Geeky Fun

Platform vs. product: Teespring

It’s nice to have concrete examples of sometimes theoretical concepts. I recently read a post on Venturebeat about Teespring, a YCombinator startup that pulled in $750k in April selling t-shirts.

Teespring t-shirt

A Teespring user’s design

Well, actually they don’t sell t-shirts, they provide a risk-free platform for people to design, market and sell their own t-shirts using a Kickstarter-ish crowdfunding model. Make your material, design and quantity selections and the base cost changes accordingly. Set your selling price and see how much you’ll clear per shirt. Run a campaign for up to 21 days and when enough people have pre-ordered the shirt, Teespring prints and ships.

When the transactions clear, you get your money, and Teespring gets theirs. If your design didn’t attract the minimum number of pre-orders, Teespring lets everyone know, and nobody is out any money. No risk save for a bit of time.

Teespring has built a brilliant platform and focused their effort on making the use of that platform as frictionless and pleasant as possible. I’ve given my 13-year old a challenge of developing his own shirt and campaign, and told him he can keep all the proceeds. It’s a fun little economics lesson that lays out the relationships between COGS, price, demand and marketing in a stunningly clear fashion.

It’s a perfect example of the power of a platform vs. a product.

You can see the test campaign I put up at

History of science fiction as a data visualization

Pure, geeky genius here in Ward Shelley‘s visual history of science fiction until 2009.  I suggest all you hardcore science fiction fans set aside a couple hours in front of a large, quality monitor to really look closely at this.  Lots more in this vein, though mostly about the world of art, on Shelley’s website.

Full size History of Science Fiction map

Click to see the full size History of Science Fiction map