The premise for crowd-funding is that it enables artists and designers to connect with their backers before, during and after they have created their custom playing cards. It is a great way to find out if there is interest in your deck before you produce it. However, creating a crowd-funding project is no easy task. Planning, budget, quotations, shipping charges, payments and marketing are some of the terms and jargons that should be clearly understood before creating a crowd-funding project.
Then comes CardLauncher, an alternate way for designers and artists to crowd-fund their deck of playing cards. CardLauncher provides solutions to problems that artists and designers will encounter when creating a crowd-funded playing card project. To find out more, we had a chat with Mike Ratledge, CEO of CardLauncher.
Can you tell us about CardLauncher and how did you guys come up with the idea?
CardLauncher was conceived from the beginning to be different from every CrowdFunding website that exists, and in our quest to provide solutions for every single problem we know with those existing platforms, we either out-maneuvered, out-thought or simply worked around every single one of those problems. Quite simply put, CardLauncher.com will be very different from all perspectives! The pledge backer, who we thought about most on each equation, the "clients" if you will: artists, designers and project managers that have hired these people to create art in the form of playing card decks for the collecting community, and of course from our administrative perspective as well. In fact we chose to highlight that we are "Different by Design!" as our marketing theme and slogan. You will be hearing that a lot over the next month before we launch on August 1st.
How does CardLauncher work?
I'm glad you asked, because there are a lot of things that work differently on CardLauncher. First, by having both production partners like USPCC and their "Bicycle" brand for traditional decks, Expert PCC for precision and new and exciting directions, and MPC for small batch and prototype decks, as well as fulfillment (packing and delivery) partners, like Kings Wild, Lake Michigan Mailers and Gambler's Warehouse, we get quotes from all clients using our service and we escrow funds for both once each project ends and is successfully funded. That allows us to offer our industry leading "Guaranteed Rewards Delivery"® of all items every backers selects and pays for using PayPal, our payments partner. That also means that the company itself pays for both production and fulfillment for all projects and passes our discounts onto every client, who should in turn pass the savings along to backers.
This also means the company knows when projects are on track or behind. We know when each project's backers should expect fulfillment. We also calculate shipping for US, other North American or "Rest of World" using the weight and allow for special handling - for uncut sheets, for example. They can even choose to get "express" shipping at a slightly higher price in most cases. Also, using both MailChimp and SendGrid as our email partners virtually guarantees worldwide delivery of all backer and client notifications. The fact is we just worked smarter to build a better CrowdFunding platform - and succeeded!
Why would anyone pick CardLauncher over the more established Kickstarter and how would you market it to the masses?
See above. Both for backers and clients we simply offer a better, more importantly fraud free system and can provide instant service 24×365 due to our widely geographically dispersed staff in the US, Britain, Sweden, Greece, Singapore, Guam - amongst others. Better still, by using common sense we provide large and growing discounts for all costs involved for both clients and backers, and therefore minimize the cost of the Playing Card Decks that are the basis for our existence. We also heard the backers loud and clearly state that simply using PayPal® was not enough or not what they wanted. We added WePay® CrowdFunding payments which includes credit cards available now and we are working to offer Amazon Payments as well. Because everything website is in a virtual global marketplace due to the widespread use of the Internet, we have to be flexible, and this provides even more ways to pay, with more to come. We are passionate about playing cards.
What advice would you give to aspiring designers who wants to create their own custom deck?
Come talk to our integrated design consultancy "The Deck Refinery", people who not only are as passionate as our backers, but who pride themselves in providing "A to Z" support for all aspects of the process from design to running your projects campaign to fulfillment and everything in between. They will both help you make a better, more desirable product, and guide you through every part of the process as well. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started and our team will guide you through every single step of the process. The Deck Refinery will provide decks that are also "Different by Design!".
What are your future plans for CardLauncher? How far ahead in the future do you guys plan?
We are working to prove our trademarked and patent-pending Chromografix™ production methodology for ultra high resolution photographic quality decks that will revolutionize the industry, and instantly be in high demand by discriminating collectors because the costs for them is not going to be too much higher, and they provide "what's next" for the Playing Cards industry. It is revolutionary, not simply evolutionary!
We're already looking forward into our second year in business, and ahead of where we had planned to be. In fact we are already testing the service and could be launching the service very soon, although as we originally stated we had planned to do so 1-August, we could beat that goal, unless we find the slightest problems in our software because we are not going to open until everything works as intended.
It is possible our novel concept of having a "backer cart" where each backer selects all the items they want as opposed to the simple single tier pledge that all other CrowdFunding systems do might have to wait for a short while, but we hope "backer cart" and every single thing we have planned will be available on launch day. Think about that. Between 75%-80% of playing card backer pledges - depending on campaign - just don't fit into that single item model. At this point the August 1st date is "set in stone". For July we are working very hard to insure that we have not just created but in fact also deliver a better system for backers, designers, artists and everyone involved, and to ensure that all of our plans are realized from the start.
With the emergence of various playing card crowd-funding platforms, what are your thoughts about the growth of the hobby and community?
We're not the least bit concerned nor worried about what anyone else is doing or might do, nor will we. We'll be in a position to be the one everybody else in the CrowdFunding arena tries to emulate as opposed to vice versa - whether they operate now or in the future. CardLauncher.com is going to be a first class place with first class products all at reasonable prices with shipping clearly broken out and no bias toward any vendors or clients and everyone will benefit from our well thought out approach at providing world class service and support, not to mention our Guaranteed Rewards Delivery® program to protect backers from both fraudulent by intent and fraud by lack of planning or flat out stupidity. You can't launch a deck on our service unless you have production and fulfillment quotes and artwork to show enough of your plan amongst other things on our pre-launch checklist. That in itself means great projects from and for all clients and backers. Again - "Different by Design!".
Finally, what are your favourite playing card decks?
You always throw in a really tough one! I would have to say that most of my favorite decks are contemporary as opposed to the vintage or antique decks simply because those tend to be identical except for the backs, Ace of Spades, Joker and tuck case. The one that comes to mind is David Blaine's true original Tally Ho Split Spades decks, especially the blue and red ones, and those are less than ten years old but extremely hard to find already. Beyond that the recent decks are too many to try to even name some, because they are simply getting better every month, no every day.
Thanks for the awesome insights Mike and good luck for the launch of CardLauncher!
As mentioned in the interview, CardLauncher will launch on 1st Aug 2014 (Fri). Join CardLauncher's mailing list to keep up-to-date on CardLaunchers' latest release. Also, to see more exclusives and interviews, please follow us Facebook.