The lights are on
It was one year ago at Los Angeles' Startup Weekend that Matt Arevalo and Chris Davis came together over the idea to bundle up geek culture and ship it out to people every month. When the site first launched, fifty people signed up in the first five hours. In the twelve months since the company shipped its first box, it has grown to 15,000 subscribers with 20 to 30 percent month-over-month growth.Arevalo and Davis' backgrounds fit together perfectly, with the former coming from the IT industry with experience in social and digital titles, and the latter having e-commerce experience. Davis previously founded Gamer Food, which made energy snacks for video game enthusiasts, and partnered with companies like League of Legends devleoper Riot Games.Each month, the team at Loot Crate picks a theme (the most recent one was "Cake") and packs a small box full of items that are part of geek culture. About 40 percent of each crate is tied directly to the theme, with the remainder linked to general geek culture and video games. The team has evolved its process, and has now gained enough clout to commission unique items that are exclusive to the company's community (affectionately called "Looters"). For instance, last October's theme was "Outbreak." In addition to zombie hunter dogtags, Loot Crate had "wasabi brains" created. The Cosmos theme featured a vinyl Star Wars figure, a Dead Space wall graphic, a hex bug toy, and a small Space Invaders tin. Many of the items, like the vinyl figure, are part of a set. The Loot Crate booth was crowded with fans looking to fill in their collections. 20 to 30 percent of the product development is now either done in-house or specially ordered. For licensed items, the team makes sure that they are authentic. For the Cake crate, they worked with the company that holds the Portal license, while also engaging with Valve about the plans.The packing and shipping each month is an enormous process. For most of the time, the company is eight people, working with vendors and partners to put together the best swag they can. For four days, 25 to 30 temporary workers come in to pack and ship. "We have working with vendors and the USPS down to a science," Davis says.It hasn't always been that easy, though. One item that caused the company problems was a pair of 8-bit sunglasses. When the order arrived from overseas, Davis and Arevalo got a call from customs. The sunglasses were rated for UVA blocking, which classified them as a medical device. In order to clear customs, Loot Crate needed to register with the Food and Drug Administration. It took a month, but the items finally shipped out in the next box.Loot Crate is currently the most popular and highest rated subscription box according to subscriptionboxes.com. This is in large part due to the company's customer service philosophy. Boxes ship on time, on the same day. Loot Crate has never been late and doesn't even consider that an option. Once crates arrive to consumers, the exchange and make-right policy is weighted almost entirely to the consumer. "If anything goes wrong, or if you get the wrong shirt size for instance, we'll make it right," Davis says.Arevalo and Davis plan on growing the company even further in the coming months. Among other things, they are working on a plan to allow subscribers to purchase complete sets of the random-draw items. This will add a level of complexity to the order and fulfillment system, but will no doubt attract interested parties. You can learn more about Loot Crate on the official site and see some of the recent items included in the monthly package.