We are looking for an experienced and passionate Ruby on Rails developer to join our team. We have a number of very challenging technology hurdles that include a scaleable web-to-print solution. We’re looking for someone with the vision, technical skills and passion to help make our shopping experience world class! As we describe in this post, we are passionate about creating an amazing company culture and expect this person to not only contribute amazing things to the product, but be a key part of the company culture and contribute to its overall direction.
Extensive Ruby on Rails, HTML, and Database design experience.
Rails application deployment and performance experience.
Interest in pushing the boundaries of Css 3 and HTML 5.
Want to know a little more about us?
Joel & Chad are two very driven, down to earth individuals who quit their promising careers in the corporate world to start something new. We both work very hard, but also know how to play hard… whether that be enjoying the amazing outdoors, the nightlife, or both. We are extremely flexible and often work from different places and/or times, but at the end of the day we value ourselves and our employees on the contributions they provide to the company.
Over the past few weeks Chad and I have been recruiting engineers to join our Card Gnome team. It has forced us to be introspective and verbalize our company culture to prospects. It has been illuminating to look at how our personal belief systems have manifested themselves into an operating entity. It comes down to 4 core tenants:
Passion/Motivation: Life is short so we believe it should be spent doing things we are passionate about. We truly believe that intrinsic motivation produces the best long term value and we foster that in ourselves and others. Money by itself is not a motivator, only an indicator that your business has added value. We are trying to build an amazing organization of passionate individuals, therefore acceptance of mediocrity is unacceptable.
Independent Debate: Chad and I are both fiercely independent thinkers with nearly opposite personalities and core skillsets. Our debates are epic but always respectful. We put all the details on the table and force each other to justify our thinking. It has given us a deep appreciation for how the other person thinks, which only serves to make the debates more honest. At the end of each debate though we come to a conclusion and agree on a path forward. I cannot, at this moment, think of a situation in which we were not in complete agreement on the correct decision. There is very little grey area, we both agree that a decision is the correct course or we keep talking. Compromise has its place, but it generally doesn’t build a compelling product.
Experimentation: We are wiling to implement our ideas purely to learn what will happen. In fact, adding printed cards was originally one of these ideas. A few people had asked whether we could print our eCards for them and so we decided to give it a try. A week later, after receiving amazing feedback from consumers and artists, we decided to change our core business. Other trials have been failures, but the freedom to try something new is what makes us entrepreneurs, and heck its fun.
Respect for others: Our company is not just about profits, its also about meaningfully improving the lives of our customers, employees, partners and ourselves. When we make decisions we think deeply about how the decision will effect our stakeholders. Making them happy and treating them fairly is the only way to build a great company.
We haven’t written a formal values statement yet, and there are certainly things I’ve left out, but this post is a good start. Use the comments below to let us know what you think about it.
Almost anything you build on the web has already been tried in one form or another. This should not deter you.
-Chris Dixon on “Timing your startup“
We are asked a lot of questions about CardGnome everyday. My favorite is “how are you different.” To which the answer is not a litany of product features or marketing strategy, although both do differentiate us, but rather a conversation about the timing of the market. We’re not the first to try “we mail it for you” greeting cards, but unlike the previous companies, the printing technology is finally good enough that we can print one-off cards as cheaply as large companies can print in large runs.
Current print-on-demand presses, like the one we use, can print thousands of unique cards in a single run and can be programmed to work alongside other machines to automatically stuff the envelopes and stamp them. Its cheap. This is how Barack Obama printed personalized appeals to you for money and votes during the election. The systems have improved so much in the last few years that the cost compared to factory presses is comparable. Previous companies could only feasibly offer bulk customized cards at a reasonable rate, so they weren’t able to do the mailing of just one card for you.
So why doesn’t a large company switch to our model? To be successful in the greeting card market today means being great at choosing the right mix of cards to offer. Stores have about 250ft of card space to offer you cards for hundreds of occasions and personal tastes. Psychologists, market researchers and retailers work together to maximize the space with the cards that will sell. They leave money on the table because some customers will not like the options offered or didn’t go to the store because it was a big pain in the butt. eCommerce sites like ours solve this problem by offering hundreds of thousands of cards and the tools to quickly find the ones that fit what the customer needs exactly. On top of that our site can schedule cards to be sent at a later date and set to remind you of important dates in time to send the card.
Can our established competitors learn to operate in this new model? Probably, but changing the company culture from large scale printing of a few hundred cards to the lean print-on-demand model demanded by an eCommerce distribution model will not be easy. In my experience, old-school factory managers don’t readily give up their budget or adopt new methodologies. It will take them some time just like it did with Blockbuster. In the meantime we’ll build our content library and customer list.
A pivot is the term for a company that changes its business model in order to take advantage of an opportunity. The opportunity is often only visible after the founders have progressed with their initial concept enough to learn about their market and its needs. Many of the hottest companies today, from YouTube (which started as a dating site) to Flikr (which was a videogame) are examples of great pivots. The founders in these companies tested their hypothesis and realized they wouldn’t work, so they moved in the direction that would. The affectionate name for this is “failing fast” and its a good thing. Chad and I did just this about 3 weeks ago when we changed our underlying business model.
Our previous idea was a marketplace for creative messaging services, from funny eCards to custom phone calls from voice impersonators. What we found was that people wanted ways to interact, but our product offering was too wide. We were talking with too many different target markets. We needed a much more narrow product offering which would enable us to target just one demographic and build a core user group. Our customers and artists told us repeatedly that they were interested in printed cards. We heard “I love the eCards but I want you to mail it as a real card” and “I hate going to the store to buy cards, I end up not sending them! Can you make some of your eCards available to print?”
We started researching the greeting card market and realized that it is massive. Over 7.5 billion greeting cards are bought each year in the US, representing a $11B market with over 3,000 independent publishers. Only a handful of small companies currently print and mail cards from a web marketplace and none of them are executing the concept particularly well. Chad quipped that we could do to greeting cards what NetFlix did for videos, bring the card buying process online. As soon as that came out of his mouth, we both instantly realized the market potential. We were hooked.
That was 3 weeks ago. Since then we’ve repurposed our website and launched the new features as a minimum viable product. Try it out, you can actually have us print and mail a card for you right now. Don’t forget to let us know what you think of this new direction in the comments.