After his NBA dream was shattered because of injuries, Thomas Fields went on to pursue a sports startup. His company, Grind, provides an alternative to expensive basketball shooting machines. He pitched the business on Shark Tank and scored a deal with Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban. As of 2024, Grind is worth $2 million.
Thomas Fields’ Background
Hailing from Houston, Texas, Thomas Fields played for the Heights High School basketball team. But before graduating, he suffered multiple ACL injuries and had a total of four surgeries. The injuries left him with no choice but to move on to something else.
He went to the University of Houston’s CT Bauer College of Business. While there, he became a speaker at the startup accelerator REDLabs. Thomas also signed up for the Success Initiative Program at MIT Sloan School of Management.
In 2017, he joined the board of directors of the non-profit hackerspace TXRX Labs, bringing creative individuals together. The following year, he became part of the MIT Media Lab.
Thomas got the idea for his company back when he was still a hopeful NBA prospect. While his knee injuries were healing, he wanted to practice but didn’t want to always rely on his coaches. He preferred training alone, but shooting machines were too expensive.
After finishing high school, he used his own money to build an affordable, portable basketball machine. He struggled to raise money at first, but REDLabs and some angel investors helped Grind launch in 2017.
Despite having some supply chain issues, the startup kicked off with a strong social media presence. With this, the young hustler received over $215,000 in pre-orders and was working on finishing the prototype.
Shark Tank Appearance
Before fulfilling the orders by himself, Thomas Fields thought it would be best to bring on a new partner. So, in 2020, he appeared on season 12 of Shark Tank, asking for $250,000 for 5% equity.
Nobody was surprised to learn that Mark Cuban and Alex Rodriguez appreciated the product. They were both sports lovers, but they were also businessmen. The two investors expressed worry about the tight profit margins.
Surprisingly Barbara Corcoran was interested but wanted to improve the look of the product. Barbara wanted a partner and she teamed up with Cuban to invest $250,000 for 25%. Although it was more equity that he wanted to give away, Fields said yes to the deal!
After Shark Tank
The deal with Mark and Barbara never closed as reported by Sharktankblog.com. Despite the setback, the first batch of the pre-orders was shipped. In early 2021, the second batch was delivered, and just 20% of orders are left to send out. Grind ended up making $1 million in revenue for 2021.
Now, Grind is focused on fulfilling new orders at GrindBasketball.com and improving its product. On their website, they have a 4.5-star review rating. Apart from shooting machines, they also started selling shirts, shorts, and hoodies. Thomas was also featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 2022 Class.
After Shark Tank, Grind took part in the Techstars Sports Accelerator program, which helped it raise $1.6 million. Thomas and his team haven’t released any sales figures for 2022. The company is stable and currently worth an estimated $2 million.