Smart Backboard Maker Joins Race to Create Basketball’s Digital Future

With a “smart” basketball hoop design three years in the making, Huupe is hoping to bring the connected fitness era to the blacktop. The startup recently closed a seed round, having raised more than $3 million to date.

Sports agency Paradigm Sports led the round, while NBA vets Thaddeus Young and Trevor Booker have invested as well.

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Huupe’s design centers around the backboard, turning much of the glass into a large, protected screen paired with multiple sensors that could be used for activity tracking, remote training or virtual competitions. The company hopes to hit the market next year with a $4,000 product for indoor use (in-ground hoops regularly cost more than $2,000). Huupe is also planning to offer a subscription service.

The idea for Huupe started on Snapchat, where longtime friends and founders Paul Anton and Lyth Saeed would compete in asynchronous games of horse from Boston and Milwaukee, sending clips of shots back and forth. An initial attempt at an augmented reality application turned into the first efforts to build a prototype in Anton’s garage in 2019.

“This is the first time in the world (that) people will be able to play basketball against each other in remote parts of the world,” Anton said. “Kids in China will be able to play free throw contests against kids in the United States.”

Huupe has since expanded to a team of roughly 15, with plans to open a Series A round before next year. Recently the founders have spent time driving their prototype across the country, from Charlotte to California to New York, to demo the product. When they got a hold of Young between games in Los Angeles, he made sure to set a high score on the machine.

Paradigm CEO Audie Attar, who is joining Huupe’s board following the investment, also got to test out the smart glass.

“I got to touch and feel the first prototype… and I was actually fascinated,” he said. “Then upon doing further research, looking at the TAM and the market and what’s out there, every other basketball hoop was an analogue or a dummy basketball hoop if you will… and I was even more excited.”

Paradigm Sports represents athletes—primarily in combat sports—in addition to media and other ventures. F Street Ventures, Reform Ventures, JB Fitzgerald, Tundra Angels, and Ball Tek Ventures also joined the Huupe round.

Huupe isn’t alone in trying to push basketball tech beyond ball and player tracking companies, such as HomeCourt and ShotTracker. Gym Class, for instance, was also founded in 2019, but hopes to take the game completely virtual, offering a VR version of basketball in which headset-wearers mimic dribbling and jumping motions while watching themselves dunk in VR. Early today, it announced an $8 million raise, led by Andreessen Horowitz, as it gears up to launch a game on the Meta Quest store this fall.

“Gym Class signals the dawn of digital sports,” a16z partner Andrew Chen said in a statement. Meanwhile, HomeBallerz is taking preorders for its Pelotonized pop-a-shot competitor.

Huupe, on the other hand, is focused on high level training—and the real world. “Huupe was founded with the intention of bringing top quality basketball workouts and competition to the masses,” Anton and Saeed said in a statement.

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