CEO, Spikeball Inc. @spikeballchris (Twitter and Instagram)
I launched Spikeball Inc in 2008 with no real clue about starting a business, let alone launching a new sport. Yet, here we are with 4+ million players (all over the world), 24 full-time employees, 150+ tournaments every year, and tons of love from Shark Tank, Casey Neistat, Dude Perfect, The Today Show, Inc Magazine, countless professional athletes and celebrities. I ran it for 5 years as a side business figuring out things like ecommerce, product design, customer service, shipping, finance, and more. My degree in Photojournalism didn’t really prepare me for this. I’d come home from my corporate day job, hang out with my wife and 3 young kids, and once they went to bed Spikeball work would begin. My typical Spikeball shift was 9pm to 1 or 2am every night with me heading to a late night post office around midnight to ship that day’s orders. Our first ‘warehouse’ was my basement. I had around 800 sets down there and could fit about 72 sets in my beat up, 1998 Outback (may it rest in peace). 5 years later, in 2013, we hit $1 million in annual revenue with zero full-time employees. At that time, I called up the boss, said “I’m out!”, and went full-time. We’re headquartered in Chicago (not in LA like most of you think) but most of our employees live all over the US. We’re firm believers in live where you want just do good work. The mission of the company is to create the next great American sport. That’s happening through tournaments, pick-up games (you can find them in your area on the Spikeball app), schools, and more. With that said, THANK YOU for joining me on this ride. Hopefully I'll see you at a tournament or at a pick-up game soon.
MISSION: To introduce more people to the sport and to build and nurture the community.
VISION: To build a community around the next great American sport.
#1. Trust. Give it until you shouldn’t.
#2. Improve. Always be learning.
#3. Drive change and status the challenge quo when necessary.
#4. Surprise and Delight.
#5. Don’t be a jerk.
#6. Have fun, be different & optimistic.
#7. Bring people together and build community.
#8. Own it.
Shortly after coming on board, Christina gave me a hard time for double spacing after sentence breaks. While she didn’t say it, she implied that I was a crusty, old relic born in the days of horse and buggies and typewriters. Even though she may have a point, as right about the time I was getting my high school diploma, Christina was entering this world, I am triple spacing this entire article. Now, get off my lawn, Christina! (that last one was 4 spaces) Christina sent me a long, heartfelt, stream-of-conscience, well written email about wanting to work for a company she loves. She’d been playing Spikeball for a while but it sounded like the lightbulb went off after reading the other profiles on this page. I get a lot of emails asking for jobs but hers stood out as she went the extra step and wrote what would be on her Spikeball.com profile if she were hired. I loved the drive, the directness of it. We weren’t hiring but I made sure we found a position for her. We like to hire people that have interesting stories. Christina exemplifies this perfectly. She went through an intense 4 years training herself to like pickles. She used to do SAT math prep questions…for fun! She used to stea…I mean, ‘borrow’ street signs (I did too)—must be a sign of greatness (legal disclaimer: don’t try this at home, kids). She’s one of the top Ultimate players in the country, and also a member of SUNY-Oneonta’s #SOFALOVE. She rescued a parakeet at a park and took it home as a pet. Huh? Back to that email she wrote asking to be considered for a job-- here is how she ended it. Incredible. "Best Regards, [email protected] Too soon? Keep it open for me :)"
Tom, whew. This is going to be a tough one to write. Tom’s entrance to our world was one that happened via video, as it should have, given that he is the guy that makes the beautiful moving Spikeball images you see everywhere. His application included links to “Bird Watcher Watcher” and “Cereal Dust”. These are a few of his yet-to-be critically acclaimed films (Google them and thank me later). When I asked Tom what’s the weirdest thing about you, he replied” “One time I recorded my farts on my phone for like 6 months, I had almost 100 by the end of it, so I could make a Happy Birthday song for my friend and it turned out good. I had a wide range of tones. But you know how your computer automatically syncs your voice memos into your iTunes? It got me into trouble a few times like I was hanging out with a girl with my iTunes on shuffle and after certain songs ended, it would just play one of my farts, and it took me more than a couple farts to realize what was happening.” Did I mention that we celebrate weird at Spikeball? During the interview process Tom casually mentioned that he knew Wing Dings (that weird font in MS Word that no one knows why it exists). “What do you mean that you ‘know’ it?, I asked. “I taught myself Wing Dings and that’s what I type with.” He then showed me his laptop keyboard and there wasn’t a single English letter or numeral. It was all Wing Dings. I was blown away, and to put it mildly, in love. Who is this weird ass dude that not only took the time to learn WingDings but also communicates using it? Every. Single. Day. Needless to say, we hired him immediately. The offer letter was, of course, in Wing Ding. Here is a clip from that letter,
Fresh out of college and newly employed, he was able to finally prove to his parents that learning Wing Dings has its benefits.
You know what builds a crazy strong work ethic? Cleaning hotel rooms every weekend from age 13 to 19! She wanted to start working before age 13 but the boss wouldn’t let her. That’s Janne for you. She also has somehow programmed her body to not need sleep. Aside from making sure Spikeball sets leave the factory on time, get on/off the boat on time, get on/off the train on time, on/off the truck on time, and in/out of the warehouse on time, she is also (deep breath in)—a wedding planner, a contractor (rehabbing her 2 flat), a small business owner (check out her site: ), marathoner, a part-time student, and more. Janne is Danish (that means Denmark, not Amsterdam/Netherlands you silly Americans!) and at age 13 decided, “It would be cool to be an exchange student and move to the US.” She went deep, real deep and moved to Shreveport, LA. If you look up, “What is the opposite of Denmark” in the dictionary, you get Shreveport. At age 32 she decided to sell all of her personal belongings, leave Denmark, and move to Chicago even though she didn’t know anyone here. Being Danish, of course she couldn’t bring herself to sell her bike and brought that with her. If you find yourself opposite her on a Spikeball court (is that what we call it?), look out for her wicked serve. It’s known as the ‘Danish Dazzler’. Adding to the list of weird things about Janne, she likes to watch boxing. Janne lives our Spikeball value of ‘challenge the status quo when necessary’ perfectly.
Remember that kid in the elementary school cafeteria that was always wanting to trade you for the good stuff in your lunch? Meet Nick. The second the menus open at any Spikeball lunch or dinner his wheels are spinning about what item that he likes will yield the strongest trade. He’s a master. About 6 weeks into his tenure at Spikeball, Nick hosted the world’s first ‘Virtual Spikeball Jeopardy’ game for all 12 (at the time) or so of us employees. Hosting that game, he lit up the crew in a way I had never seen (picture a dozen smiling faces on a screen laid out like the Brady Brunch opening scene). A few weeks prior he told me he’s a pretty quiet guy that keeps to himself and that it would probably take some time before he really opened up. After the game, I asked him about that and he said something about how the Spikeball team made him feel more comfortable than any other group he had worked with. At that moment, I knew we had the right person. Having sharpened his skillsets at Univ of Michigan, Axe Bodyspray (is it getting hot in here?), and at Wilson Sporting Goods, we hired our first ‘corporate’ guy. Thankfully, his soul hadn’t been completely compromised and we immediately sent him to the beach for deprogramming. In no time, he was using words like fwango and hoisting first place pitchers over his head. If you ever want to know how to win a silent auction, take notes from Nick. He mistakenly won one with his then boss for a 3-day trip to New York and Las Vegas with that year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models. He also has one of the cutest kids on Instagram that he occasionally brings to the office on his bike. Past/current nicknames include: Don Lasagna, Fajita the Cheetah, Cheeks, Dr Gonzo, and The Gonz. We don’t have enough room here to go into the origin of each.
When commenting to a colleague that he hadn’t seen him in a while Jurie said, “You’ve been like chicken teeth—scarce.” He is proving that random sayings like that that make you pause for a second are no longer reserved for grandfathers. Hailing from South Africa, his hometown is Potchefstroom. Yea, I can’t pronounce it either (Patches-Of-Mushrooms”?). His native tongue is Afrikaans (S African language) and he met his bride in S Korea. He coaches collegiate and women’s rugby, is our in-house cryptocurrency expert (fingers crossed!), and his dog, Seun is the sweetest, cuddliest, slowest dog in the world with a bark that has scared the bejeezus out of countless UPS/Fedex delivery folks at Spikeball HQ. As our numbers kept growing in size and complexity we knew we’d need some in-house expertise. Bills getting paid, checks getting cashed, books getting closed,and players and employees getting paid. To put it simply, ‘makin’ in rain' is what Jurie does. Picture gold chains, fat stacks, and Lamborghinis. Here’s a great synopsis of what kind of a guy Jurie is. I asked him, “What’s the most awesome thing you’ve done?” He answered: “While in Korea, a teenage girl was on the edge of the bridge looking like she was preparing to jump off. I ran up and onto the bridge, slowly approached her and grabbed her by the arm as she jumped. I was able to hold on to her for about 5min, even though she was trying to fight her way out of my grip, I managed to pull her back over the railing of the bridge as the firefighters and police were running across the bridge towards us.” My jaw dropped. Incredible stuff. Back to Seun, his dog. Did I mention that he’s a 180lb Mastiff? Woof woof.
Nora comes from Spikeball royalty. She is a member of the White family from Natick, MA. Yes, it’s her family that opens their door to any Spikeballer that needs a place to crash when in the Boston area for a tournament. I think the record for number of Spikeballers sleeping at their house at one time is around 30. Who needs Airbnb or hotels when you have the Whites? Hospitality must be in her genes as she is also the unofficial ‘Mother of Spikeball’. She is always making sure no one leaves stuff behind, that everything and everyone are accounted for, that things run on time, and happen in the most perfect way. At Spikeball Inc we sleep well at night knowing Nora has our back. After coming on board, she moved to the unofficial West Coast HQ of Spikeball, the apartment in Long Beach. While I’m glad I’m not aware of everything that happens there, I’m also glad that she is living with fellow ‘ballers in a new place far from home. Have you ever had a good time at any of our tournaments? Be sure to thank Nora next time you see her. Her fingerprints are all over our events. She is also busy building our college program. Big things to come with that. On the positive side, she hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, TWICE! On the downside, she hasn’t had a French fry since 1999! Such a sad tale. Speaking of sad, when asked about her worst job she mentioned that, as part of a college class assignment, she had to work in the dining hall. Tough gig but props to the professor for assigning such an eye-opening experience.
What’s that? You think you’re a big Gilmore Girls fan? Are you trying to read your way through a list of 300+ books that Rory Gilmore has been seen reading in the show? Didn’t think so. Bridget did. What’s that? You think you’re a master Sodoku player? Bridget has a personal record of 0:55 on expert level on a Sudoku app and is trying to qualify for the US team. You didn’t do that either, did you? When she’s not geeking out on Gilmore Girls, playing Sudoku, or managing her women’s Ultimate team, she’s keeping our retail customers happy. She manages customer service on the retail side making sure all is happy in the land of ‘Stores-That-Carry-Spikeball’. We were lucky enough to pick her up right after she graduated from Northwestern (go Cats!) and she’s been killing it ever since. The line that sealed the deal for us, was when she was talking about her role of managing the Northwestern women’s Ultimate team, she said, “I expanded what the role typically entailed because I just saw a lot more stuff that needed doing, so I did it.” One of our values at Spikeball is ‘own it’. Bridget exemplifies that to a tee.
The Godfather of Summerspike. Need I say more? For those of you living under a rock, Jack, along with some friends, started what has become one of the biggest, best run, and arguably, most fun (post-tournament party), Spikeball tournaments. Hosted the final Saturday of June at Coney Island since 2013, it has drawn players from all over the country as well as some international players. A former NYC public school teacher, Jack takes control and doesn’t let his students, I mean players, question how things are going to go. He has taken complete ownership of our tournament business and is making incredible progress in moving it forward. Jack has Ultimate in his DNA, does a lot of adventure races, used to be in a Phil Collins/Genesis cover band, and is typically the last man standing at the post-tournament parties. He works in NYC and can be found playing in Central Park from time to time. He was the first person at Spikeball to receive and accept a job offer via text message. While he and his wife never signed up to be the official housing spot for Summerspike, their apartment has hosted more Spikeball players per square foot than any other place in the world (disclaimer: The White family in Natick may challenge them for this title).
Self-appointed late night customer service guy on the Spikeball app; Tournament helper; Data tracker; Report Updater; Regular customer service guy; All around helper. These are some of the ‘jobs’ that Kyle at Spikeball before joining us full-time. He rides a motorcycle, owns guitars, has facial hair, wears leather jackets, and is an overall cool, nice guy. Do you like that you can find Spikeball in some of your local, independent retail stores? Be sure to thank Kyle for that. He’s the guy reaching out to them sharing the awesomeness that is Spikeball. It’s pretty magical when we’re in the office and we can tell he’s getting ready to ‘one call close’ an account. It gets very silent and then once he hangs up we erupt into applause. He is the 3rd Belmont University grad to join Spikeball full-time. Belmont has a very strong music program. I’m thinking ‘Spikeball, The Band’ may be coming soon. A native of Charlotte and having just moved to Chicago from Nashville we’re going to see how he does in his first Chicago winter. Wish him luck.
Logan is currently the only person at Spikeball Inc that has starred in a movie. Well, technically, he was in it but it’s not finished and he’s not sure if/when it will be released. We’re splitting hairs here, let’s move on, he’s a movie star! He also had a brief career in high school as a wannabe YouTube star. His channel? “Alone Time With Logan”. While that didn’t quite work out, he did once have a video that had over 100 views. We initially met Logan as the guy from Texas that was hosting tournaments at Texas A&M, challenging other Texas schools to competitions, and just being an awesome Spikeball advocate in that giant state. He never called asking for help with anything, he just did it. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a double major. Aside from building our Spikeball Collegiate community, Logan is building an incredibly well-organized system to track and ship all of our equipment or tournaments, tradeshows, and other events. He taught himself FileMaker Pro and a month or two later he’s talking to reps from Apple that are considering turning his use of the software into a case study. He’s a 7th generation Texan with a name deserving of royalty. While he’s an incredibly driven guy he does like his naps. I’ll save that story for another time.
Wanting to show Derek a typical day at Spikeball we made sure his first day on the job included a hot air balloon ride over Sonoma and a bike ride to numerous vineyards tasting some of the world’s best wine. Thankfully, after that team outing, back in Chicago, he actually came to the office to begin his regular work. If you like the fact that when you order one of our products or visit a local retailer that has Spikeball in stock, you can thank Derek. The industry term for what he does is ‘Demand Planner’ but we call it “the guy who makes sure we have the right stuff in the right place at the right time.” It’s MUCH easier said than done. And with that said, since he’s been on board, we’ve never been out of stock—anywhere or any time-- he's killing it. He also happens to be the AirBnb King of Chicago (kind of like Abe Froman of Chicago-sausage fame) and is on about 23 various sport & social teams.
Upon learning that Hadas could still recite nearly 90 bagel recipes from her previous campus employer, we knew we had to meet her. She built up some serious brainpower studying Information Systems Analytics at Miami University (the Ohio one, not the scandalous one you saw on 30 for 30), graduated, and then went home to Cleveland to help run her family's scrap metal business. Since joining us she has quickly learned how things work and has no problem stepping up, taking ownership, and finding a better way. While she seems to be loving her new city of Chicago, her poor, poor car wasn't so lucky and is no longer with us. As the first female employee of Spikeball, Hadas has been showing the male side how things should be done. She is a quiet, powerful force that is not to be messed with. Trying to take advantage of something or somehow skirt around the rules? Not gonna happen with Hadas behind the wheel. You think you can request a bunch of different parts at various times to assemble a full set? Not gonna happen. When you go to bed at night remember, Hadas is watching. Last thing, she has operated a Sennebogen 850. Don't know what that is? I didn't either but I looked it up. It's awesome.
He is our guy that makes the entire machine work. Some use the term “Operations” for what he does. We know him as the guy that builds the behind-the-scenes-systems (inventory, customer service, e-commerce, shipping, etc) that allows all of us to have a blast playing Spikeball. Without him, there would be no fun. Did I mention that he’s 6’7”? Did I mention that at age 29 still has dreams of making it to the Olympics? Did I mention that he likes the color purple and I can’t stand it? Now you know. He heads up the world’s largest Spikeball team, Tiro United, played college football and tried out for the NFL. Yea, thought so—what have you done?
Skyler is our man on stage and the ultimate Spikeball teacher. A recent grad of Cal State Chico, Skyler recently moved from Chico to LA to pursue his dream of making sure every person on the planet is aware of Spikeball. He also makes up half of Chico Spikeball which has been the #1 ranked team as long we’ve had rankings. If you see him on the street, ask him about his previous life as professional Halo player. At age 14, he traveled the country flying to various tournaments chasing the ultimate nerdery title, Global Halo Champ.
I met Joel during his days as an undergrad at Belmont University (Nashville). He reached out saying he wanted to get involved with Spikeball but that he couldn't work days b/c he was going to be in Northern Michigan mushroom hunting for a month. Yea, me neither, I had no idea mushroom hunting was a thing. We couldn't pass that up and have seen nothing short of amazing work from Joel. He graduated a semester early, moved home to PA, and has treated our customers like the fine, beautiful, tasty morel's that they are. If you see Joel, ask him about the stranger that attempted to buy his urine for $5. The deal didn't happen. :(
Scott includes 'mushroom hunter' as part of his resume as well (see Joel's bio for reference). Scott graduated early from Belmont and is the guy that makes sure our retail partners love us. Yes, LOVE us. Not one to waste his relationship building skills, 24 hours before graduation he proposed to his girlfriend and is en route to wedded bliss (fingers crossed the wedding colors are yellow and black). On a recent trip to LA for a tournament Scott had his phone stolen in a public bathroom. The guilty party eventually sold Scott his own phone back to him for $200. He also lost the tournament. Tough trip. Scott and Joel compete as team 'Nashburgh'--- ask them about their insane excel data sheet that most likely includes game play stats on your team.
Do you have an unhealthy, over the top, kinda-creepy, perverted love for the brand Spikeball? Do you tell the boss to hold on a second when you’re reading Spikeball-related emails? Maybe you laughed out loud at a Facebook or Instagram post? You can thank Shaun for all of this. He’s the mastermind behind our social media marketing. On Shaun’s first day of work, we asked for his social security number so we could complete some paperwork. He gave me a blank stare and said he’d have to get back to me. That was fairly concerning until he told me he had perfect attendance until 5th grade. Impressive. Completely irrelevant, but impressive, nonetheless. Since then, he’s been killing it and spreading Spikeball love all over the world. Shaun, a Chico State grad, also makes up half of the dominant National Champion Spikeball Team, ‘Chico Spikeball.’