In this day and age we have an app for almost everything. We grab our taxi’s, monitor our sleep, control our thermostat, feed our digital animals, we… you get the point. Technology has become essential to the way we operate each day. Thankfully our hobby isn’t removed from this technological explosion. We have some incredible minds working to create efficiency’s and integrations into our most common tasks’ as collectors. Today I get the pleasure of posting my recent interview with Sergio Dubois – founder and creator of SportsCardAlbum.
His technology is fundamental to who we are as collectors and absolutely should be a part of the your toolkit. If you haven’t checked it out, please check out the YouTube introduction at the bottom of the page and go to their site. If you are a user, comment on this article and give their app a review right HERE (or in the top-right corner). But, in the meantime…check out this great insight from the SCA creator.
Tell me how you got into collecting – what was most interesting to you?
I’ve been collecting since I was a young kid in the early 90s. Back then every grocery store sold cards and there was a card shop on every street. I remember buying packs of “Pro-Set” football and “Collector’s Choice.” My two brothers and I would also collect baseball and basketball cards and trade everything for Cubs players and Michael Jordan.
Tell us about the value proposition and intended use for SCA?
The value proposition is pretty simple right now because it’s free. We have a couple selling features that some members pay a monthly fee to use, but all that money is going towards the 100% overhaul of the website, its features, and the apps. The folks who are so generously donating their $4.99 a month right now aren’t getting much icing on their cake at the moment, but we will take care of them when the upgraded website launches later this year.
What are the general misconceptions of SCA?
That the iPhone app costs money or has advantages over the free one. The free app originally had some ads on it, but they didn’t generate crap for money and I think Apple eventually did away with them altogether. You can get the free app by searching for “Sports Card Album Free” in the apple store. At the moment, both apps have identical functionality. The other misconception is that some people think SCA is JUST an app and other people use it exclusively on their computers and have no idea there is an app lol.
What prompted you to work on SCA?
I got really tired of photobucket and couldn’t find an alternative I liked. I was frustrated that I would go to the card shop, bust some packs, then have to wait until I drove home, scanned the cards, then uploaded them to some website before I could share the pictures with my friends. My intention was only to make something for myself that would allow me to snap a picture from my phone and immediately have IMG Codes ready for me to share on forums and instantly make those cards visible to my friends through some “feed.” I paid a friend to help me develop this and then ended up offering the program to a couple of collecting friends who convinced me to blow it up and open it up to all collectors.
Walk me through the evolution of the early stages to current stage…
Jeeze…that’s a long one. This was my first foray into developing any type of software. We thought we had tested everything before opening up the original “beta” back in 2013. There was no app yet, just a mobile version for the phones and the website. We did not account for the dozens of unique operating systems, browsers, or file types that came our way. My developer and I took time off work and spent countless hours over the next few weeks trying to fix each and every bug that was reported to us, but you quickly realize that fixing one bug often created three more. Thankfully we had a lot of passionate collectors encourage us through our journey…today we have over 10,000 members and nearly 70% are considered “active” users.
What were some of the more prominent challenges?
So many great ideas, not enough money. Development costs are outrageous…and anyone who has paid for an iPhone app understands just how crazy those prizes can get, followed by the edits.
Were there any points where you almost gave up?
No, but there have been many points where I did not have enough disposable income for months at a time so I could not pay for any additional features or even bug fixes, just operational costs. Equally frustrating were moments when neither I nor my developer partner had any free time to work on SCA. There were some times when funds were available, but we were both so busy with our “family lives” that we could not put almost any work into the site. It was always uplifting to look at our member count, though, and see that even in the times when we couldn’t do anything to improve SCA, more people were finding us (somehow) and joining.
Discuss your view of the hobby (current state) – are you excited about it?
I love the hobby and am a complete fanboy, so it’s easy for me to be excited about any pack of cards I bust. However, I dislike the fact that monopolies are taking over the hobby (I miss Topps Chrome & Exquisite FB) and I believe lack of regulation has resulted in distributors holding all the cards…not the manufacturers nor the card shop owners nor the collectors. Sometimes it feels like big distributors make a decision and everyone else is forced to work around it.
I love how group breakers have added some excitement to the hobby and created a new generation of people finding careers in the hobby, even if some of it has come at the expense of my beloved Local Card Shops.
I feel terrible at how Local Card Shops are borderline taken advantage of with little to no leverage in negotiating terms, plus razor-thin margins. I could write a book on my thoughts regarding the death of card shops in this country, but I won’t bore you to sleep with that right now. One thing is certain: the card shops that have stayed open to this point are doing something right.
What are some of the bigger gaps in the hobby?
I would love to throw out some generic responses like “more innovation” or “more game-used relics” or whatever. But personally, I think the biggest gaps are caused by lack of focus on the actual collectors. Rather than focusing on collectors, companies focus on each other and themselves (not just talking about manufacturers here.) I understand it’s a business, though, and the hobby doesn’t exist if these companies can’t make a profit. Again, this is a complicated issue and doesn’t have a single answer. In many ways manufacturers have been doing things for collectors, but we often forget there are many different types of collectors (think of kids buying loose packs at Wal-Mart vs hardcore collectors who buy boxes and trade on forums.) And because there are SO many different types of customers, there will always be some people who love a design and others (usually the more vocal ones) who hate a design or a product. It’s tough to figure out what the gaps are, let alone fill them.
What do you see happening over the next 1-2 years?
Your guess is as good as mine. Will the group-breaking-bubble bust? Will eBay increase fees? Will a bunch of sports-card bloggers combine forces to create the ultimate destination for collectors? Will Panini buy Upper Deck? I have no idea…at the end of the day, I’m just along for the ride.
How do you interact with other “players” in the hobby (breakers, distros, manufacturers, etc…)?
Well, as a collectors I’ve spent far too much cash with card shops and group breakers. Now that my collection is more focused, I typically only buy into player-specific or team-specific breaks off eBay or sometimes I make impulse-purchases based on emails I receive from all the group breakers. In terms of personal interaction, I engage with many other bloggers, breakers, and sports-card-related social media accounts. In person, I interact with several card shops in my home state of Texas. Like I’ve said before, this hobby is full of amazing people.
How important do you see partnerships?
Personally, I love partnerships. I am always open, eager, and willing to discuss the hobby with other passionate collectors to see if we can’t do something good for the hobby. Unfortunately, I’ve been burned twice by people pretending to be interested in partnering only to steal information, code, or ideas. But that’s always a risk. There are some INCREDIBLY talented people in this hobby, and through SCA I have met many of them. We help each other often and collaborate when possible.
With innovation being so important – what role do you see SCA playing in transforming the hobby.
With a bunch of time and money, the outline we have created for SCA would absolutely transform the way “every-day” collectors and even “hard-core” collectors collect. However, we are pretty much always confronted with two options: 1) Sell out and have the money to develop all the features, but lose authority over the company or 2) Continue boot-strapping it and just be patient. We have chosen #2 every time so far, but we recently brought a new partner on board that can help us get a lot of amazing features created.
In a perfect world, how do you see SCA growing in the next 1-2 years?
Full checklist integration. Pricing algorithms. Expanded “buy/sell/trade” features, and more variety in the way users view their albums. Plus incorporating all those features into the apps. We have about 20 other items on our list, but those are our priorities.
What is your favorite product?
My favorite product is probably Contenders Football. I love high-end, but usually stick to singles or group breaks for those. Favorite Player? Don’t even know anymore…I don’t want to talk about my teams right now.
Number 2 is John Elway’s helicopter dive for the first down against Green Bay in the Super Bowl. Numbers 3-6 probably belong to Michael Jordan and the rest to Jerry Rice. Number 1? Watching the first overtime in Super Bowl history with my little girl wrapped around my arm, trying her best not to fall asleep.
What do you do for fun?
Work, play video games, and exercise. Don’t have as much time for those anymore with a 3.5 year old and a 3 month old, but I still fit them in. I also love drawing (or painting) and reading.
Any other exciting projects you are working on?
Mostly side projects related to SCA and some woodworking stuff I do in my garage. I also have one painting I’ve been waiting to finish for a while. My wife says she has never seen me bored.