Saturday, February 18, 2017

Never again can sometimes mean - maybe.

Today we drove up to Sacramento for the Autorama which I find to be a ~very~ mediocre car show. The ONLY reason I go is because of the stereos. None of the another car shows I've ever been to have a stereo competition. So I keep going just for that.

Last year I was so pissed I vowed to never go again for the second time in a row. The year before that also sucked. But I was curious how inland was looking with all the rain. So I decided to go with really low expectations. Thankfully the stereos were back and it scratched my tard itch. More later.


  1. We are retrofitting a set of games with kiosk monitors so that we can do freeplay pop-up arcades at outdoor locations on a generator. Weve been testing it at the flea markets and it looks like we can supplement our subscription revenues by hooking up vending machines and then out fleaing, the other merchants at the market by offering drinks and snacks at half of what the food trucks charge.

    The whole setup is a bit of work, but waaaaaaaay more effective then spending money on online ads. Since we are about to have this gnarly secret weapon at our disposal and a business model that allows us to let people play for free, we are looking for the best fairs, shows and events to give people a taste of the games. Since you seem pretty plugged in to the random meetups, I figured you would have good suggestions on the festivals that we can't afford to miss. Bonus points if there is no electricity and its outdoors because the venues get awfully accommodative when we can offer something that no one else has offered before.

  2. What is your driving radius?

    I mean Treasure Island is a honey hole. They don't even have a restaurant on the island. When you said they were bringing in food trucks I was like what the eff! When I was there they didn't do that. You know they have a YUUUUUUGE car show there every month. Right? That's when you want to set up. You will have the rule of the island. And it's really your prime demo. Nobody really puts it together, it's an organic get together. So no one says - hey - food trucks or water might be great. I think you could make a killing. No competition. Or almost no competition. Mr S. said they did have one truck selling coffee.

    Finding places that don't have electricity is the main thing. Let me think about it for a little while. My first impulse is having you check out the Pacific Coast Dream machines in half moon bay. It's a bitch to get in and out of, but no electricity. The venders are there but sparse. So you don't have many people to fight. I'm guessing vendors are a little territorial?

    At first I was going to send you to the San Jose flea market but I don't think the people that attend it have any money. Your side gig is trying to turn some of these people into customers. Right?

    There is a flea market at Ohlone.I think it might be a computer parts meetup. I haven't been, but at least those people will have more money. I will def keep an eye in that direction now to try and give you leads.

  3. We are basically trying to target the silicon valley and SF for the game rentals, since the bulk of our customers are there. I'm thinking makers shows, concerts like bottlerock, Golden Gate park festivals, etc. Anything, we pick up in the East Bay is just gravy since it's closer and on our route, but our target market definitely centers on SF. The no electricity is our bonus, we provide the power. We're one of the few at the market that do, so it is like a competitive moat of sorts. Hooking the games up to the generators eats monitors :( so there is a bit of testing someone would have to do before they could offer the same setup. The outdoor display upgrades will allow us to go from flea market quality to outdoor concerts, events and festivals where the crowds are bigger. They are expensive, but will add to our moat. It's been a little bit of an upfront investment, but in California alone there are over 150 fairs each year and since we are about to expand into LA, it will be a neat trick if we can figure out a way to make money and goodwill by advertising our services in real life. For some crazy reason, if you tell the promoters that you'll let people play vintage games for free, they offer to pay you instead of charging you for a spot ;) This offsets our fixed costs, the free marketing lets us charge clients more and now we are about to knife the food trucks in the back by using a "robot" to undercut them on water and snackies.

    Since we're already powering the games, the vending is an easy add on that fits the theme of a pop up arcade. They are just heavy to move, but the cheapest coffee or h20 at the treasure island market is $3 . . . orrrrr they can buy it from the really cools guys that are running the free play arcade for half,third,double the price? The beauty of starting with the swap meets is that we can experiment and change our pricing in real time to figure out the sweet spot between how much we can make and how many we can sell. The food trucks have more trouble competing in real time the same way since they can't reprint their menus as easy as we can reprogram the machines. A hot day, the price of ice cream goes up, a cold day coffee gets more expensive. We did not know it when we started, but the office politics at the flea markets is off the charts, massive passive aggressiveness from the other vendors, but I'm pretty sure that we are king of the market and more importantly we're having more fun than you can imagine figuring it all out.

  4. "This offsets our fixed costs, the free marketing lets us charge clients more and now we are about to knife the food trucks in the back by using a "robot" to undercut them on water and snackies. "

    Ooooooh. Do tell! You are going to make me get my ass up early just so I can go to the Treasure Island flea. I'm telling you though, you should really try the monthly car show there. It's really pretty big. I was shocked the one time I went.

    There are a a lot of fairs, but I can tell you - not all of them are going to be worth it. Like Maker faire - there is already a guy doing that space. He's had it locked up for a few years now. Goes around in a gulf stream.

    I do enjoy the immediate feedback you are getting though. Since you aren't sure where your sweet spot is you can afford to experiment. And there nothing I love more than that. As long as you can stay alive.

  5. maybe not technically a robot but I like to think of Vending as robot like we get to spend our time pitching services and the machine takes care of selling goods for us. you should see the gumball machine that were trying to buy right now. The gumballs cost us .03, we think we can get .50 or a dollar for each. You have to do it in bulk to make real mobey, but the profit margins on micro transactions are so high that there is almost no cost of goods sold.

  6. Well, they are primitive robots I guess. I can't believe you cart around a vending machine. Loaded or not loaded? Do you just roll it out and it's ready to go? I guess if this doesn't work out you'll have mad skills to be a refrigerator delivery guy.

    Before I watched the video I thought 1 buck for gum balls was kinda rapey. But now I'm not sure. It seems steep, but I might pay once or twice. It is a super cool machine though. I've never seen that.

  7. We move them unloaded. They are already pretty heavy, but we have to move games anyway so the infrastructure is in place. $1 is definitely rapey, but at.03 a gumball, we can give them away for free to the poor kids and the sf parents will be attracted to the noise and movement from the machine. Having an audio and visual component to our product helps differentiate us from the other vendors. We want to get it down to a science.

  8. Now that I think about it more - maybe that isn't that far out of the range. I still pay for those gumballs sometimes and I think the last time I did they were running 75 cents. But I think there is a psychological barrier when you go from hard currency to soft for gum balls. Especially because the gum is always of indeterminate age so some of them are pretty stale.

    It is a super cool machine though. It would make me stop.

  9. Anonymous: "... Hooking the games up to the generators eats monitors ..."

    Your problem is non-sine wave ripple in your generated AC power.

    Find a competent electrical engineer to check out your generator output and to recommend a cheap filter solution.

    Even a few clunky Chebyshev filter bricks made by hand might be worth the cost relative to how much those monitors run, but there may be a more efficient switching power regulator that the electrical engineer could recommend.