Hub Spotlight: Boardball
David Borish, Kyle Rector, and Amanda Nguyen are co-founders of the Toronto-based sports startup, Boardball. Boardball was created as a way to make the game of volleyball more accessible, while maintaining that same level of fun and competitiveness. Boardball lowers the barriers to play, requiring only 4 players, a board, and a ball. The Boardball team is passionate about living a social and active lifestyle, and strives to connect people through a sport they love.
We sat down with David, Amanda, and Kyle to get the inside scoop on how they started Boardball and what they hope to get out of the Hub Incubator Program!
How did you come up with Boardball?
It all started while on a trip with some friends. We grew up playing a lot of volleyball, and so we were looking for a net and court where we could get a good game of volleyball in. There were no nets around, but there was something else - a wooden bridge going across a pool we had access to. We ended up playing a game where instead of hitting the ball over the net, we hit the ball against the bridge to the other team. We had a surprisingly awesome time doing this, and once we got back to Toronto, we realized we wanted to continue playing this version of volleyball. Luckily, we had access to an old squash court, which is really where the magic happened. Playing 2 vs 2, we played around with makeshift boards, and experimented with different rules and ideas. Overtime, we also tested various playing surfaces, and developed board designs that were portable so that people could play anytime, anywhere. We soon realized that this new sport, which we named Boardball, was a great way to stay engaged with the sport of volleyball wherever, whenever.
What motivated you to take the next step and apply to the Hub?
The motivation really came from knowing that there was overwhelming interest from people all around the world who genuinely wanted to try this new sport out. What started as a hobby in a squash court, quickly became a sport people were excited to be a part of, and that was enough to drive us forward to build our company. In the early days of Boardball, we actually used to joke about having professional Boardballers play one day, taking the sport to the next level. That day came sooner than expected - after launching our kickstarter we were able to sign on a World Champion Beach Volleyball Player and a Rio 2016 Olympic Team Canada Volleyball Player to represent our company. So whether a professional volleyball player or someone just learning the sport, our inspiration is rooted in the curiosity of others who want to play Boardball.
What do you hope to get out of the Hub?
For Boardball, the Hub program is a great opportunity to learn from the experience of those who have brought an idea to life. The companies involved in the Hub might be from different sectors and have different objectives, but we all share a common aspiration to grow our product or service into a sustainable and worthwhile initiative that will, in some ways, improve people's lives. We are looking forward to the collaborative nature of the program, hearing about the lessons learned, enhancing our business intellect, and expanding our social networks so that we can bring the best Boardball experience to our customers.
Do you have any advice for someone with a business idea in mind, but are not sure what to do next?
We think a first good step is to try to connect with other entrepreneurs, business services, and networks that can help point you in the right direction. A program like the Hub is really great for this. We have also had a lot of success being involved in multiple innovation centers, which offer great services and can connect startups with relevant experts. These kinds of programs and centers allow you to explore the potential of your business idea in more depth, and also can support with so many dimensions of your business, whether it be on the legal side, accounting, finances, marketing, or anything else you might need support with. Additionally, you can learn a lot from a customer, a potential customer, or someone who is just curious about what you are doing. The countless informal conversations we had with people who were genuinely interested in our idea was foundational to our success. So, a good first step is putting yourself out there and connecting with different groups, whether it be the experts or someone who might be a potential customer down-the-road.
To learn more about their business check out their website.
Housed within the John F. Wood Centre for Business & Student Enterprise (Wood Centre), the Hub is a business incubator designed to support early-stage business ideas with high-potential, but unproven business models. The goal of the Hub is to provide University of Guelph students (undergraduate and graduate) and alumni the opportunity to build a successful business enterprise in a supportive learning environment.
The Hub has a tiered program that ensures a good mix of start-up companies at varying stages of growth. “Hub Start” is for ventures still getting their idea off the ground. These ventures typically have a great team and a great idea, but still have not demonstrated product-market fit with traction. “Hub Build” is for ventures with traction looking to refine their business model and/or scale.