The ideas, as they tend to go in the wee hours of the morning with a group of just-out-of-college aged kids, were terrible. All of them, no less than 100. But they couldn’t leave. Not yet. Even if it was 4 in the morning, and Mike Delpapa had a 30 minute drive back to his house, and everyone in the room — Delpapa, and Chris and Greg Meade — were exhausted, and their eyes were bleary, and their ideas were no better than when they began, the Meades wouldn’t let Delpapa leave.
The evening was Delpapa’s proposal in the first place. He had just graduated college and wasn’t ready for the 9-5. Wasn’t ready for “corporate America,” as he put it. An engineering major, he suggested a nightlong brainstorming session with his childhood buddies, Chris and Greg Meade.
“Let’s invent something,” he said. “Let’s come up with something.”
They came up with many things, none of which were any good. By four, the best they had was a phone charger that played music while it charged.
“Pretty much garbage,” Chris Meade said on SANDCAST: Beach volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.
As Mike turned to leave, he threw out the final Hail Mary: What about four-way volleyball?
Volleyball? None of them had ever played volleyball. The way Chris remembers it, ESPN may have been playing highlights on the television in the background, but you never really know with genesis stories — a little myth is always sprinkled in, especially when these genesis stories occur around 4 a.m.
A cursory Google search left them with nothing. It was the best nothing they could have asked for: Nobody had done it. Nobody had ever made volleyball a one-on-one, four-man game.
“We can do this ourselves,” Chris said. And they did. The next day, they bought two cheap nets from Wal Mart, the type you’ll find at graduation parties and July 4 events before being forgotten in the garage or attic and left to gather dust, and repurposed them into four small quadrants, leveraging the side of their mom’s garden shed for support.
They texted their buddies, said they had a game they wanted them to try, “and then we’re playing for four hours straight,” Chris Meade said. “This was a blast. I was 24, we were off our phones, having a great time, and we said ‘If we could do this for four hours, what do you think of people who actually like volleyball?’ That was it. That was all the proof of concept we needed.”
It was a prescient proof of concept. By September of 2019, just two years into their venture as the founders of CROSSNET, the Meades and Delpapa eclipsed $2 million in revenue. They are now in Wal-Mart and thousands of schools, on beaches and grass and, soon, swimming pools.
“We took a leap and it was not easy,” Chris Meade said. “But now, it is awesome.”
A leap is an understatement. Chris Meade left a six-figure job at Uber. Delpapa and Greg both dropped all responsibilities to pursue a risky business venture with savings accounts that were all drained from their initial deposit to the manufacturer, who took a flier on the boys and asked only $15,000.
“Most of the people, when you invent something, they need $100,000 down,” Chris Meade said. “We had never seen $100,000 at this point so we’re like ‘Hey, we have 15 grand. We promise we’re onto something. When we bring it to the beach, it pops off.’ One lady took a chance on us and we still use them to this day.”
Still: They didn’t take a paycheck for 18 months, living off freelancing gigs off UpWork while working full-time on CROSSNET. They didn’t care if it was a little uncomfortable, all out audacious. Anything was better than making cold calls for Uber nine hours a day, working a job that provided financial comfort but little in the way of personal fulfillment. They had seen how popular it got on the beaches in Rhode Island when they took it there.
They knew it would work. They shot their shot.
“All of us were sitting in a hot tub, our rent was expired, we had just broken up with our girlfriends or quit our jobs, and we’re like ‘Dude let’s move to Miami in two weeks,’” Chris Meade said, laughing. “So we jumped on a plane and got an apartment.”
What they got is a new life, a life all three of them have become enamored with. They market their product by taking it to South Beach and watching the crowds funnel in. They donate CROSSNETs by the hundreds to underprivileged schools. They’re making money. Waking up excited to work.
They’ve even hired 10 full-time workers, are setting up warehouses in Canada and Australia, essentially chasing summer, wherever it goes.
They found their one good idea.