal of generating $10,000 in August 2012, 30 days after the campaign launched,” Lowe says.
By November 2012, Uberpong was open for business.
Uberpong quickly caught the attention of some big-name companies that make ping pong integral to their offices’ culture. Google and MTV asked David and his team to create custom paddles for their workforces and to share with their clients who participate in office ping-pong tournaments. Nickelodeon and Jameson Whiskey also signed on.
“We made custom paddles for Maria Menounos and Mario Lopez, hosts of the TV show Extra. The show contacted us about featuring paddles in a segment, and we came up with the idea of putting Maria and Mario’s faces on them. They used them on air,” says Lowe.
Uberpong’s lean operations work in part because Lowe relies on Skype to conduct business. “I do group calls on Skype with my designers and marketers in Chicago and Austin. Whenever possible, I video call with my clients. As a young company, I can’t afford to fly to New York City for meetings. Skype video is an instant way to remove distance. I can see someone’s eyes, their gestures. I learn a lot.”
Lowe also credits Skype with helping him work internationally.
“We’ve just connected with a company that is partnering with us to coordinate manufacturing our paddles in China. Because of Skype, I don’t need to travel to China with a translator for in-person meetings. I can work over Skype with my overseas partners. It makes it possible to grow my business cost effectively.”
“Every day I go to my Web site’s homepage and scroll down the client list,” says Lowe. “It’s amazing we’ve got these clients, but at the same time I really believe we’re pushing something remarkable. We’re getting more people playing and enjoying ping pong. That feels great.”