An Interview With Andy, Asset Drop Founder
Back in January, we were approached by one of our subscribers, Steve who runs the hobby blog SDFnet40k, to give an interview. At first this request felt pretty surreal; after all, we had only launched the business four months previously, and didn't think anyone would be interested in knowing more about us! Nevertheless, I passed the questions over to Andy, our Founder, who had great fun answering them in the hopes that someone may want to read the article.
By all accounts, the interview in Steve's Hobby Talk slot went down very well with his readers, and so we thought we would also publish an edited version of that interview here in case any of you are curious about the man behind the box 🙂 If you have any additional questions, please ask them in the comments and we can always do a second interview later.
Steve: Asset Drop launched in October of 2017 and I'm liking what I've seen so far. What would be your “elevator pitch” be to describe the service to a new customer?
Andy: Great starting question, Steve, and our company vision has actually expanded since Oct 2017. The Core concept I decided upon way back in early 2017, when I first began to put things in place for Asset Drop, was a subscription box for painters who wanted to branch out and discover new brands. This came in part because paints are the most applicable hobby product, no matter what army you collect (I always say, you can never have too many paints! :P) and yet so many people never get chance to move beyond Citadel and Vallejo.
As the concept sat in my mind, and I got my ideas down on paper, it became clear to me that the Discovery box could be made even stronger with a tutorial aspect included with the paints. So the Painting Guide was born and instantly became an integral part of the box, including information on the paints inside and some techniques on how to use them!
After our release in October, we immediately started receiving feedback from some people who actually wanted miniatures in a drop. We chose not to add them to the Discovery box as that drop already had a clear focus and was ideal for people who didn’t want more minis. So instead we decided to create a separate line, the Great Paints line, to feature boxes with miniatures and tutorials.
So, after that long preamble, I would describe our current elevator pitch as ‘creating a variety of high quality monthly boxes for miniature painters with related tutorials’. Our goal is to create boxes that are great value for money and well themed (i.e. not just a box of random hobby stuff). We want to share our passion and knowledge with the community through these boxes, showcasing amazing brands of paints and miniatures at the same time as helping newer painters develop their painting skills with our tutorials.
Our first three Discovery boxes to be released: October, November and December.
Steve: You recently launched another box to add to your Great Paints line, after starting with the Heroines box. Talking about that box first, give an idea of what this box offers and who it might appeal to?
Andy: The idea behind the Heroines box is to provide hobbyists with a great monthly project to tackle. We’ve designed to box to work as a kit, so the base and basing materials match the female miniature, and the paints allow you to get started painting her.
The miniatures are restricted to 28-35 mm scale so it’s possible to substitute some of them into a wargame. However the main focus of the box is on painting for display, rather than gaming. The miniatures we choose will be from a very diverse range of themes, and have an excellent level of detail, so they work well as collectors' pieces.
We chose Heroines as the theme because we love to see more badass female miniatures make it into wargaming. Most games benefit from a balanced male & female warband, and we think it adds so much more personality and diversity into the miniature world. It’s good to see GW introducing more female characters too. We wanted to celebrate that with a box to showcase all the different games and companies that currently produce amazing female minis.
Plus, theming the box as Heroines helps to remove some of the mystery of what's inside each box. The theme doesn't change monthly, so you always know you're going to get a miniature you like. If you're someone who wants to collect and paint female minis, the Heroines box will help you to do exactly that.
The contents of our first Heroines box, launched in January 2018
Steve: How do you go about selecting paints (or models!) for the boxes? Do you have an immense personal collection, or do you consult professional painters and the companies themselves for recommendations?
Andy: A little of everything actually! A few years ago I started branching out and buying more brands of miniature paints. Once I started researching, I found more paint manufacturers than I'd ever dreamed existed, and as a mainly Citadel and Vallejo guy before that, that revelation blew my mind. Some paints I choose for the Discovery box are the favourites I have developed in that time.
Asking manufacturers for information and recommendations is very important too, and looking at their newest product lines to feature something fresh. We also reach out to ask commission painters/professional painters what their favourite, go-to paints are/what their recommendations would be. Obviously everything is then tested out by me!
I’m sure you aren’t surprised to find out that the decision of what to feature in the boxes is much more complicated than that. We look at what has gone before, and is available to feature in the future, and try to make the experience balanced for a subscriber in terms of brands, colours and types of paint included over time. For example, if we featured yellows the month before, they won't be in the next box. And if we had a couple washes, but not any pigments before, we'll look for a great pigment to feature next.
Then we have to look at that paint range and figure out what techniques we could cover in the Painting Guide. Sometimes it's easy, like with the Secret Weapon Rubber Tire set from November. That was one of their stand out sets from the new acrylic range, so we were obviously going to include it and cover painting rubber. But other times, it requires a lot more thought and research.
Finally, we have to balance costs - this is often the most complex and frustrating part for me. There is a huge amount of effort that goes into making sure we can afford to include the paints (the trade price from manufacturers varies wildly and some paints are expensive for us to buy), and also making sure we include the best value we can in the box for subscribers. We aim to always include around a 20% discount off £RRP.
The Secret Weapon rubber tire set from November's Discovery Drop- one of our most popular trios to date.
Steve: I don’t imagine you would get into the miniature painting mystery business you’ve started on a whim, so I’m assuming you have personal experience with miniatures and painting. So we can get an idea of you, your history and experience, please give us your abridged hobby history.
Andy: Great question! I do indeed recall the first model I ever painted - it was an Ork Warbuggy and is perhaps the worst painted miniature I have ever seen in my entire life. It is a good job those poor Orks never saw any table time because forget enemy fire, I’m pretty sure the colour scheme alone would have cause them to die instantly of shame. In my defence I was young haha!
I soon left Orks behind though and I went through various 40K armies in my early years of the hobby, collecting Eldar, Space Marines and then Imperial Guard. I was somewhat renowned for horrific (not necessarily badly done, but they always had WAY too many guns) vehicle conversions which had my gaming group complaining. In fact at one point I think I added a life sized Beretta BB gun onto two Chrimera chassis to make some kind of uber tank killer. It also happened to have around 8 other weapons, so thinking about it, maybe I never really stopped being an Ork Warboss after all! It was with the release of Battlefleet Gothic though, that I really found my place in the hobby and my apparent love of all void craft (space ships)! I managed to collect huge fleets for pretty much every faction (bar the Tau, I could never really afford the Forgeworld stuff).
Unfortunately almost none of my early miniatures survived the trials of time and as I got into programming, web design and building my own computers, the hobby budget was diverted elsewhere. Although this period away from the hobby didn’t last all that long, it was enough for things to be lost, or sold and so now my remaining miniatures from that time are few and far between! I always feel like the Adeptus Mechanicus discovering an STC fragment when I occasionally find relics from my hobby past haha - mostly in the form of half a tank chassis, or a small group of guardsmen huddled together in the corner of some box.
Recently I was absolutely ecstatic to discover a few remnants of my once huge and glorious Space Marine fleet - a Battlebarge, two Strike cruisers and a couple of imperial cruisers. In what spare time I get away from Asset Drop I’m currently working through stripping them back and painting them in a way befitting of the Emperor's Glory!
Over the past few years I’ve dabbled in a whole range of games, from Infinity to DropFleet Commander (spaceships, hell yeah!) to Kingdom Death: Monster, and have recently started to enjoy playing board games with my partner, who prefers them to tabletop wargames. We've just backed Nemesis on Kickstarter and are really enjoying our copy of Zombicide: Green Horde (I think my love of orcs and sci-fi might be influencing our game choices a bit haha).
Check out the aliens from my latest kickstarter back - Nemesis! Has anyone else backed this game?
Steve:I know from my interactions with Gemma on your customer service team that your previous job was in web development, well done on the Asset Drop website by the way! Great work! What inspired you make the transition from a “regular” job to setting up your own business? Where there any major challenges you experienced?
Andy: Thanks Steve 🙂 It always feels crazy to me when people compliment the website - as it is a constant source of “damn I could do better than that” for me! I’ve always got a constant list of things as long as my arm that I’d like to improve on, but I guess that’s often true for anything someone has created!
My inspiration for setting up Asset Drop came from many places. I was aware of the subscription box industry through a close friend of mine who works in the tech side of it. It became obvious to me that subscription boxes were the ideal startup project. Then came the question of what to put in the box. To be honest, there was only a moment's pause of looking into my other passions - coffee, gadgets, computers, before almost instantly settling on wargaming. It’s a major part of my life, and when I saw there was only one other box in our hobby (the fantastic Model Box), it was an obvious choice.
Once the concept was developed and cemented in my mind, it then took around 3-4 months of hard research, planning and implementation to get everything ready for our October launch, so it was a fast (ok, it felt fast!) turnaround from idea to application. As a freelance web developer, I was able to scale back my full time job and scale up Asset Drop, until by the launch date, Asset Drop became my full time job.
Problems We've Faced:
Oh yeah, there have been challenges. Lots! To be honest, we face challenges every month, just like all businesses. Here are a few things we’ve faced since launching Asset Drop: lost and delayed stock deliveries, bad weather for shipping out the boxes, finding reasonable postage prices for international customers, migrating to a new subscription software provider as our old system could no longer cope with our growth, brands telling us at the last minute they were unable to supply the products we ordered due to manufacturing issues, products arriving damaged and unusable, the Painting Guides being professionally printed and arriving wrong, the list goes on!
To start with, there were many problems to tackle too such as finding the right boxes. They needed to be the right size, strength and cost. That sounds simple right? Well we went through over 20 different box samples from makers all over the world before settling on our current Asset Drop boxes. Even getting the presentation of the box right was a long process, trying out different ways of packing and presenting the paints to give customers the best experience.
Many ‘problems’ like the stress we had with finding the right box were more our own perfectionism than anything else. As a team, we’re all very focused on producing the best products we possibly can, so we take way too long to make decisions and choose new products. But we've never faced anything we couldn't overcome with a bit of endurance and dedication.
Finding a strong box of the right size to be our subscription was a major challenge when we first launched!
Steve: Ok, I’m conscious that you’re a busy man, and my questions so far have been big ones. Let’s round this out with a handful of quickfire things for fun!
Andy: Ok, so I’ll try to keep these short too, as I realise I've been writing mini essays for each question up to now!
PC, Xbox or Playstation? PC and Xbox for me! When I get chance, the majority of my gaming gets done on the PC. My Xbox would probably be better referred to as a Battlefield Box, as that’s about all that gets played on it each time I get to see one of my old friends!
Star Trek or Star Wars? Ooo good question, can I say both? If I had to choose, I think Star Trek would have to take it for me. So much nostalgia for the Next Generation series!
Fantasy or Sci-Fi? As you can probably guess from my love of all things spaceships, aliens, big guns and power armour, it has to be Sci-Fi for me!
Airbrush or Paint brush? Depends on what I’m doing really. I’m significantly more proficient with a paintbrush than an airbrush, but that’s mainly due to lack of time to develop the skill. I got into airbrushing way after brushing painting, so my preference may change over time.
Marvel or DC? Damn, that’s a tough one too - I lean towards Marvel as I do enjoy their movies, but then the Dark Knight Trilogy is awesome too… I’m not even sure I can pick!
Read the next article: April's Painting Competition Winners.
Read the previous article: The New Asset Drop Blog.