Hacker Noon Founder Interviews: Joe Mahavuthivanij of Mythic Markets
Originally posted Jun 16, 2019 by Davis Baer on Hacker Noon
Mythic Markets is allowing the average person to purchase fractional shares of rare trading cards, comic books, and collectibles, similar to publicly traded stocks.
What’s your background, and what are you working on?
I was born and raised in the Bay Area, and studied Psychology at UCSD. Professionally, my background is in product management and business development at startups, and most recently spent a few years in venture capital. I left a year ago to focus on Mythic Markets, an investment platform for fans.
If you’ve kept up with the growth of Comic-Con, Marvel, esports, and nostalgic games like Pokemon, you know that pop culture fandom is stronger than ever. As a result, some of those comic books and trading cards you loved as a kid have become pretty valuable.
For me, it was Magic: The Gathering collectible cards. Many of them have appreciated more than the stock market, gold, and real estate over the past 10 years.
Unfortunately, investment grade collectibles are also super expensive — which is why they’re usually only accessible to the very rich. We’re building Mythic Markets so more fans with average paychecks can have a shot at owning something awesome, that has both nostalgic value and upside potential. We do this by splitting the collectible into shares, which investors can purchase to become a part-owner of the asset.
We’re thrilled to announce that we’re launching the platform today! You can now reserve shares in our first offering, a Magic: The Gathering BGS 9 Alpha Black Lotus card valued at $125,000.
What motivated you to get started with your company?
In the 8th grade, my buddy introduced me to Magic: The Gathering, a brand new trading card game at the time. It didn’t take long to learn the basics, and after that I was hooked! My parents had a small video store and would send me to middle school to sell cards to the other kids.
As a teenager, I worked two jobs after school and on weekends, so the only time I was able to see my friends was late at night after tournaments at the local game store. Those were some great memories and late nights! It’s called Friday Night Magic now, but back then the scene was a lot less formal.
I was always ready for a game and would keep my cards in my car. Unfortunately, my car was stolen in 2002, along with my Magic collection! Today those cards would be worth at least $250k… Ever since then, I’ve wanted to reassemble my collection, but it’s gotten really expensive.
We’re seeing the same thing happen in the comic book space now, with the massive popularity and success of the superhero film genre. The first appearance of Wonder Woman recently sold for $930k, and we’re seeing similar behavior of the first Black Panther and even Infinity War.
We’re building Mythic Markets as an investing platform for fans, giving them the opportunity to own a piece of their childhood, while profiting from an asset class they already know well.
What went into building the initial product?
It took about 6 months to validate the concept, recruit the team, and design the first iteration of the product. At this point, we encountered roadblocks that required specialized lawyers to help navigate the SEC qualification process. This meant fundraising…in the summer.
If you’ve never done it before, summer fundraising is super hard because most investors are on vacation with their families. It took hundreds of meetings, but we were fortunate to eventually raise a small pre-seed round with some great partners. This gave us just enough resources to complete the legal work, acquire our first asset, and develop the product.
How have you attracted users and grown your company?
Community is at the center of Mythic Markets and fandom as a whole. It’s also a core part of our growth strategy. We made a strategic decision to start with the Magic community, partially because I was a long-time member, but also because players already trade cards like paper stock certificates today.
Partnerships are extremely valuable because they give us a way to tap directly into large networks of highly targeted and engaged communities of collectors, fans and investors. ChannelFireball, for example, is a well-known and respected Magic community and media company that has been instrumental in our launch. Their team now includes some of our biggest champions, and it’s crazy to think it all started when I cold-emailed them inquiring about attending one of their events. Now we’re going to be at MagicFest Seattle as partners!
Fandom is constantly evolving, with new content and collectibles being created all the time. As a result, community engagement is both an online and offline endeavor for our business. Events like Comic-Con and MagicFest, where fans can see the physical assets, are important for building trust in the brand, as well as engaging and interacting with the community.
What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Investing and trading on Mythic Markets is currently free. We earn revenue on sourcing collectibles and co-investing with users. We’re also launching a premium subscription service with lots of exciting fan-specific benefits later this year.
What are your goals for the future?
We’re launching the platform with the ability to buy shares in an initial offering. We intend to release the trading platform later this year.
We also plan to expand our collection with offerings from franchises in comics, esports, and more. Our long term goal is to democratize the most desirable investing opportunities.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Mythic Markets is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is one of the first companies to securitize collectibles. The qualification process can be long and expensive, with lots of nuance. In addition, Reg A+ is still a relatively new SEC rule and there’s a lot to figure out as it applies to our business. Having a great legal, audit, and operational team is essential to navigating around these obstacles.
Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We enjoyed several advantages that helped bring the project together. First, our founding team have been lifelong friends and colleagues with complementary skills. After validating the concept, our existing relationship helped us hit the ground running and grow our team from within our network.
Second, I was fortunate to spend several years working in venture capital. The experience allowed me to build relationships with amazing investors, learn from other entrepreneurs’ fundraising successes and failures, and ultimately understand what motivates investors to do the deal.
What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
When it comes to fundraising, the devil is in the details. Whether it’s building a great deck, writing effective email intro requests, or nailing your pitch, it’s worth investing the time and effort to put your best foot forward. For instance, good deck design isn’t just about making slides pretty. It’s an opportunity to show that you can communicate ideas clearly and concisely, without the use of buzzwords.
I often observe entrepreneurs make the mistake of being too secretive about their ideas. Sometimes they’ll even require NDAs before speaking freely, a particularly negative signal with investors. Instead, talk to people about your idea, but also take feedback with a grain of salt. You’ll validate (or invalidate) your idea, make adjustments, and improve your pitch.
I’m sure you’ve heard, startups can be hard and lonely. The world will probably tell you that you’ll fail. So you have to be ridiculously optimistic, or surround yourself with people who are. Having a co-founder helps, or join a group for entrepreneurs.
Where can we go to learn more?
Visit MythicMarkets.com to check out the first asset and learn how you can invest.