Transcribe your podcast

It's the summer of 2011 in New York City. After a long day at work, you switch on the TV, ready to unwind, and gently fall asleep in front of Bob Ross painting his happy little clouds. You grab the remote and begin to flip through the channels until a scene catches your eye. One, two, three, four.




Come take a ride.


Come take a ride.


With the weirdest guy.


I know, it's Wednesday night.


It's Wednesday night.




The screen, you see a room with bare white walls. About a dozen people are in the frame, including someone in full kiss style makeup and a shirtless, hairy man, darning, swimming goggles. You begin to wonder if this is a fever dream. Behind them, there's something that looks like a white, king-size bedsheet. There are four words, spray painted on in black. Chris Getherd.


Chris Getherd.


A guy with red hair and thick black glasses walks onto the screen.


I want to thank.


Everybody for being here and welcome to the debut episode of The Chris Getherd Show.


It's going to be a mess.


It should be a mess.


Created at the now legendary comedy theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade. The Chris Getherd show is a variety show meets talk show meets utter chaos.


You don't see chaos on TV. The overall premise of The Getherd show was imagine a talk show where the host is not in control, where no one totally respects the host's authority. And they just dialed that up. Time to back up.


What's your man? Vacation, Jason. I'm sorry I couldn't be there tonight. I'm on the beach right now. I'm eating a plumb. The show featured a rotating roster of improvisers and oddballs from the alt-comedy scene to co-create segments each week.


I would go on to see other people's shows linking up with artists, but I'm like, What are you doing right now? Are you hungry? Let's go to a diner. Three weeks later, that person is appearing as a character on my public access show. This is Maudgick Matt, the magician for cats. Ladies and gentlemen, The Human Fish.


The Chris Getherd show cultivated a dedicated and loyal community. Some disciples even called themselves Getheads. And it wasn't just entertainment. They were engaged in the actual making of the show.


Every week, I'd be there lugging whatever props we had. Fans of the show who were showing up would be getting off the subway, and they'd pass me and they'd go, Let me carry some stuff. I'd walk in with the fans of the show, the people volunteering would set up the set, and I'd be there doing it with them hands on.


The show was picked up by Nationwide Cable Networks, Fusion, and TrueTV, where it ran until 2018, almost a decade since it first launched. Despite his name being in the title of the show, Chris knew that he couldn't take all of the credit for its success.


The least important thing about the Chris Getherd's show was the Chris Getherdard Show. The far more important thing was all the people who came to find it and participate in it both intimately and from afar. There were dozens of people who made the show what it was. I think that that show somehow taught us we can carve out a little bubble where other people's rules don't matter and we can actually feel okay for one hour a week.


What made the Chris Getherd show so special was how Chris included the community. Believe it or not, there's a lot for entrepreneurs to learn from this anarchic comedy show. In the business world, we often neglect the importance of community. By opening the doors to allow others to influence your product, you're transforming the casual consumer, colleague, or partner into a dedicated stakeholder. I believe that you must strategically ease control of your product and let people who show genuine enthusiasm become your co-creator.


You got to have incredible.


Talent at every position. It's like this is a huge push. There are fires burning when you're.


Going out. Can you believe it?


Such an idiot. And then you go back.


To, This.


Is totally.


Going to.


Be amazing.


There are so.


Many easy ways to do it. I have no idea.


What to do.


Sorry, we made a mistake. But you have to time it right. I'm working as a free bed for partners.




Just seems absolutely nutball.


10 years later, we're like, Well.


That's just how you do it. We haven't made just how you do it.




Is Masters of Scale. We'll start the show in a moment, after a word from our premier brand partner, Capital One Business.


We'd had all these crazy moments. I would never lock my door in my fourth-floor East Village walkup because I could never find my keys and it was just too much of a hassle.


That's Deepa Gandhi, COO and co-founder of Dagnidover, an accessory brand. And she's sharing a story about one of the many handbag problems her and her co-founders experienced as busy women on the go.


The immediate problem that we were trying to solve was just a great work bag for women. Can I have a bag that looks good, that's structured, that's made out of a durable material that also has a place for my laptop, where my water bottle won't spill over and ruin everything in the bag.


Deepa and her fellow founders, CEO Melissa Marsh, and Chief Creative Officer, Jessi Dover, saw a need and started a company in order to fill it.


The first two products we launched were direct responses to challenges that we had personally experienced, and they were focused on the working woman. It was the perfect tote to fit your laptop, water bottle, keys, pens, anything and everything, and this clutch wallet. That could actually work as a system.


Dagnedover's focus on the simplicity of a great product made their bags must haves for working women. But their next best seller would expand their market in ways they'd never imagined. It's all part of the Refocus playbook, a special series where Capital One Business highlights stories of business owners and leaders using one of Reed's theories of entrepreneurship. Today's playbook insight, products that do too many things are hard to explain. Turn your focus to creating a simple product with a clear, simple story.


I'm Reed Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn, Partner at Graylock, and your host. I believe you must strategically ease control of your product and let people who show genuine enthusiasm become your co creator. Imagine you're invited to a friend's party. They have the perfect home for hosting. There's a big swimming pool, a state of the art sound system, Michelin star, canopays. The only problem is the host wants to control all of the fun. If someone tries to queue up a song on the playlist, the host slaps their hand away. If you try to strike up a conversation with a fellow guest, the host is quick to muscle in and take over the conversation. -hasn't seen any good movies recently? Despite the perfect setting, the host control freakery means that people soon start making their excuses and heading home early. We're going to head out. Now imagine a party at the same setting but with a different host. A host who understands how to make each person feel like the valued life of the party rather than an uncooperative accessory. This host lets people connect organically. Conversation flows freely. Anyone at the party can add to the music playlist.


Soon, new friendships blossom, laughter fills the house, and spontaneous karaoke sessions spring up. Everyone feels at home, at ease, and has an impact on the festivities. It's a party that everyone will be talking about for months. When you're creating a product or service, you want to be like the host with the most. Your job is to prime the party atmosphere around your product and make everyone feel a sense of co-ownership. If you do it well, you'll create a groundswell of enthusiasm around your product and a flood of ideas from your impassioned fan base. That's why I wanted to speak to Alain Lee. As the co-founder and COO of Exploding Kittens Inc, Alain scaled a single table-top game into a prolific 90-person company under the same name. The game Exploding Kittens, has been translated into 25 languages and sold in over 50 countries. Soon, the game's characters will even grace the screen for a Netflix TV adaptation. Alain and his team have also created dozens of other games, including Throw-Throw Burrito and Bears v. Babies. Altogether, they sold over 65 million units worldwide. Alain redefined and reshaped what it means to be a co-creator by finding creative partners in unexpected quarters, transforming audiences into stakeholders, and empowering teammates to make their mark on every project.


Prior to Exploding Kittens, Alain was the Chief Design Officer at Xbox. There, he was a pioneer in the alternate reality genre, immersing players in the worlds of accompanying IP like Steven Spielberg's movie AI, Artificial Intelligence, Halo 2, or the music of Nine-inch Nails. When we sat down together, he recalled a particular visit to see his brother's family in 2014.


I walked in, so excited to see my niece and nephew. They're sitting there in the living room and I say hello and neither of them even looks at me. They're playing a video game. They're staring at the screen. To add insult to injury, they're playing a game that I designed.


He had dedicated years of his life to this art form where the goal was to hold players' attention and transport them from reality. But he hadn't stopped to think about the flip side of this goal, that it could be driving a wedge between people. This realization threw Alon for a loop.


I was like, I am absolutely part of the problem here. I have put them in front of the screen. I have said, Be lonely, even though you're in a room with other people. Might feel isolated, even though you're surrounded by family. What I was doing was building games where all the focus was on the games instead of the players. As a result, the players became unimportant and the players became isolated. I thought it's time to do something different. Within two weeks of that experience, I resigned from Microsoft. I just could not be a part of that anymore.


After Microsoft, Alon decided to move in a different direction.


I resolved to start a new entertainment company that shone a spotlight on the players instead. I wasn't exactly sure what it was going to be, but when we started talking about a card game, immediately, fireworks started going off in my head.


Alon began brainstorming. He scrawled a hodgepodge of images and symbols on standard playing cards. Eventually, the mechanics for an exciting new game began to emerge.


It was Russian roulette with a deck of cards. There's a few bad cards in this deck. Everyone's going to take turns drawing cards. Don't draw the bad one. That's the bullet and the gun.


The deck of cards soon became dog-eared and scuffed as Alon dealt himself hand after hand, constantly refining how the game worked. While packing for a vacation to Hawaii, Alon threw the deck into a suitcase. In Hawaii, Alon was introduced to a friend of a friend, a man named Matthew Inman. Alon recognized Matthew instantly. He was the brain behind the massively popular web comic, The Oatmeal. With its crudely drawn illustrations of various animals, mythical creatures, and historic figures, The Oatmeal became synonymous for its tongue-and-cheek, how-tos, and popularity on sites like Tubler.


He said, Can I see the game that you're working on? We played the game together. I was like, We're only going to play for 10 minutes, then let's go off and do more important things. But we played for 10 minutes, and then he said, Can we play again? We played for 20 and 30, and an hour went by and two hours went by and he just kept wanting to play again and again. At the end of it, he said, Look, this is one of the most fun games I have ever played.


Matthew did have one note. Why not add some fun characters and transform the dreaded cards in something unexpectedly cute.


He's like, What if you named it 'exploding kittens?


' Voila, 'Exploding Kittens' was born. Matthew was eager to create the game's artwork and begin a collaborative relationship. In Matthew, Alon found his principal co-creator. Matthew had the skills to elevate the game, but just as importantly, he had the enthusiasm and commitment to drive the game forward from a fun idea to a serious, kiddie-infused development. At this early point in development, it's easy for founders with an original idea to fall into the trap of keeping their cards too close to their chest. They might be reluctant to give up control or equity or even suspicious that their idea might be derailed or even stolen. So it's a testament to Alan's openness to co-creation that he welcomed Matthew on board.


We took hands and decided to run off and do this thing together. Then it was like, Okay, well, how do we launch this?


Alan's pitch was to raise money for Exploding Kittens on the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. The beauty of Kickstarter is that co-creation is built into the very fabric of the site, not only monetarily, but also in building an early fan base. As a frequent donor to creative projects on the site, Alon had a strong sense of how the platform functioned. What did you need to launch a kickstarter campaign? The answer was, Not much.


We had a few sketches in the notebook. We had the Sharpie deck and a desire to put this thing up on kickstarter as soon as possible because we didn't know what the hell we were doing, so why not go really fast?


No matter how fast Alon was moving, one fear plagued him.


Am I going to embarrass myself in front of the oatmeal?


In 2010, over four million unique visitors visited the oatmeal every month. While Alan benefited from his collaborators' pre-existing internet fame, it took exploding kittens from a low stakes personal project into something many people would see and judge.


Matt had huge successes. My successes were really only in a company setting, nothing personal and vulnerable like this. I was really worried that knowing that Matt was taking a big risk on this thing, is that going to be a disappointment?


The fear of judgment is a common disincentive for embracing co-creators. But in many ways, overcoming this fear is key to creating the best product. Judgment doesn't have to be seen as negative. It just means that someone is holding you accountable. Going into the campaign, Alon kept his expectations low.


When you set up a kickstarter page, you have to say how much money you expect to raise within those 30 days. If you do not raise that amount, the campaign is canceled. Whatever money you did raise, all that gets returned, end of story. We set our initial level at $10,000, which happened to be the actual minimum we needed for a minimum print run.


$10,000 would allow them to print a few hundred copies of the game to assemble and ship out the games. Alon planned to make it into a fun group activity.


I'm going to invite all my friends over, buy pizza and beers. We're all going to stuff cardboard boxes for one weekend, and that'll be the end of it. Done. Kickstarter. Complete. Game out the door. We'll go off and do other things.


Finally, the launch day for the kickstarter campaign arrived. Matthew tweeted out the link to his millions of followers. Then the pair sat back, crossed their fingers, and hoped to see the backer donations creep towards their $10,000 goal.


We hit that goal in seven minutes. By the first day, we had raised a million dollars. By the end of the second day, we had two million, and by the end of the third day, we had three million, and this thing was completely out of control. That was 100 % the oatmeal. It was Matt talking to his audience that he had built up over so many years saying, Here it is, the embodiment of what I think is fun.


Fans of the oatmeal were used to eagerly sharing Matthew's content on blogs and across social media. Through Matthew, exploding Kittens plugged seamlessly into the Oatmail's well-established cohort of co-creators. Here's Matthew Inman on his reaction to the campaign's immediate success.


When all this money had been raised in the first day, I was driving my girlfriend to the airport, and I put the kickstart up on the web browser in the Tesla. I was so excited. I'm just like, Oh, my God, Kittens and fired money. This is just amazing. And she was.


Like, Are you high?


No, I got these cats and the card game and the... I think I'm a moron driving my stupid car with my stupid touch screen making a stupid card game.


While Matthew celebrated as the person in charge of production, Alon felt differently.


I'm watching that thing go from 20,000 to 50,000 to 100,000, and I am losing my mind because every one of those backers, I've got to figure out how to get a game to their front door. I had no idea how. Literally no idea how. It got so scary for me that I eventually would take little sticky notes and put them on screen so that I couldn't see that number.


However terrified, Alon marched ahead and continued to improve the campaign. He knew that what meant more than scaling their funding was scaling the immense pool of eager co-creators. There's a lot of projects on kickstarter. Only a small number of them get to the altitudes that you got to. What was the strategy? What was the learnings of it?


This is crowdfunding, right? All the projects you've ever seen in your life focus on that funding part and they ignore the crowd part. My premise was, Let's flip that. Let's only focus on the crowd. No more funding. None of the goals of this campaign are going to be focused on money of any kind.


Many campaigns at the time overlooked the platform's ability to cultivate a community of co-creators. Kickstarter campaigns use what are known as stretch goals. If a project is looking to raise $10,000, they'd say, But if we raise $20,000, we'll send you a hoodie. Or if we raise $100,000, we'll add in all of these extra features into the game. Alon decided to take the road less traveled.


Our stretch goals were not based on currency. We said, show us funny stuff. One of the characters in our game is called Taco Cat. We said, show us 20 pictures of a real taco cat, and we will add 10 cards to the game. And they did it. They showed us these incredible pictures. They dressed up their cats with lettuce and tomatoes and rolled them in tortilla shells and hold it. We said, Okay, cool, show us 10 Batmans in one hot tub. I don't know, that sounds funny. Anybody who got that? Sure enough, a day later, there's that picture. We asked them to make videos. We asked them to write poetry. We basically said, Look, we're throwing a party. Everybody is invited.


One example I particularly enjoy, if the community succeeded in the creative challenge, the Exploding Kittens team promised to evolve the game's packaging and insert this sound every time you remove the lid. Meow. Fun side note to fans of the game, the Meow sound is in fact the voice of Alon's wife, Ramona. This campaign sure realized his vision of human connectivity. Whenever Alon received photos, videos, or poems, he posted them in the game's regular newsletter saying, Look at what you all created.


We would just post the pictures over and over again because, again, we're trying to point back at them. This whole campaign is just a mirror for the crowd of the crowd.


That online party ran for 30 days. Matthew believes that this community-driven dynamic is what separated Exploding Kittens from other campaigns.


I think what it really did was it turned something, an experience that was transactional, buying and receiving a good into something fun that you're involved with. Rather than, Give me 20 bucks and I'll send you a card game in a couple of months. Instead of it was, Give me 20 bucks, let's hang out and do goofy stuff together.


Through the backers, Alon and Matthew established a new co-creator relationship. By creating a feedback group for the community to take action and be creative themselves, they were having a direct impact on the product evolving and scaling. They were also energized by the chance to co-create a social phenomena. Therefore, when the product hit the shelves, they would feel a far deeper connection to the product's success. It's important to note, in the early days of LinkedIn, some of our initial super fans, the LinkedIn Open Networkers, or Lions, contributed real value, but also created a negative spam-like culture in corners of the platform. No matter how enthusiastic those users were about our product, we knew that we didn't want to scale LinkedIn in their image. Similarly, if Exploding Kittens Backers wanted to lead the game in a direction that was antithetic to the mission, Alon and Matt wouldn't have done that. So even while you nurture a co-creator relationship, you can still be discerning and cherry-pick what aspects of consumer creations you choose to pursue. Now that the whole kickstarter campaign was over, having raised over $9 million in total, Alon and Matthew had a moment to take a breath and appreciate the magnitude of this next undertaking.


Seven hundred thousand copies of the game sold in 30 days, and that is truly just unprecedented in the industry. We now have seven hundred thousand promises to keep.


Before you can launch a kickstarter campaign, you must cite an estimated delivery date when backers can expect to receive their order. While it's only an estimate, backers are infamous for holding creators accountable to this target date.


At day one of the campaign, we promised we're going to ship this game in six months. We made that promise thinking 400 units, that's fine. By the end of the campaign, basically everyone told us the same thing, like 700,000 orders, you cannot make that date. There's just not enough time. It was really important to us to do it.


Alon and Matthew didn't want to let their community down. To fulfill an order of this size, they knew that a weekend of beer, pizza, and stuffed boxes just wasn't going to cut it.


It was very clear. We're going to have to deploy a lot of the solutions that giant companies like Hasbro and Mattel end up deploying in order to fulfill this many orders. It was like that scene in Jaws where they see the shark for the first time and he backs up into the boat and he basically says, We're going to need a bigger boat. It was that degree of terror. To hear if Alan.


Can conquer one of the biggest kickstarter orders of all time with all of his limbs intact. Stay tuned until after the break. We'll be back in a moment, afterward from our premier brand partner, Capital One Business.


I ended up having my first child the September that we launched the diaper backpack.


We're back with Deepa Gandhi of Daeghnie Dover. She's been telling us how they founded their business around a simple, straightforward idea: build a better bag for working women. But the founder's lives and their needs were changing.


We had parents on the team. We had friends that were having kids. We knew we needed to make a better diaper bag. One that was gender neutral because products should be designed for both parents.


Daeghnie Dover's neoprene diaper backpack was an immediate hit. But then something unexpected happened.


We saw people carrying it that were clearly not parents. If you remove the changing pad, you can use it for anything. Where we originally intended to put wipes in a post-COVID world, everybody's carrying wipes. One of our team's strengths is just being able to say, Well, if there's opportunity, let's run after it.


Dagnedover was rapidly expanding, but they were able to meet the challenge because they had a clear, simple focus, says Lauren Tresco of Capital One Business.


Expansion is such an exciting time.


For business owners.


But it.


Can often create.


Chaos or misdirection.




Entrepreneurs know how.


Important it is to scale with intention and.


Keep the.


Simple story of.


Their product top of mind.


Where would this expansion take Dagnedover? We'll find out later in the show. It's all part of Capital One business's Spotlight on Entrepreneurs, following Reed's Refocused Playbook at all levels of scale.


We're back with Alain Lee. To see exclusive clips from my interview with Alain, head to the Masters of Scale YouTube channel. You'll hear how Alain is using AI every day to streamline his creative process. Before the break, we heard how Alain and artist Matthew Inman created the tabletop game, Exploding Kittens. The project became one of the most successful kickstarter campaigns of all time, engaging the game's community to create their own social content and spark new additions to the product. Now, though, we rejoin Alon in the midst of a crisis. He's tasked with fulfilling 700,000 orders of exploding cats in six months. However, Alon's fear went beyond an expected missed delivery date.


I think what was at stake at that moment was our initial reputation as a provider of games.


The danger of inviting in co-creators is that you are obliged to them. Once you've gotten them fully on board to your idea, you can't leave them hanging. Alon found himself with a mountain to climb.


We had to figure out where to get cardboard from. We had to hire giant ships to move this thing across the water. We had to then rent out warehouses. We had to figure out trucks and rentals and postage and getting all these things everywhere. Holy crap, that's a lot of work.


Overwhelmed, Alon reached out to Carly McGinnis, his old assistant from his time at Xbox. While she, too, didn't have experience in mass production, she was organized and driven, and she knew exactly what Alon needed to tackle this challenge.


He has the vision and the ideas. The detail is not so good at it.


I see a butterfly floating by and I'm off.


I balance him very well in the sense that I'm all about the details.


During her time at Xbox with Alan, Carly learned how to work best with creatives like him.


Often they have brilliant ideas, but just at the last moment possible. That somehow ends up being the best idea.


If you can relate to Carly, she has some advice.


What I've learned is pad your deadlines, lie.


To them.


And outlining the cost of what it's going to be if we don't execute by this date.


While we wouldn't endorse lying to your collaborators, creativity and production can certainly be a yin and Yang. You need the co-evolution of both in unison to progress. Too much focus on production alone can stagnate creativity, but too much creativity in isolation and the product or project won't see the light of day. With the 700,000 orders still looming, Alan had little time to spare. He arranged an urgent lunch with Carly to fill her in on his wild adventure.


I said, Look, I got to figure out how to make 700,000 copies of this game. Do you mind helping?


I trusted Alon, but I was unsure, Am I going to be able to do this?


Not only was this something outside of Carly's wheelhouse, but she was also still working comfortably at Microsoft. To jump ship and join Alon on this project was a massive risk. But what appealed most to Carly was Alon's strive to embrace her as a co-creator. From her time as his assistant, she already had a clear sense of their working dynamic.


I wanted to voice my opinion, and Alon really championed me there. He didn't micromanage me. He trusted me. Trust is the biggest thing you're looking for.


When you trust a collaborator with a lot of responsibility, you're opening the door to a true co-creator relationship. This allows for co-creators to emerge throughout any stage of a product's life cycle and not just at the moment of ideation. This organic approach to collaboration demands you sharing the spotlight. But what you gain is agility and diverse expertise. Alon's trust in Carly to run production one or over, she decided to leave Microsoft and join Exploding Kittens. Bursting with equal parts anxiety and excitement, Alon showed Carly how to play Exploding Kittens by writing down the instructions.


He had written them front and back on an index card, and he gave them to me. I looked at them and I said, I don't understand this at all. What is this? We're supposed to learn how to do this? I remember thinking, God, we have so far to go.


Co-creation isn't always a show of unconditional support. In this instance, Carly didn't understand the game whatsoever. She showed Alon that the instructions needed to improve if anyone else were to share in his enthusiasm for the product. Over time, the pair got the rules down to a clear, understandable brief.


You'll have a hand of cards. Each one of those cards is going to help you avoid drawing the exploding kit. One of them might let you peek at the top few cards before you draw them. One of them might let you skip your turn. One of them might let you shuffle the whole deck before you draw. Your actual turn consists of playing as many of the cards in your hand as you would like to alter the deck in your favor, and then you draw the top card from the draw pile and hope it's not an exploding kit. Go around the table, continuing this process. Eventually, everybody is going to draw an exploding kit, except for one player. That player, last person standing, is the winner of the game. That's it.


On the production front, Carly's first step to developing a strategy was to tap the team's network.


Kickstarter and the table-top industry are extremely supportive. We decided.


To call everybody we know. I was friends with a few folks at Cards Against Humanity, and they have one of the biggest games in the world. We had partnered to.


Learn what they had gone through. They were also a kickstarter, and they introduced us to a wonderful woman named Cherie Spiro, who has a company called Breaking Games. Having been one of the.


Few independent games businesses to successfully fulfill an order of this size, Cards Against Humanity and their partner, Cherie Spiro, were the perfect industry figures to shadow. She said, Come to me and I.


Can help you connect with manufacturers in China. I can help you with the freight. I know Cards Against Humanity has a sister company called Blackbox. They are a fulfillment network. They were not quite ready yet to launch this business and thankfully decided to use us as a guinea pig.


Carly saw this as an opportunity for a mutually beneficial co-creator relationship. The lack of experience, however, led to more than a few hiccups.


There were tears. We had a cargo ship just lose containers into the ocean. We had a cargo ship catch on fire.


Despite these challenges, Carly kept the production process on track. Six months after, the kickstarter campaign ended and the last photo of a cat dressed as a taco was captured. Alon set on an update to the game's 700,000 backers.


Surprise, everybody gets your order tomorrow. I'm so proud of that because every night was sleepless. Every night was work until 3:00 AM, wake up at 8:00 AM the next day, and start over. For six months, that's what we had to do to get those things out the door. We were on time with every single one of those orders.


Alon credits Carly with the ultimate success of the campaign. What he found in Carly was a counterweight co-creator, meaning the skills Alon lacked, Carly possess, and vice versa. It's important to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. In the race to scale, you'll need a diverse skill set that is often impossible to find in one person alone. Impressed by Carly's ability to lead through chaos, Alon later made her the President of Exploding Kittens Inc. With the kickstarter campaign completed, Alon, Matthew, and Carly finally had a moment to process the new state of play.


This was a success despite ourselves. We really did not understand what we were creating or what to do with it after we were done sending out all those games.


Where in this part of the thing did it become a... This isn't just a kickstarter, a fun creative project. When does it become a company?


Yeah, I think step one was retail. Because we knew that all of the supply chain stuff we could slowly bring in house. That was just a matter of hiring the right people and putting those structures in place. Retail is really tricky. The big ones are Walmart, and Amazon, and Target. And the way that those companies work is for toys and games. They really only have one buyer and they only really have time to meet with, I don't know, 10 or a dozen companies. I thought, if they're only going to meet with 10 people, how do we become number 11? That's tough. They almost never take on new people.


Alan met with one of the retail representatives and asked, What is it going to take for Exploding Kittens to be sold in your stores?


They said, Well, you need a handful of games and every one of them has to be a best seller.


Multiple number one hit games? Surely it's hard enough creating one. Regardless, Alon accepted this challenge. Before he could go about designing new games to be sold alongside Exploding Kittens, Alon had to decipher what made Exploding Kittens a success in the first place? What was the secret sauce that he could replicate for future success?


I think the secret is just one line. We don't make entertaining games. We make games that make the people you're playing with entertaining.


This approach to gaming was inspired by Alon's childhood, spent playing games with his brothers and sister.


We're playing board games every single day. I honestly don't remember what the games are. What I remember is laughing, throwing things, forming secret alliances and betrayals, the fighting and the camaraderie. I remember all that bonding. Because the games were just a toolset to make us the entertainment.


Alon insisted that all the games he designed should have this ethos as their underlying principle.


Every single card is an invitation to have an interaction with another player. Anytime you play a card, you're about to hurt someone, to help someone, to form an alliance with someone. You're about to do that, like it or not, because every single card is designed to make the people you're playing with entertaining.


With this structure in mind, Alan began to design more games for Exploding Kitten's Ink. Designing a game is a major feat in itself. Iterating on it to create an experience that users want to return to again and again is a whole other thing. The only way these games could become additional number one hits is if they tested through the roof, indicating to Alon that they're ready for launch. But Alan wasn't satisfied with the standard process for game testing.


Traditionally, the way that game testing works is you hire a group, they do these blind tests. Everyone sits in a room. There's a one-way mirror. You watch people play the games. It's horrible. I looked at that trying to figure out why are these tests so bad? Why are we pouring all this money into it and literally learning nothing? The reason is because nobody plays games like that. None of that feels natural.


Alon believed that the whole industry precedent for game testing was useless, so he decided to try something that few other game companies had.


We thought we got all these players from kickstarter who love our game. They're all playing it with their friends and family. What if we just wrote to all of them and said, We have more games. We'll send them to you for free. All we want in return is film yourself playing the game and send us the film. We just want to see how you play and what worked and what didn't work. Rather than.


Test the games on strangers, Alon went directly to the people who loved the original Exploding Kittens game. These are testers who would already be excited to influence and co-create games for the business. Alain named this new program The Kitty Test Pilates. Hundreds of families registered to play the games in the comfort of their own home and share their feedback.


Our games have gotten so good as a result of this. We have figured out how to take six pages of instructions and shrink it down to one page because these incredible families have helped us guide us through that process.


The testing improvements helped Elon and the team get one step closer to launching a whole batch of vetted games. Not only did the testing environment radically evolve the process, Elon also experimented with how the business sought feedback from the users.


The industry standard for game testing, you finish testing a game and then you give them a questionnaire. There's 25 questions on it. Did you like the setup? Did you understand? When you finished playing our games, there was one question on the whole survey, which is, do you want to play again? That's it. That's all I care about. When a game hits 100% yes, we're going to ship that game.


The games that came out of the Kitty Test Pilots included Throw Throw Burrito.


Throw Throw Burrito is the first of its kind. It's a combination of card games and dodgeball.


You've got crabs.


How are you, kids? Do you.


Like keeping cigarettes? Do you like crabs? Then I've got the game for you.


And bears versus babies. The goal of the game is to build adorable, magnificent, glorious bears and other monsters to eat the horrible, horrible babies. President of the company, Carly, was able to form a partnership with Amazon to get these games into an online marketplace. To attract the major retailers, these new games needed to sell like hot cakes on Amazon and through the exploding, Kitten's website. Thankfully, Alon begin to notice a major byproduct of the team's Kitty Test Pilots.


When those games go out, those families not only have prototype versions, but they also get the final version. That's the greatest marketing campaign ever because they helped make it. They're the ones that go post to social. They're the ones that go tell their friends, and they all get to shout, I helped make this. They're the ones who go to stores and when it's not in the store, they demand that store start stalking that particular game.


This is a great example of a promotional co-creator. The best case scenario for your business is that you inspire consumers to become stakeholders in the work you do and willingly share and market your products organically. When you create products that have this an impact, you know it's something special. With each game released, Alon made it impossible for the major retailers not to take notice.


We produced another game. It immediately shot to number one. We produced the third game. That one shot to number one, which was the fourth game, same thing.


They done it. As impossible as the challenge seemed to create multiple back-to-back hit games, Alon and his team of co-creators around the country pulled it off.


Once we got to that point, we now had the leverage to go to Walmart and Target and say, Add us to your list. And they finally did. Once we had that, we're in an incredible position to negotiate now.


Once exploding Kittens and Alon's other games hit the shelves of major retailers, success continued year after year. The production structure and testing process that they built over time could now scale and flourish. To date, they've sold over 65 million units worldwide. Despite all of Alon's success, he's not done reshaping the games industry just yet. His most surprising encounter with a co-creator occurred while laying on his living room floor.


I have a five-year-old daughter, and right around four, you start buying games for your kids. You go out to the store and you buy candy land and all the rest of it, and we would play those games and.


It sucked.


It was so miserable. Those games are awful.


To someone like Alon, who really knows games, a game like CandyLAND can set him on a tarade.


There's no skill. There's no strategy. There's no decision making, even. It's roll a die, move a piece. Roll a die, move a piece. Why am I in this room? There's no point for me being here.


Well, when Alon was losing the will to live, his daughter was having a blast. However, one day she did notice her father's irritation.


She's like, Why aren't you happy? I said, Well, this game isn't fun for me. I know it's fun for you, but it's really not fun for me. She looked at me and she simply said, Let's fix it. My brain exploded.


Not only did Alon's new co-creator show him the potential to take candy land apart and recreate it in a new image, but he also saw endless possibilities to build games with his daughter's unique perspective. This childlike naivety is something entrepreneurs should follow. Children are great at calling out basic failings in the status quo that we as adults can take for granted. Let's fix it should be a rallying cry for entrepreneurs everywhere.


I started thinking about Netflix in particular, because Pixar looked at the movie industry and said, Movies for kids are no fun for adults, but they could be. What if we made a movie that was equally fun for kids and adults? I thought, Why hasn't anyone done that for games? Why isn't this as much fun for me as it is for her?


Over the course of a year, Alon and his daughter sat on their dining room table, building worlds and creating innovative games from scratch.


Every night, we built games together, and we started out building some terrible ones. We had to work through the process of me teaching her what I knew and she teaching me what was really appealing to her and the character design and the mechanics. We finished four games.


The games. I want my teeth back. Hurry up, Chicken Butt. The best, worst ice cream. And my parents might be Martians. Didn't get any special treatment just because Alon's daughter created them. They went through the same rigorous testing as all the others.


They are now in Target. All four of them. We sit down and we play these games, and half the time she beats me, even though I'm not letting her win, they are equally fun for parents and adults. Holy crap. Wow, that was hard to design.


Your average co-creator often won't take the shape of a five-year-old girl, but it's a great example of how radical collaboration and a willingness to look for co-creators anywhere can lead to your most extraordinary creations. By expanding the way we typically look for a co-creator, Alon sparked a new era of multigenerational games. For his daughter, well, she can experience something few, five-year-old ever have.


She gets to walk down the aisle at Target and look at those games and her name is on the box. That's the greatest thing ever. I feel my cheeks flushing because it makes me so happy to think about that.


Discovering and onboarding a new co-creator isn't just a way to bolster your product. It also plays into the most fundamental element of entrepreneurship: relationships. Your relationships live beyond any product or business. The more we lean into human connectivity, the stronger our leadership and ability to connect with consumers and partners. Evaluate your network and see who could potentially be your next co-creator. Maybe start by inviting them over for a game night. I'm Reed Hoffman. Thanks for listening. Now, a final word from our premier brand partner, Capital One Business.


If you told us when we launched the brand that men would make up currently 30 % of our customer base, I would actually say that feels right because I think our thesis always was like, You can do Dagenie for everything.


We're back one more time with Deepa Gandhi of Dagenie Dover. She was telling us how their gender-neutral, neoprene typer bag became a surprising hit with people who weren't parents. And that got them thinking about further expansion.


Men were like, Can you make a Dagni for me? They love the material, right? It's super athletic. It's technical. Men really like that.


But Dagnie Dover didn't launch a line for men. Instead, they rethought their entire brand identity. Any bag could be carried by anyone, and with that, they stayed true to telling a simple, clear story, says Lauren Tresco of Capital One Business.


Deepa and her co-founders did something really smart. They didn't stray.


From their core mission by.


Doing too.


Many things or chasing trends. Instead, they.


Doubled down on the simple product that their story was built on.


Dagnetover is scaled rapidly by broadening their customer base without overcomplicating their products or their story.


The one thing that has never really shifted our true north was building this great brand and have a great high-quality product and a loyal customer base.


Capital One Business is proud to support entrepreneurs and leaders working to scale their impact from Fortune 500 to first time business owners. For more resources to help drive your business forward, visit capitalone. Com/business-hub. Again, that's capitalone. Com/business-hub. As with every ad on Masters of Scale, the entrepreneurs you just heard from were real and unscripted. Because Capital One is a financial institution, it's important to them to be transparent about the relationship with the entrepreneurs we interview. Some of these entrepreneurs are Capital One customers, and some aren't. Capital One did compensate all of them for participating in this campaign.


Masters of Scale is a Wait What original. Our Executive Producer is Chris McLeod. Our producers are Chris Gautier, Adam Skuz, Alex Morris, Tucker Laird, and Masha Makotunina. Our Editor-At-Large is Bob Safian. Our Music Director is Ryan Holiday. Original music and sound design by Eduardo Rivera, Ryan Holladay, Hayes Holladay, and Nate Kinsella. Audio editing by Keith J. Nelson, Stephen Davies, Stephen Wells, Andrew Nolt, and Liam Jenkins. Mixing and mastering by Aaron Castinelli and Ryan Pew. Our COO and chairman of the board is Jeff Berman. Masters of Scale was created by June Cohen and Darren Triff. Special thanks to Jodyne Dorsay, Alfonzo Bravo, Tim Cronin, Erica Flint, Sarah Tarter, Kitty Blazing, Mariel Karecker, Chinima Ezequuena, Colin Howarth, Brendan Klein, Samuel Putta, Kelsey Cezon, Louisa Velaz, Nikki Williams, and Justin Winslow. Visit mastersscale. Com to find the transcript for this episode and to subscribe to our email newsletter.


Chatgpt. I produce a podcast called Masters of Scale, and I'm looking for a way to get listeners to leave us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. Do you have any suggestions?


Absolutely. One effective way is to engage with your listeners directly during your episodes. Remind them how much a five-star review can support your show.


What about to try to convince listeners to share one of their favorite episodes with somebody in their life? Do you have any suggestions for that?


Certainly. People love to share content that has made an impact on them. So remind your listeners how sharing an episode can start meaningful conversations with friends or help others discover insights they've benefited from.


Would it be okay if I use maybe our conversation as a segment on the show?


That sounds like a creative approach. Using a meta conversation about engaging your audience as a segment could be quite engaging.


This is executive producer Chris McCloud, and I urge you to take ChatGPT's advice and leave us a review on Apple podcasts and share an episode with a friend. It really, really helps.