Thoughts, updates and comments from the founder of Innovatium Inc.
Success at Origins
Origins International Game Expo
just closed a few short hours ago and was a resounding success.
We presented for the first time at a major gaming exposition and were open to a wide variety of possiblities. As I framed them for my son, who joined me at the convention, the worst case scenario was that we would pack every Hold-it! Game Card Organizer back into the boxes and bring them back to Massachusetts, while the best case scenario was that we would have no stock left to pack. The reality, we knew, would be somewhere in the middle.
Yes, making enough on stock at a convention is usually a priority. However, for a new company, such as Innovatium, getting the word out that our Organizer was on the market and having that word spread was the real win at Origins. For example, here are some of the games that folks mentioned as being great for use with the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer:
- Settlers of Catan -- 6+ games (we knew this!)
- Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride Europe, & Ticket to Ride Märklin
- Dutch Blitz
- Apples to Apples
- Mare Nostrum
- Arkham Horror, not to mention a whole bunch of games from Fantasy Flight Games
- Killer Bunnies
Additionally, we previewed an acrylic game border for the Settlers of Catan games. Yes, it is a one trick pony, but boy, what a trick. This border keeps the cards for the 3-4 and the 5-6 person games of Settlers from getting knocked during game play. We will be adding the Seafarers border shortly. The success of this item prompted us to carry it in our online store
There was a constant flow of people who stopped at our booth and listened to our pitch for the Hold-it!. Our Director of Sales and Marketing, Liz Fulda was also present and did a great job bringing folks in to learn about our Hold-it!.
All in all it was a great show, lots of people, a good number of retailers and even some distributors all got to see the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer in person and many, many of them walked away with a Hold-it, or walked away saying, "That is a great idea. I'll see you at Gen-Con."
Thanks for Reading!
Just wanted to let you know what has been going on at Innovatium.
We had done some work with the wonderful Alison Summers
regarding our sales and marketing and are looking to work with some other, highly recommended folks.
The upshot of all this are some changes, some of which are long over due.
For one, we will be updating the web site. This is in the "long over due" category.
Another change is that we won't be going to Essen this year, but will rather look to attend other tradeshows primarily in the North East, where we are located. We will also be looking for game tournaments where we can let people try using the Hold-it! for themselves.
We've set some sales goals -- it's good to have goals -- and are simulateneously finishing the plans and executing the plans. For example, as we talk about advertising and article promotions, we are going full-speed ahead on preparations for Origins and GenCon Indy.
All of the conversations, planning and work to date has me feeling very confident that this will continue to be a wonderful year and that we will help many people get organized with the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer.
Thanks for reading!
Continuing on the topic of priorities, I was pondering "Just how important can things be?" By that I mean, "Just how important is 'important'?" How important are you willing to let high-priority things be?
Are you willing to stay up late and get up early to meet a deadline for your work? What about to help your child with a school project? Are you willing to go to bed early so you can get up early and exercise? Are you willing to be responsible about what you eat so that you can be in the physical condition you wish?
These are important questions, not because the answers to them will change your life, but rather because how you answer them helps you to learn about yourself.
The biggest indicator of importance is whether or not you are willing to risk failing. I have a specific meaning of failure, which is "to not achieve neither the original goals nor an acceptable subset of them, and to stop trying to achieve them."
I prefer this perspective because it highlights a few things.
- Something is a failure only if you deem it to be so.
- There are degrees in which something can succeed, if you are open to them.
- If you continually work towards your goal, then you really haven't failed. You simply haven't succeeded yet.
- Not succeeded is, therefore, not the same as failing.
Yes, there are precise and specific instances where a tightly defined goal yields a clear success/failure evaluation. Your team lost the basketball game is something one could consider a failure.
But isn't there a next game? What did you learn from this game? You really only get out of it what you put into it. And, nothing spectacular was ever created by accident by mediocre effort. (Go ahead, prove me wrong!)
If you are not
willing to let this effort, this attempt, fail
, then maybe the goal isn't large enough.
When I have to guarantee success, I scale back the deliverables to something I know I can achieve. While it is very satisfying to then achieve the stated goal, something is missing. The thrill of creating something significant really comes from extending oneself. For that, you have to be willing to fail. At least in this attempt.
At least that's the way I see it.
Thanks for reading!
Happy New Year
It's about time that I took a moment to touch base.
2005, the year of the founding of Innovatium, was a great year. We accomplished a lot -- far more than we really had any right to believe we could do. 2006 is shaping up to be even better.
Three major activities are planned for '06:
- Continue sales and promotion of the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer
- Start R & D on a new product for the camping and outdoor community
- Start R & D on a new product for triathletes
Beyond that are a huge number of details, including our continued search to find investors who would like to become part of the Innovatium family.Conventions
We will be at at least three conventions this year:
Origins by GAMA (June 29 to July 2)
GenCon Indy (August 10 - 13)
Das Spiel in Essen, Germany (October)
We are going to try and host some games at each convention, offer some promotions and generally try to have a really good time. Hope you can join us.New Products
Obviously, there isn't much I can say about our new products until we have done quite a bit of work on them. If you're interested in helping us
, we will need folks to answer questionnaires as part of our primary market research, please contact us through our website
and let us know!
We'll put more information in the next newsletter. If you'd like to receive our newsletter, please sign up
OK, back to the topic. We're planning on doing R & D in 2006 and getting to the manufacturing stage in early 2007.
For the Triathlete project (Project Tri), we would like to introduce the product in the winter of '06-07 so that there is some presence for the '07 Tri season (those of us in colder climates know of what I speak)
. Speaking with race directors, triathletes and race organizers & judges are all part of the initial product exploration plan.
The camping and outdoors-person project (Project Hike) will likely take a longer cycle with R&D running in '06 and product introduction in '07 with sales targeted for '08. We will need a number of volunteers for primary market research before we get into the next design stage. There is a good chance that we will want to partner with an established outdoor product firm. That will be fun.
Of course, we will ask all volunteers to sign a standard non-compete and non-disclosure agreement. Volunteering is a great way to get involved, have fun and participate in the creation of something new. It's a real kick!
That's it for now. Thanks for reading!
Maybe I Spoke Too Soon
Shortly after the last post, a new series of orders started coming in.Wonderful!!
Hey, we all know that the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer is a fantastic deal. It's really great to see that other folks are hearing about it and learning the same thing too.
I am extremely pleased that so may people are interested in the Organizer with so little promotion and so little time on the market. Thank you all for helping to spread the word!
Thanks for reading! Hope you have a Happy Holiday and Joyous New Year!
It's Kind Of Quiet
Here at Innovatium it's been rather quiet.
We pushed and pushed really hard all summer long to get the new company off the ground and get the first product, the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer into production.
After the tremendous roller coaster rides of the Summer and Fall, it seems so quiet now. We are shipping orders as they come in. There was a flurry of backorder to fulfill, which was done very quickly. Then there was a flurry of activity to update advertising and promotions, which was also done very quickly. Now, there is just not much more pushing to do.
Yes, we are keeping our few ads alive. But since the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer came to market rather late for the 2005 season, we are simply doing the best we can.
So, we're taking advantage of this quiet time to reflect, plan, plan and plan.
Some of the things we're planning are:
- Conventions for 2006: Origins, GenCon, Der Spiel (in Essen, Germany)
- New Products to enter into R & D.
- Investors. Oh, how lovely to find some more wonderful folks who believe in us and what we're doing.
Without a doubt, some of the best work is the New Product development. There are quite literally over a dozen products on the drawing board for evaluation and planning. We would like to bring one, perhaps, two, new products out in 2006 for sale in 2007.
Wow, that looks like a long time away. However, having lived this year experiencing every minute as real and as raw as can be, I now know it will soon be upon us.
Hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a Joyous New Year!
Thanks for reading
Lets get things going!
I'm feeling pretty good and it's time to focus on getting the ball rolling!
The product is here, the product labels are here and the retail cartons will soon be here. There are outstanding orders to fill. We've had really good feedback at some conventions and will be listed in a new product directory.
OK, folks, let's get the word out! You need
a Hold-it! Game Card Organizer!
by Innovatium. Really you do.
My wife uses two in the kitchen for holding all sorts of things. Some ladies at a business meeting I recently attending swore it was the best thing they've seen for their make up.
A multi-chambered organizer might seem expensive at $29.95, but this organizer is worth it
First of all, you will find dozens of uses for it. Especially if you are a regular gamer.
Then, it will last forever
. Check out the movies
on the website. I even drop it from head-height onto the small stabilizing feet at the back and it didn't even crack!
Finally, if you are the gaming type, this is a modest investment in your gaming pleasure -- for the rest of your life!
Thank you for reading.
Success at U*Con
I just love doing dances of victory. When I was in high-tech, I did "Engineering Dances of Victory" when I bested a particularly complex problem. Now, I get to do "Satisfied Customer Dances of Victory" These come from retailers who place an order, distributors who are interested in carrying my product and customers who choose to purchase the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer
This past weekend, I was at U*Con in Ann Arbor, MI
. I believe it is hosted by a local gaming club up there, and would appreciate if someone could supply me with the link (I couldn't find it after a quick search on the U*Con Gaming page).
Of course, the folks there were fantastic. The volunteers were wonderful and the exhibitors were great. I loved chatting with the folks from the Michigan chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism
that were there.
On Saturday night I hosted "Cities, Knights and Boats", a combination Cities and Knights and Seafarers game, by Chris Hawks
. One young fellow, Steve, showed up with a ticket and we lassoed in two more fellows, another Steve and his friend, Lou. Steve (not "Young Steve") asked if I was affiliated with the Hold-it! Game Card Organizer, so I had to tell him I was. He had hoped to ask me what I thought of it because he saw the ad and discussion on BoardGameGeek.com and wondered about it (See the previous post
on that topic). He was clearly dubious about its utility.
Well, we played together, everyone played really well, and during the course of the game, Steve said, "Well, it seems silly, but I've got to admit, this thing is really cool." Yep, just by playing with it for half a game, Steve was converted.
At the end, I asked him what he thought. Steve replied, "You know, it really helps the game. What I hated about Settlers was the mess of cards, and this just solves that perfectly."
Steve liked it so much, that he posted his own, unsolicted comments on the Board Game Geek thread
and then went on to purchase his own Organizer. Thanks, Steve!
Hence, the dance of joy mentioned earlier. The Hold-it! Game Card Organizer really is great. I am very proud of this product. It improves game play of an already fantastic game, it is well designed so it works really, really well, and it is incredibly durable so it will give you
years of enjoyment!
More on Re-Branding
I heard it through the grapevine. Someone I know heard something from someone she knows. Mayfair Games was not going to support The Settlers Organizer. I had been hoping that they would recognize that there was good opportunity with The Settlers Organizer. Of course, calling my card organizer box "The Settlers Organizer" was to closely align my product with The Settlers of Catan, for which it was initially designed. I had wanted to call it "The Organizer of Catan", but that was not at all possible unless fully blessed by Klaus Teuber. Even so, if Mayfair Games objects, then I really can't even call it "The Settlers Organizer"
What I hadn't realized, until after speaking with Guido Teuber, was that the good folks at Mayfair Games considered The Settlers Organizer to be an identical (or sufficiently similar) product to The Catan Box
I like The Catan Box; it is lovely, seems well designed and is quite practical (I just love practical), although it is not yet available for the North American sized cards. However, The Catan Box doesn't seem very useful for playing
the games, just for storing
them. I pointed this out to Guido Teuber, who will be reconsidering The Settlers Organizer as a product aligned with the Settlers family with some of the other members of Mayfair Games.
However, it might be much better simply to re-brand the product so that game players consider the Organizer in terms of its usability for other games. This would expand the market for the Organizer, thus allowing a lower price point, which would make retailers and consumers happier. It would obviate the need to align the Organizer with The Settlers of Catan; although I still like the idea of being aligned with The Settlers of Catan, it would be less complex and that is attractive.
Either way, the Organizer must be available for sale as soon as possible, or no one will be able to buy it, and that would be sad.
What do you think?
Email and Branding, but not together
Just to let folks know, the sales@SettlersOrganizer.com email address has been fixed. I apologize for anyone who tried this address, but didn't get through.
Then on other fronts, we are seriously considering rebranding our Settlers Organizer product. We believe that there are a large number of games, from traditional board games to CCG's (Collectable Card Games, such as Yu Gi Oh, Pokiman, Magic the Gathering, etc.) to new board games (Carcassone, Torres, Puerto Rico, etc.) that would benefit from the use of the Organizer.
More coming soon.
Wow, What a Rush!
Close, so close. The first production run will ship on October 17. The retail packages and the product labels are scheduled to be completed on October 19. I am fairly confident that we will be able to ship our first orders by October 21. This is welcome news, delightful news and much anticipated news.
It also needs to be said that I have been working on this product since April of this year in an effort to get it to the market by September, 2005. Here it is in October and I have only a few first shot samples, no retail package or product labels yet. But they're coming!
However, I have something to relate that has made me sad. Some folks on the BoardGameGeek
forum were talking about The Settlers Organizer (yea!
), but they didn't particularly like the idea (boo!
). Well, they liked the idea (yea!
), but not necessary my implementation of it (boo!
). Maybe what they didn't like what the price.
OK, I know you've clicked on the link and read the post, but just in case you haven't, here are the key points.
- The Settlers Organizer is not a real product
- It is only a $1 piece of plastic with a label
- A business card organizer will do the same job for a fraction of the cost
Well, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and I posted a reply to thank the folks for talking about The Settlers Organizer and to set the record straight. Let's also summarize the truth about The Settlers Organizer, all in the interest of accuracy.
- The Settlers Organizer is a real product that is custom designed for board games that use cards, such as The Settlers of Catan. It was prototyped, designed for production, had a production prototypes producted, was user tested and market tested, had a custom mold made and is not in production.
- Well, it cost a bit more than that. We'll just leave it there. ;^)
- Here is where the real difference are. First, your off the shelf business product won't meet your needs for Cities and Knights because it doesn't have enough card slots. Realistically, though, you will be much happier with The Settlers Organizer because it is far better designed and is far more durable. Drop one of those polystyrene boxes off the table and you have a few unusable plastic pieces. Drop my Settlers Organizer from two meters onto a brick walkway and you have a small scratch in an otherwise undamaged (and fully useful) Settlers Organizer. Check out the Photo page on the web site
You won't be able to by an $8 business card holder and expect that it will really meet your needs the way The Settlers Organizer will. Hey, there's an unconditional guarantee, how good is that??
I am really pleased that folks are noticing the Organizer. I really believe that it is a great product and that you will really enjoy using it when you play Settlers of Catan. And I am really thankful for those folks for talking about the Organizer.
Thanks so much for reading.
Notes on USPS Bulk Mailing
Here are some things that I learned with my bulk mailing campaign.
First, you need to spend money to save money. Small campaigns (under a few thousand letters) are not worth using bulk mail. One person recommended not using bulk mail for highly qualified leads -- people like seeing the stamps.
In order to send use bulk mail, one needs to have a Bulk Mail permit. With this permit, one may use a meter to print postage, or one may purchase "precancelled stamps". With an additional permit, one may print a mark called an "imprint" right onto the envelope. The imprint permit allows one to do much more with office equipment.
If return mail is desired, such as a comment card, then a Business Return permit is required. This allows one to pay for only those comment cards which are returned. Since a relatively small percentage of cards are returned, this turns out to be quite cost effective.
All permits referred to so far, the Bulk Mail, Imprint and Business Return, are $150. This fee does not include the cost of the postage.
Postage for first class is now $0.37 per piece. With a Bulk Rate permit, it can go down to $0.26 per piece. With Automation, it can go down further to $0.22 per piece.
With a clean address list, one can take advantage of the automation features of the USPS. This requires using a tool that checks addresses against a database. This is called CASS, and you can read about it on the USPS web site. The tool must be CASS certified, because the reference database is updated regularly.
Finally, if you want to print envelopes that have validated addresses in a sorted order that will be accepted by the post office for automation rates, you need PAVE certified software. You can also read more about PAVE on the USPS web site.
We ended up using DAZzle Express from Envelope Manager at www.evnmgr.com, which is CASS and PAVE certified and is priced very reasonably.
Having gone through this now, I might recommend pre-cancelled stamps when getting started, if you don't want to use a commercial mailing house. However, I am satisfied with the solution which was finally achieved.
The real goal, however, is to connect to you, my retailers and customers, and ensure that you get what you want and need.
US Post Office and 1st Marketing Campaign
The first marketing campaign is just about ready to go out. It is a series of five letters, the purpose of which is to tell retail store owners about Innovatium and The Settlers Organizer
This marketing campaign has afforded me the opportunity of working with some really great folks. In order to run a cost efficient campaign (OK, read "cheap"
), I decided that I would take advantage of Bulk Mail Rates and post office automation. I mean, I like technology, so why not use it? The difference would be that mail pieces could be as little as $0.219 per piece as opposed to $0.37. Add the difference up over a few thousand pieces and we're talking some real money.
On one hand, committing to a Bulk Rate permit, an Indicia Permit (so I can do all the printing myself) and also a Business Reply permit (so that all you fine folks
can return your comments), also means committing myself to performing the mailings in order to not loose money, but the mailings would be done anyway. They are still one of the best ways to reach out.
Back to the point. I had an opportunity to work with the folks in the Mailing Requirements department in Boston, MA. Carolyn, Donna, and John helped me to get my permits, understand how to use them and ensured that the artwork (business reply card layout and envelope layout) met requirements. They were patient, very helpful and made getting my mailing out to my potential retail customers possible. I am very grateful to them.
Retail Package and Retail Customers
Progress and more progress.
The sample retail carton should be ready for review today or tomorrow. Product labels quotations are in and a choice shall soon be made.
We will be testing our custom Settlers of Catan scenario this week in preparations for including it with the first orders to our retailers.
Everything is coming together.
The real question remains: is this product compelling to you
, our customer? We hope so and we believe that it will be. My friends and I have played with the hand-made ur-prototype for quite some time now and we really enjoy it. Of course, my friends might not be the best sample consumer group. ;^)
That's OK. Because folks at the ConGames '05 convention in Tampa Bay, Florida like it. And the folks at GenCon Indy '05 liked it. Some folks really liked it -- which just makes sense!
OK, back to the phone, time to connect to people!
It seems time to enter this fascinating world of recording thoughts, activities, successes and disappointments. Why? Well, in the first place, this seems like an excellent vehicle to reach out to my customers and to provide a forum in which to establish some dialog. But what exactly am I talking about?
OK, let's step back for a moment. I supposed an introduction is in order.
My name is Peter and I am the father of four and the very lucky husband of a wonderful woman. My background is in the performing arts -- ballet, choreography, lighting design, etc. My profession had been in high-tech until fairly recently. Software development, project management, engineering management, consulting and contracting. After some upheavals, I found myself looking for something that would really satisfy me and decided to start my own company in order to bring some product ideas to market.
My company is Innovatium (www.InnovatiumInc.com
) and my first product is The Settlers Organizer, which is a card organizer for the Settlers of Catan series of board games.
I enjoy getting my fledgling company started and bringing my first product to market. It is one of the most satisfying things
that I have done in quite some time.
This blog is a vehicle for stepping out of my own little world, to put myself on the line, to reach out to my customers, friends and strangers in order to open some dialog and to make connections.
Thanks for reading.