Elevator Pitch: Nothing But Net

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Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with Alex Wood, founder of Nothing But Net.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

Nothing But Net is a community-backed, non-profit organisation dedicated to making basketball more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. We began this journey back in 2014 by hanging nets on council hoops across Melbourne out of our own frustration with the quality of basketball hoops at our local courts. Deep down, we knew hanging the nets was just the start of our journey.

The number one frustration outdoor basketballers have is actually finding good courts. We were disappointed with unreliable and outdated online tools to find local courts, so our big idea was to launch a Kickstarter to raise money to build a mobile app connecting basketballers to a network of high quality hoops.

After a year of finding, mapping and hooking up more than 150 local courts across Melbourne, Nothing But Net has established the highest quality, local resource for basketballers to discover and share high quality courts with friends and teammates. There’s nothing like it in the world.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

We had no capital to start with; it was just an idea, so we launched our idea using Kickstarter. This was at a time when Kickstarter was still relatively new in Australia so it was a risk, but the platform was an invaluable tool to not only raise funds but act as the homepage to our entire campaign. It forced me to consider how I was going to tier pledges, engage supporters long term and create promotional materials like a video and a logo before I even began.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?

After about a year of operation, we reached a point where we could no longer maintain our initiative with our existing roll out strategy. The nets we were hanging each week were wearing quickly due to increased usage and often needed replacement within weeks. At 150 courts and with a team of less than five, this was nearly the killer for our business. I actually took a month to stop and think about it.

In that time, I met with other basketball charity groups who showed me a prototype net/hoop combo manufactured here in Australia. It was safe, durable and would improve the infrastructure of every council courts.

We now visit councils every week to talk to them about improving their facilities to make basketball more enjoyable and accessible for community members using this new hoop/net combo. So far, every council we’ve visited has shown interest in running a trial.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

There’s a similar app called ‘Courts of the World’ that was developed many years ago as a global platform for people to find courts. But it lacks relevant information, gives a very limited description of the court itself and doesn’t have pictures on each of the courts it recommends.

This is exactly why we built the ‘Nothing But Net’ app; to be part of the inspiration to hit a court and play, not just a pinpoint on a map.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

Kickstarter was the most valuable ‘short term’ app for our launch, very quickly followed by Facebook. Today, most of our notifications come from my personal account (Facebook’s organic reach for business pages is challenging), but most of the connections I’ve made for Nothing But Net have come from friends of friends who’ve heard about work we’re doing in the community.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Do it yourself. As the leader of an idea that’s outside your day job, it’s easy to look for someone else to complete a task to give you more time. But honestly, the most rewarding part of this work is the skills I’ve learned completing tasks to grow Nothing But Net. Through the Kickstarter project I learned how to; create a movie, write a script, prototype a high fidelity mobile app, design a logo, pitch my business idea, raise funds… and that was in the first month. I feel like entrepreneurs need to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Pushing yourself into these spaces often reveals talents you had no idea you had.

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