Cards for All People has gone from a social media curiosity to inspiring a weekly game show on BET.
Columbus entrepreneur Jay Bobo is playing his cards right.
In less than three years, the CoverMyMeds software engineer has gone from creating a card game to running a nationally televised game show based on the concept. Bobo's Black Card Revoked game, a witty celebration of African-American culture, has been turned into a show on Black Entertainment Television, hosted by actor and comedian Tony Rock.
He and co-founder Latesha Williams, of New York City, have grown their company, Cards For All People, to $2 million in sales, thanks to television royalties and the popularity of new card games such as Gay Card Revoked and Nerd Card Revoked. Each game follows the same template: Players use multiple choice answer cards to respond to questions about a specific community, from pop culture to history and politics.
“Play-testing went crazy,” Bobo recalls. “It's absolutely hilarious. People yelling, shouting, ‘What do you mean, this movie is better than this movie! This thing is better!' ”
Bobo says BET and parent Viacom are proving to be perfect partners to expand the brand's reach. Viacom, where Williams used to work, understands the Cards For All People vision and how it caters to underrepresented populations, he says. The show, which debuted on Jan. 10 and is broadcast Thursdays at 10 p.m., has been well-received so far.
“I absolutely love working with them,” Bobo says. “I think they get the audience. They get the content for that particular game.”
For Cards For All People, the addition of TV content was always in the cards. Bobo and Williams met while she was working for LeBron James' marketing agency, LRMR Marketing, and Bobo was helping with digital content in a consulting role. Even before coming up with and launching their card game, the friends agreed any consumer product would benefit from being on a TV show.
Still, the card game took off on its own. Bobo recalls getting traction in October 2015, shortly after its debut, boosted by political divisiveness and social media virality. They rang up about $500,000 in sales in the first six months, with many of the purchases coming through Amazon.
“I don't think I slept at all,” he recalls. “People around here [CoverMyMeds] were like, ‘What's going on with this guy?' I hadn't told anybody. I was just up all night.”
Bobo, who used to work in sports and entertainment in Cleveland, says he applies software skills from his day job to grow Cards For All People. That means automating as much as possible and using digital tools for generating content. He works with his writing team, for example, to determine how many questions there should be about the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” versus Eddie Murphy's Coming to America, using Twitter analytics to mine for keywords rather than just guessing what people are talking about.
And in building Cards For All People, Bobo credits the flexibility of his full-time employer, CoverMyMeds, which encourages side projects. The company's CFO even sat down with Bobo to advise on finances.
“We want to create a work environment where people can be themselves, embrace challenges and achieve amazing results,” COO Michelle Brown says. “Our employees are smart, driven individuals who make a difference every day—both inside and outside of the office.”
Of course, Bobo says it takes a balancing act to work at CoverMyMeds while growing a fledgling startup. He uses his lunch hour to make conference calls and schedules more between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. with TV executives in Los Angeles. And he counts on the growing team at Cards For All People.
“The first thing is, I don't have a social life,” Bobo says. “The other way I handle is through delegation.”
He acknowledges Cards For All People may eventually pull him away from CoverMyMeds, but it's not something he is forced to hide from his employer. “They ask me this all the time,” he says. “I think for now, it's a great opportunity for me to learn. I wanted to learn how to develop and manage our products better.”
Bobo and Williams plan to grow Cards For All People both by adding to “anchor packs” of cards and by introducing new games and partnerships. But, being entirely bootstrapped, there is no pressure.
“We talk to our customers andtry to figure out what we should do next, what makes sense,” Bobo says. “This sort of e-commerce isn't rocketscience.”
Evan Weeseis a freelance writer.