Interview with Florian Plüer
Founder & CEO @ Dish Tennis

DISH TENNIS is in principle a kind of mini table tennis with specially defined tournament events for the B2C, as well as for the B2B sector (as a side event at corporate events) - with specially designed tables with an integrated frame that folds up like a briefcase. The spontaneous idea, which was born in the beginning of 2012 in the Unisextoilette of a small bar - and to implement mini table tennis tournaments with amusing moderation, DJ and a kind of cheerleading girls quickly became a cult in Vienna. What began as fun among friends quickly drew more and more people and grew bigger and bigger. The idea of ​​giving the tournament champion a table home required special challenges - he should be portable, he should be light and he should have style. Since such a table did not exist worldwide, we simply built it ourselves. With the help of architects, designers and the master carpenter of our confidence, we developed a folding, hand-crafted table in retro look.
Hi Florian! Could you please tell us a bit more about your work with Dish Tennis and what led to your founding the company back in 2012?
Well, Dish Tennis started off in 2012 as a little joke in our favorite pub. The thing was that we had a unisex toilet where we had the idea to have a little social events, like mini table tennis tournament in a unisex toilet which sounds pretty weird, but was actually a lot of fun. It was just supposed to be a little joke for friends -a moderator, a DJ and 16-20 participants - and the idea was the winner plays for the table. And we were talking about a little mini table, like one meter, which you can take along home. But as this product didn't exist - something you could fold together, which the champion could take home - we came up with the idea to build it ourselves. And this was just, as I said, like just doing just a joke with friends, just as social event. Suddenly, people wanted to buy the table. People from companies wanted to have the exact same event for their own reasons, for example Christmas parties or summer company incentives or whatever. And so we started off,"Ok, you can book us - a moderator, a deejay, and a referee, and two girls like cheerleaders and a bit like a box fight thing. And yeah, you can also order tables with us, if you want to." And we didn't know how much to sell them, and they wanted us to brand the tables with their own corporate identity, so we said, "OK let's do that." And so this whole thing was a joke and was never meant to be a company, and suddenly it turned out that we should start a company.
What are some of the challenges you've faced since founding the company? How did you mitigate these challenges?
Well I think the biggest challenge you have in the beginning is that you don't have the money to produce a large quantity, so in the beginning I could just produce maybe 20 or 30 tables and that was it. And I relied, really, on the carpenter, who was of course, with this small amount of quantity - I was not his first priority. So this situation often occurred that he had different and other stuff to do, and I was like, "Okay, I don't have tables, I can't sell tables." So I was really looking for a partner then, and my uncle helped me with a big company - 60 people, CMC machines, full-automated industrial standard - in Tyrol, and this was pretty cool guy. And he said, "Look, I believe in your idea, and you know what, I'm going to produce 500 tables for you in advance, and you just have to pay every table you sell. And you can start it for free in my place, and you can use my conditions for logistics too." And this was like, "OK, wow". This is like an investor. And so I said to myself, "OK, let's do it." And this deal was never done with a written contract, it was done with a with a handshake. People from Tyrol, they're like mountain people, they're honest, they're about pride, and they expect you to be honest too. And well, this relationship is going on since two or three years, so really the company, as it is now, was organized 2016, and since then, now, I am having orders of thousands of tables and - it's working! Can't say more.
What did the first year of the company look like? How did you find manufacturers and distributors for Dish Tennis?
Well of course I answered this question specifically before, but there were of course steps in-between which were not that easy to manage, or I had to know what to do. We tried to to produce in China, in Serbia, in Czechoslovakia, but to be honest, we never really were satisfied with the quality. I don't want to say these countries can't do it, but the producers I was dealing with, there was lack of quality, and I also didn't know if there is children being involved to work, or people with under circumstances which are not not fair trade. And so I said to myself, "Why not stay regional? Why not stay in Austria?" Of course, it costs more here, but I know that the quality is absolutely top. And the thinking of the people changed - especially in middle Europe and Germany-Switzerland-Austria - that people are willing to pay more. First of all, to support the regional product - our products are high premium, segmented product, which is of course way more expensive than comparable products, like mini-table tennis tables which are 99 percent done in Asia. And of course they're cheaper, but the quality is a different thing. And I know who's doing my tables, and I know I'm in good hands there, and that's the reason I'm proud to to sell an Austrian product. And people say it the same way, and they're willing to pay 300 Euros for that instead of 130.
How does Dish Tennis build up its partnerships with B2B clients and corporates?
Well this is for us, really, really a good thing because, first of all, as I said like table tennis - the additions came out of an event business. It's perfect for company events, it's a team building thing, it breaks ice, people get together, people do something with each other - it's perfect for every company event. This is the one thing, and of course our biggest business is B2B business - doing corporate tables, doing branded tables for companies. So either we design a branded table for them, or we give them a template to do it themselves. And this is from starting from major big companies, big brands from Red Bull, Converse, Heineken, going down to small dentists, or legal attorneys or whatever. And the good thing is it's very popular, because it's actually it's on the same level as a soccer table - and the only thing is it's not some masculine dominated, women like to play. And because it's a small table you have to be very patient in your strokes, and therefore there are a lot of female champions, so it's not only men dominating that game. It's equal, and you don't have a lot of sports you who have this balance. And so it works perfectly in a in a company, and in the offices, in think tanks, people, they can take it along. So it works good.
What's next for your work with Dish Tennis? What are your main goals for the company in the next year?
So, the first two years were pretty incredible, especially the last year: we were twice in television, we were in investments shows - something like Shark Tank in the States, you have like similar formats in Austria and Germany - we were in one in Austria and one in Germany, and of course if one hundred thousand people see you, you get on the map, and of course business was good then. And also the first retailers contacted us and were interested and are interested in our product. And since then it's getting getting interesting. So it's not like just, okay, we order one, or two, or five - or our maximum was like 50 tables - now it's starting like, "Okay we want 200 tables. And we'll do a test balloon, and if this works out, we want 1000 or maybe more." And this is where it gets interesting. Also to deal with these big players, for example - I can't talk about it now - but in Austria we're dealing with one of the biggest supermarket chains, a bit higher, not a discounter - but we're going to launch a test balloon there soon. And we also worked, for example with West Wing, who are like an Internet platform for a shopping community for interiors, but high level shit - sorry. And yeah, so we're trying out retailers and see what we can do from there, and starting to grow hopefully outside of middle Europe and going also maybe to Sweden, or to Scandinavia, Benelux, England. Where do you want our tables? And also where they can afford our tables. You know that's the thing. And once you break that, maybe we're cheaper and then it's for the wholeworld. And I say goodbye - Dish Tennis for life.