Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Alumni Startup ComicBin Launches iPad App
Two alumni at Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus have recently launched an iPad app of their startup, ComicBin, a subscription service for digital comics. Jason Goldsmith and Markus Lachinger started ComicBin after graduating in August 2012 from the MS Software Management program focused on software innovation and entrepreneurship.
The ComicBin service offers accounts through Facebook and Twitter, allowing members to read comics from a growing database, then discuss and share recommendations with friends. With ComicBin’s expansion into the Apple iOS Store, users can now browse and read hundreds of comics on the iPad.
Goldsmith, a lifelong comics collector, first considered a Netflix approach to comics when the prohibitive cost of comic book collecting presented barriers to pursuing his hobby. “For me, ComicBin solves a problem I've had for more than a decade,” said Goldsmith. “I like comic books, I love reading them, but collecting them in dead tree form was too expensive and too much of a hassle.”
Similar to the music industry, the comic book industry is riddled with pirates offering access to comics that are not available from comic book publishers or too expensive for most consumers, including popular titles such as Superman and X-Men. “I see an opportunity here where we can make hard-to-find, rare comics available to everyone to read and help publishers monetize the giant content libraries they have that are currently collecting dust,” said Goldsmith.
Goldsmith and Lachinger began procuring content by reaching out to publishers through cold emails and attending trade shows, a process that did not present as many hurdles as they had imagined. Currently, ComicBin has twelve publishers and over 1000 licensed titles available to users in genres ranging from superhero to mystery to humor.
The challenge moving forward is expanding the content available through building relationships with larger publishers in the comic book industry such as Immage, BOOM! Studios and IDW, who are often owned by media giants such as Disney and Time Warner. These publishers also possess established sharing policies that require a much longer and involved process before releasing content.
As with any startup, the ComicBin duo is also considering how best to reach consumers and market their product on a limited budget. Goldsmith and Lachinger’s experience as students at CMU-SV has prepared them for the issues that budding entrepreneurs must address.
“CMUSV helped me to understand how to find product market fit, which parts of a product are important and which aren't,” said Lachinger. “So many of the professors have great insight into what investors are looking for. “Their expertise really helped us make some important decisions about the project.”
ComicBin is starting to gain traction in the comic book world as it presents a new way to enjoy comics for both aficionados and newcomers. The service was recently mentioned in an IGN article and the team hopes that interest from consumers and publishers will only spread as they continue to improve their product and grassroots word-of-mouth marketing.
“We’re really working to get our name out there, let people know about the service,” said Goldsmith. “We’re passionate about comics and about changing the way they’re experienced in the digital realm and we’re confident we can keep growing.”