How We Built Disrupt Cards
Nearly 9 months ago, a few friends (Daniel Singer, Jeremy Maluf) and I set off on our stupidest endeavor yet — we set out to build a card game. Specifically, a card game that made fun of all the good and bad parts of startup life.
To add some context and ridiculousness to this story, know that these “friends” were people I had never really met before.
“Internet Friends” — call them what you wish. We met on Twitter a few months prior.Daniel (CEO) & Jeremy (Resident Swiss Army Knife)
Note: Daniel and Jeremy are incredibly talented people. We also had immense support from superstars like Henry and Andrew. The people behind the game are just as funny as the game! Go figure.
But bluntly put: We were drastically underprepared for what lie before us. None of us had any experience designing & manufacturing cards before, let alone handling international logistics. We had no capital. No marketing budget. No customer support team. Nothing.
Our naïveté is the only thing that drove us forward.
And luckily it did. We launched back in September:
Since then, a ton has happened. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride.
We nearly quit and refunded everyone. But Daniel kept us going (+1 to optimism). Then we nearly quit again. But then we started selling more boxes. And slowly, but surely, we started selling tons of games.
As of writing this post:
- We have shipped boxes of Disrupt Cards to 40+ states and 20+ countries
- We were featured on CNN, Forbes, Inc, the Hustle, and many more!
- A company backed by $10M+ in funding launched a game similar to ours. We still won. Ha.
- #2 Most Upvoted Game on Product Hunt All Time , and we were nominated for a golden kitty
- We disrupted dozens of hackathons, conferences, and events around the world
Perhaps not the most glorious of metrics…but surely this was once in a lifetime experience. To this day, I cannot believe we pulled this off. I cannot believe that I have a box of 600 cards that WE MADE sitting in my room.
The older I get, the more I realize that it is experiences like these — the crazy ones, the ones most people would say no to — that I will remember most. Far too often in life we get caught up in finding reasons to say no. Rarely, if ever, do we take leaps of faith to say yes.
Disrupt Cards reminded me to always take the phone call. Build the project. Get on the plane. Stay up late. Just start.
If you could not tell already, I am a big proponent of building and shipping projects. The benefits: You gain such a unique perspective and learn so much from doing things like this that are completely out of your comfort zone. If they go well — you’re much better off! And if they go poorly, sure you lost some time. But no one will really care.
I am writing this not only as a point of self reflection and a pause to say THANK YOU, but also, hopefully, as a resource of inspiration.
If us three goons could build and ship this stupid game — you can do whatever it is you want, so long as you want it bad enough. That I am sure of.
So here is what we learned:
Every project comes with a goal in mind.
“Get 1000 users. Get to $20K MRR. etc.”
Setting goals is challenging, especially early on, because creating a benchmark that not only pushes you but is also somewhat realistic can be hard to estimate.
It’s startup world, you never know what to expect.
Learning #1 — Aim high, but be flexible.
As a team, we aimed really high. We wanted to sell a ton of games. And we wanted to do it quickly. We had no resources. No expertise. Yet we still aimed high.
Our initial goal: break even in a month.
The reality, however, was far different. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
Questions continued to linger:
When would we break even? How many boxes would we need to sell? How much did we have to front to make this happen? Should we just quit?
It was hard. Yes. But why was it so hard?
Our expectations were off. We expected this to be quick. We expected people to just LOVE and, more importantly, BUY the game.
But we were wrong.
The good news: we tested our assumptions quickly. We iterated over our ideas. And we kept pushing forward.
Whatever it takes
If someone asked me what it takes to build a project/company, I’d have to say: “prepare for anything. Especially things you would never learn in school. Things you would never read about in a textbook or things that would not make it in the Social Network movie.”
Prepare for 2 am arguments over pricing. Prepare for customers asking for refunds. Prepare for shipping delays. Prepare for websites going down. Prepare for boxes coming broken. Expect the worst, but hold your optimism high.
It is a weird source of “cautious optimism” that often leads to the best results, especially in the face of uncertainty.
Getting to results, however, is as much a product of philosophically setting the right mindset as it is just plain executing.
Doing the ugly things. As PG calls them, “the things that don’t scale.”
And believe me when I tell you, Disrupt Cards is the essence of ugly when it comes to how we got the product out the door.
Lesson #2 — Just make it happen
We had zero dollars to market our product.
With no budget…what do you do?
Bootstrap. Hustle. Guerrilla marketing — whatever you want to call it.
First of all, your customers do not care if you do not have the resources. They do not care if you are tired. You really just have to make it happen.
So how did we do it?
- Emails: Lots and lots of emails.
We made our emails stand out by adopting our voice and sticking to our brand. It was funny!-ish, and people, in the startup world, enjoy making fun of their obvious faults.
- Communities: I cannot emphasize this part enough. There is no force that can do more for your product/company/service than the power of people. Find them. Tell them you care about them. And make sure they love what you are doing.
Luckily, we found our A+ followers on Product Hunt:
Even before launch, we spent all of our time beta-testing the game with “Silicon Valley Experts” — making sure our hypothesis that our jokes were somewhat funny was true.
- Tweeting: Yes, it really works.
“Social media is too saturated.”
“Twitter is dead.”
My response: Welp, it worked for us.
Why did it? Because we understood our audience very well. It does not have to be Twitter — but you should find where your audience spend their time. Is it Facebook? Pinterest? Subway Stations? TV?
Our story is still being written. We’re still selling Disrupt Cards — You can BUY A BOX HERE.
But more importantly, and more as to why I am writing this, I implore you to take your next step. Be it forward or backwards — do something!
Always here to help -> firstname.lastname@example.org
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