Joe Bingham, a construction engineer from Ogden, Utah, was looking for a backyard game he could play with his seven kids, instead of taking everyone to a pickleball court 20 minutes away. Unable to find what he was looking for, he invented his own, called PaddleSmash.
In the game, which combines elements of pickleball and Roundnet, two to four players use paddles to attempt to “hit” a ball to the ground in a six-sided field.
After tinkering with the game for a few years in his yard, Bingham teamed up with serial game industry entrepreneurs Tim Swindle, who launched Utter Nonsense — which grew into a million-dollar three-person company — and Scott Brown, who previously founded Marbles. : The Brain Store and Brainmaker Games op. “When we got our hands on the prototype, we loved it,” says Brown. “We started showing it to our friends and our network.
Based on those initial conversations, the immediate follow-up by some of their contacts was: Can I invest?” The answer was yes. The co-founders raised $500,000 from nine private investors to fund the launch. They hired an industrial engineering firm to create a production version of the game so that it could be manufactured.
PaddleSmash is now sold on Amazon. The founders say they’re getting ready to roll out the game in Dick’s Sporting Goods this fall, and it will be available next spring in Scheels, a Midwestern sports retailer.
The food and entertainment destination Chicken N Pickle, where people can eat out and play pickleball, is also testing the product.
“Chicken N Pickle has purchased PaddleSmash to test in a few markets where we operate, and we are thrilled with the response,” said Kelli Alldredge, senior vice president of engagement, in an email. “We love seeing people of all ages and skills gathered for a little friendly competition. As Chicken N Pickle fosters an atmosphere of fun, friendship and community, offering PaddleSmash to our guests has been a natural combination. plan to purchase one for each of our locations and look forward to planning and hosting PaddleSmash events.”
To grow the brand, the founders also plan to pursue institutional clients, such as schools, and businesses such as health clubs.
One thing that drives interest in the product, Swindle says, is the popularity of pickleball. Pickleball is currently one of the most popular new sports in the United States, with a huge number of participants from 2.46 million in 2014 to 4.82 million in 2021. In communities across the country, players are clamoring for more jobs.
“Pickleball is approachable — anyone can play it,” Swindle says. “We think that’s also the appeal of our game.”
One difference is that PaddleSmash is slightly less strenuous than Pickle Ball, he adds. In PaddleSmash, play is limited to the hexagonal field as players punch, set and smash with their partner. “You don’t have to run around as much,” Swindle notes. “It’s very appealing to a wide range of people with different skill levels.”
PaddleSmash is also portable, with a track that folds up easily. “You can play it in the backyard and on the beach,” Swindle says. “It gives you the taste of pickle.”
The founders of PaddleSmash aren’t the only entrepreneurs noticing the hunger for backyard games in the post-pandemic era. Check out the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and you’ll see games like Putterball, a combination of golf and beer pong, and Chip-Down, a portable game to introduce golf to non-golfers.
But despite the competition, the founders of PaddleSmash say interest in their game shows no signs of slowing down. “It’s growing like crazy,” Brown says.