In the beginning there was a single idea: Comic-Con in a Box. Back in 2012, Chris Davis and Matthew Arevalo met at Startup Weekend in Los Angeles and that was when Loot Crate was born…
And while you may have heard that particular tale before, a lot went into growing the company to where it is today. Here is what it was like in the first 6 months as told by co-founders Chris and Matthew as well as Director of Customer Support Hannah Arevalo:
Chris’ idea was sparked by the thought of curating and creating a specific experience every month. “How do we give people something fresh and new and interesting every month? Which was, I think, a lot of the fun of Comic-Con when I would go,” he revealed. “…[T]here’s these new sets of exclusives every year. You don’t want to get the same type of thing all the time. If you’re a fan, you want to be surprised and entertained.”
The idea was to do the legwork for people who wanted great collectibles so they wouldn’t have to hunt them down themselves. ”When I heard all the different things in the room that people were talking about, I immediately gravitated towards this one because ‘Comic-Con In A Box’ was an interesting concept,” Matthew recalled. “During that 54 hour weekend, a lot of what we have today in terms of product mix, our tone, our social strategy and everything, came out of there.
“We’re obviously a very different company size wise and we have a lot more that we’re doing these days, but it all kind of happened in that weekend and Chris and I continued to move forward on working together with the idea. We shipped the first box 30 days after that meeting. No business plan, nothing, just kind of starting from scratch.”
Now that the idea was in place, the actual work of getting the crates together—and to the people, began.“At the beginning, we were doing all third party products,” said Chris of the early curation process. “We weren’t manufacturing anything yet. We were literally just on the internet finding cool things, and then calling the companies.”
Meanwhile, Matthew was getting the word out. “…[W]hile other people were whipping together a website to talk about the three steps—you sign up, and you do this and you do this—my job was to try and get as much buzz and excitement around it so that we could win the competition,” he said. He also reached out to various connections he had like YouTubers, tech influencers and prominent geeks. “We didn’t win for second, third or fourth, but we were the only company to actually develop anything that was real—you can sign up now and we’ll ship something.”
And they were off and running. The first six months, while bare bones, set the foundation for the company—the energy, the sense of community, the dedication. “At that time we had to, every 30 days just like today, ship a box. Then, it was one product, [the Original] Loot Crate,” Matthew reminisced. “It was just a single basic box and we had to hand stamp them. It was really exciting because every single month got bigger and bigger. We were able to share that with our community of Looters.”
“Yeah, we were packing out of my dad’s house. We were working out of apartments and houses and all that,” Chris recalls. “We moved into an actual office in our fourth or fifth month. Started packing out of an office in Hollywood. The first few, we would pack them there, load them in the back of cars and U-hauls and take them down to the post office.”
Many of the people who helped out in beginning became vital parts of the company as years went on. Hannah is one of them. She also happens to be married to Matthew making the company truly a family affair. “It was the first month of Loot Crate and Chris, Matthew and a few friends were working to fulfill the crate out of Chris’s dad’s house in Pasadena,” Hannah began. “It was the same day that the new iPhone 5 came out and it was delivered to our house. Matthew insisted he needed the phone right away so I agreed to bring it to him in Pasadena. Once I was there I agreed to help pack the crates for a little while to make it worth the drive from Downtown LA. After wrapping up for the day, somehow I agreed to come back the next day to help them wrap up. I ended up coming back every day since!”
Hannah characterized the first months as “stressful but exciting! Chris, Matthew and I put everything on the line and invested 100% of our time into Loot Crate. This was a very scary decision for Matthew and I because we had our whole family and all of our eggs in the Loot Crate basket. I remember talking to Chris one day and he told us about a future where we would get 1,000 signups in a single day. It was so ludicrous, Matthew and I wondered what we got ourselves into. Sure enough, we hit that goal not too long after.”
All the while, social media was used to share behind the scenes looks into the process and include Looters in the journey. “It was very grassroots. It was very like, ‘we’re doing this in this garage space’ and when we would have an issue we would share it and be very transparent with the audience,” said Matthew. “I think even though the items there weren’t the exclusive, original-designed, really amazing [loot] that we’ve developed today, it was still an interesting community to be a part of. We weren’t gamer this, or nerd that, or geek this. The very term ‘Loot Crate’ allowed us to be all inclusive. We decided to not really worry about if it’s for just the hardcore geeks and gamers, let’s just open it up and see where it goes.”
Presentation also was a big factor in making the Looters feel appreciated. Chris pointed to “the attention to detail” as one of the things that carries on to this day in an evolved form. “We were using tissue paper and crinkle-cut and we just wanted it, when you opened it, to feel special. It was in a generic box with a stamp,” he said. “We went from a postcard that told you what was in the box…to [The Daily Crate]. I think what we did there was we kind of established the baseline of ‘We want this, when you receive it, to feel different from other things that you get,’ and designed all the little nuances. I think we’ve taken it to a whole new level now. The same principles were, ‘This has to feel special when you get it.’”
That feeling of inclusion and care was also present for customer support. “I think the philosophy for communicating with Looters is to always be honest and transparent,” said Hannah. “We really want our Looters to know that we are part of same community and not ‘The Man.’ There is still a lot of stigma around online interactions and transactions that we still fight to combat. We always found that speaking and interacting with our Looters as equal fans and not customers allowed us to have the amazing relationship we share with them today.
“Our organic growth was a huge part of our ability to make it to year 5. It also allowed us to prove what we already knew—Fandom is something that is shared, regardless of the medium. People wanted a way to share their unboxings and we created an experience and community that amplified that conversation.“
So what has changed going on five years later and what’s stayed the same? “We have a lot more resources, and a lot of capabilities we never could have imagined having when we launched the company,” Chris began. “I think it’s reflected in just the breadth of what we’re offering to people now. The quality level that’s almost 100% exclusivity on everything we ship, we curate unique experiences like movie premieres and also the kind of exclusive content big companies are willing to let us exclusively share with Looters. We just want, I think, to keep really delivering to fans what they’re going to want most. That can mean a lot in a long, long term sense. In the near term, it’s just every month getting a little better and finding things that are a little more special.”
“The company has had to evolve in so many ways! For one, we have so many more people. It’s so exciting to see all of the amazing things we are able to do these days that we couldn’t when it was a team of 10,” said Hannah. “We’ve evolved into a seasoned company that has moved past the pains of a startup. At our core, we’ve stayed the same. We always have and continue to value that our team is a team of fans. That the people sharing ideas, feedback and ultimately what’s put into the crate are the same people who are so passionate about everything we provide. We remain humble and are always pushing ourselves to be more innovative, inventive, and Looter focused.”
Matthew is also proud that the company never lost the importance of the Looters’ experience, from when they hear about the theme to when they unbox and beyond. “Decisions that we made, like should we make the box look like this, or should we go to color boxes, should we do the interior, we knew that as long as we developed for the overall emotional experience and to give something that is unique and interesting, that the business element of it would follow… We’ve never stopped listening and we’ve never stopped incorporating more and more into the product based off the feedback we get.”
Finally, I asked what the now signature sign-off “We Love You” means to them and what they think it meant to others.
“To me, it’s a promise to our Looters,” said Hannah. “It’s our way of making sure they know how much we value them and how they can expect to be treated when part of our community. To our Looters, I hope it means the same! I hope it’s something they can know they will get from us and can trust us with their fandoms.”
“We just wanted it as a way, that I think reminds us too, that we want to be doing everything in the best interests of the subscriber and the Loot Crate member as well,” said Chris. “I think what it means is we don’t expect anyone to love us. We have to earn that love, but we want them to know that we love them. I think that the expectation is that they’re putting their trust in us to deliver something awesome. We’re going to take that trust and treat it with respect. I think that ‘We Love You’ means ‘We Love You and we respect that you’re part of this community. We’re going to treat you the way that someone who has affection for you should.’”
“I will say,” Matthew began, “the reason why is that we wanted the first interaction with the brand, especially when you needed help—because we didn’t have a help desk or fancy ticketing system—we wanted, whether there was something that you wanted to give us for feedback or something that you had an issue with that we could help you with, we wanted to make sure that as you’re typing in the support address to talk to us, you are hearing our message and how we feel. ‘If you want to let us know there’s something wrong, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org’ and it was meant to inspire the idea that we are here to support you.
“Today…it has more value than ever because now it’s supported by the entire organization. Everybody can get a sense, even internally, that it’s something we do stand behind. Now it’s become a part of our company values and it’s three really simple words, but when really captured, and embraced, and showcased, and followed, it’s really powerful.”
A portal through time, looking at past Loot Crate presence at conventions!:
As Loot Crate looks toward the future, the commitment is always towards delivering great loot and an excellent experience to even more fans across the world and across new fandoms. With the recently announced Sports Crate and Mass Effect: Andromeda Limited Edition crates and more special surprises in the works, the future is bright. And we owe it all to the original Loot Crate!