PortOPong is an inflatable beer pong table that allows you to play your favorite drinking game anywhere and everywhere. It even allows you to play it in the swimming pool; we know that swimming and drinking are a great combo. Feel free to check out my review of the actual PortOPong. I had a chance to speak with the co-owner of the company and co-inventor of PortOPong, Jerry Piscitelli.
Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do at PortOPong?
I am the co-owner/inventor of PortOPong. My role is web development, product sourcing, graphic design, business relations, media relations, accounting, and, of course, sales. As you can see, a small company needs to have people who wear many hats.
I am a graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University, ’02. I come from a very diverse background. I was a captain of the track team in college (New England state shot put champ), and a communications major. I once worked as a bouncer at a bar. I am a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp) and I am an Eagle scout. Very mixed background, I know.
Tell us a little about PortOPong, your products, your company, and where you guys are based.
We make the PortOPong tables – the world's first inflatable beer pong table – and we now have them in four colors (blue, green, pink, and white). We promote our tables as a fun item to use when on vacation or anytime you don’t want to use a big bulky table. It's 100% portable! It’s the only table that you can play in the pool, or at a tailgate.
We also just launched PortOPong X, the official energy drink for beer pong. It tastes better than leading brands and has a hot look. We introduced this product this year and sell disposable Jager bomb cups with the X as well.
The PortOPong Team is made up of me, my partner, and the other inventor of PortOPong, my long time friend Sal Laudano. He heads up shipping, customer service, sales, and travels to events with me, and we are both based out of Connecticut.
We have recently added a west coast branch; Ron Aparicio came on board after seeing the success of PortOPong and has become a friend to us. He handles sales, west coast shipping, and is now doing events for us as well. He works out of California.
How did you come up with the idea of PortOPong?
Sal and I go on a family vacation every year to Florida and we bring something cool each year to enjoy poolside. One year it was the boat blender, another year it was floating coolers (when they were new), and everyone asked us if we invented that.
Then, two years ago, we were at a bar talking about what we were bringing, and I said I would love to play beer pong in the pool. Sal said we would get kicked out if we tossed a table in the pool. We both then said, "What if it was a floaty?"
So, we started looking and when we Googled it we got “0” results found; we got to work. I looked up how to make beach balls, and who did that, and then we went to prototypes and the product took on a life of its own. The name took us about four hours during one night of tossing ideas around; it almost was the PONG FLOAT… yeah. Then, we went down a list of ways to market the product and started a grass roots campaign. It launched in mid 2007.
Why should we use PortOPong over anyone else's pong tables? What advantages are there to your product?
Hard-top tables are great if you are doing tournaments and don’t need to move the table too often. A PortOPong inflatable table is even better because you can take it on a plane with you, roll it up, and take it to a buddy's house. Plus, it's simply more affordable.
I heard that you were attempting to get your pink table teamed up with a breast cancer group; how is that going?
Yeah, each of us has had loved ones in our family affected by cancer of some sort. We always wanted to make a pink table because the ladies are one of our bigger demographics. Then, we said that we should do something to give back to them. We have worked with many charities, other than breast cancer, in the past, and want to do so again.
We are still looking for an accepting charity, but the one we wanted to work with wanted more money to share their name and logo than we would have been able to donate. Thus, we are still working on the details.
You guys are running a competition involving viral marketing; tell me a little about this.
The photo contest is great; we are offering a $100 worth of PortOPong gear for the best action beer pong photo. It doesn’t even have to be on a PortOPong table. You upload the photo, give it a caption, and then use cool tools so that you can share it on Facebook and MySpace to gain votes. The person with the most votes wins!
As of today, we have only a few entries and one of the entries has 50+ votes. People are going to the page daily, and we are getting people emailing us saying they had a great story and wish they took a picture to enter. Please enter!
How did you come up with the idea of viral marketing PortOPong?
We had to. When we first started, no one knew what beer pong really was about. Then, to throw a layer of an inflatable floating beer pong table, confused even the local papers. We hit it hard on MySpace and Facebook, then we went into Craigslist and other social places online. We started making friends with people who had other cool sites — talking to bloggers is huge.
People love to read other people's opinions, good or bad. One time, we got picked up by Gizmodo and had like 3000 visitors in one day, with a ton of sales to boot. All from one person posting a photo they saw on MySpace and everyone making fun of the people in the picture.”
College students are drinking in record numbers and many are getting injured, or even killed, due to their excessive drinking. What do you think that we should do about this? How can we combat it?
We can certainly do something to combat it, and we at PortOPong encourage people to be safe and have fun. The best weapon to combat the problem is through education and not making too much [needless] noise about the issue. Talk about it clearly, but don’t turn it into a one-sided conversation.
As the college crowd matures, they still hold onto their party ways. The problem is that the drinks slowly evolve into stronger and stronger drinks, from Nadies to Bud to wine. I believe that it starts at home, there they are taught to behave while drinking. We encourage people to know their limits and learn from bad mistakes; don’t repeat a bad idea.
Various states are considering lowering their drinking age to 18 as an attempt to combat the drinking issues colleges are facing. Large universities, including Ohio State, are joining in on this call. What do you think about this proposal?
I think that it’s a smart idea; take away the cool factor of waiting until 21 and part of the problem will go away. Combine this with how expensive it is to go to the bar and they may calm down a bit. It will allow the drinking community to mature over a longer period of time.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Go to our website and buy a PortOPong already! No, seriously, we talk to tons of people and we want to thank everyone for the support. Starting our company has been a long, tough road. It makes it worth it when we watch people's faces when they realize that a PortOPong can float! “It's for the pool? You guys are going to make millions!” We laugh, say thanks, and then say, "Not unless you buy a table!"