Project Name: MangaConnect
End Date: 10/9/2014
What Is It?
MangaConnect is a crowd funding platform that focuses exclusively on manga projects. Much like KickStarter, it’s an “all or nothing” model, backers are only charged if the project reaches its funding goal. Successful projects will see a 9% fee, which is on par with KickStarter’s combination of 5% fees, plus Amazon’s 3-5% processing costs.
The company’s stated goal is to “connect creators with the community,” by creating a central hub for manga creators and fans alike. The company aims to create a singular hub, where artists can find a global audience, and fans can find titles that they couldn’t exist without their help.
At the moment, MangaConnect is a mature technology: the platform itself is available and ready for use by artists and backers alike. The actual Kickstarter drive is being held to raise funds for two distinct purposes: the creation of an iOS & Android app, and funding for further promotion.
Notable Reward Tiers
- $5 (AUD): Thank You Card
- $25 (AUD): Receive an original manga book [Limited 500]
- $45 (AUD): Receive a signed original manga book [Limited 250]
- $65 (AUD): Receive a signed manga book plus a personalized Thank You note [Limited 100]
- $85 (AUD): Receive a signed manga book, a personalized Thank You note, and a T-Shirt [Limited 50]
- $100 (AUD): Receive a signed manga book, a personalized Thank You note, a T-Shirt, & be featured on the site in a Thank You message [Limited 10]
Why Profile This Title?
Unlike the previously covered projects, MangaConnect is an existing, working project with a clear vision for growth. It’s a product that exists with a goal that, while difficult, can certainly be achieved.
MangaConnect’s modest $4,000 goal, coupled with down-to-earth plans and practical (yet still nifty) reward tiers signal that the company is looking toward a more sustainable model. They’re aiming to keep costs down, while taking the steps that will produce the strongest returns.
Apps aren’t the sexiest thing anymore, but there is a distinct understanding that they are wonderful drivers of awareness and eyeballs. Likewise, in our conversation with Martin Kaldamukov, it became clear that the company understood the challenges of establishing a brand in a niche market, and were more than willing to carve out their place by any means possible.
There’s a lot of heart in the overall project, and a strong ideal in the idea that manga can, and should spread to become a greater global commodity. It’s an affection and enthusiasm for the medium as a whole, and a desire to grow the market of creators and customers alike, that really seems to shine in the project.
KickStarter will undoubtedly be the “go to” place for manga projects in the near future. If MangaConnect plays its cards right, though, the platform could quickly find itself enjoying a buzzing subculture of enthusiastic customers and clients alike.
For this interview, we spoke with Martin Kaldamukov over Skype on September 19, 2014. We want to thank him for sitting with us to discuss the project!
Note: Interview edited for clarity
Anime Herald: For those that aren’t aware yet, can you give a brief description of what MangaConnect is, and what service you plan to provide?
Martin Kaldamukov: Sure! So, basically, the idea is very similar to what KickStarter is doing. [We’re] just trying to promote subculture writers, authors who are not so, I guess, popular, not so famous within the manga community. We’re trying to give this opportunity for them to present their art, their manga to reach out to many other fans.
We’re catering to this niche market of the manga fans, the manga community around the world. We believe that platforms such as KickStarter, for example, or IndieGogo are amazing. They’re doing a great job in their own business. But we think that if the platform only focuses on a certain kind of art, as in MangaConnect is only manga, it might be better for the fans in order for them to discover what they need, and to kind of fulfill their need in a way.
So, basically, what we do, is we get manga contents, projects which authors are working on, and we work with them. We advise them on how to put out their projects, and then we try to promote the projects on social media. Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc., etc., and try to fund the project as much as we can. And basically, we take only 9% as a fee if the project is funded successfully. It’s an all or nothing business model, the same as KickStarter. And, yes, that’s MangaConnect!
In return, of course, if the project’s successful, the authors will give the funders different kinds of awards. Maybe the PDF file of the manga, hard copy of the manga, or other perks as well. That’s our idea!
Anime Herald: What really grabbed me was that this is actually completely usable at this point, I noticed! The entire site looks to be up, running, and ready to go!
Martin Kaldamukov: Yes! Yes! Yes! We wanted to do this for, maybe, more than 20 months now. We’re working, we’re five speople. Two engineers, three business guys, and, yeah! We’ve put a lot of effort. Basically, we started developing from April. You know how it is with those kinds of platforms. It takes a little time to clear. The bugs to test, and stuff like that.
Of course, there are many, many things which need to be improved, but, yeah. We’re working hard on that, so hopefully at some point it’ll become even more usable. And we’re constantly thinking of how to improve the [User Experience and User Interface]. How we can implement different kinds of payment systems, different kinds of options. I see some of the fans on Twitter, they’re telling me it might be better if we don’t have only PayPal, but other payment options as well in order to ease the payment.
So, yeah! Definitely, every website, every venture like that is never finished, so we constantly have to improve it. But, yeah! If we can give the fans the opportunity to meet new manga content and, in the same way, help the creators, it’ll be awesome.
Especially in Japan, the idea came to us because, like, I don’t know. Have you been to Japan?
Anime Herald: Unfortunately, I have not.
Martin Kaldamukov: Okay. So, basically, there are many subculture manga creators here in Japan. And, every year, they have these amazing events, really huge events. More than 300,000 people visit them in the span of three or four days. And they try to sell their art. So we felt it might be a very good kind of opportunity to create something which might help them, in order to promote their art around the world, not only in Japan.
And, I guess, if there’s this kind of platform which can facilitate the flow of manga ideas both outside Japan and from Japan, like different manga ideas from France, the States, South America, Asia… we hope it’s going to be really awesome!
Anime Herald: Definitely, definitely. And what led you to seek crowdfunding and why did you choose KickStarter, specifically?
Martin Kaldamukov: Well, KickStarter is, I guess the most famous. The biggest crowdfunding platform in the world. They have, what, 80% of the market, even much bigger than IndieGogo.
So, basically, we want to create an iOS and Android app as soon as possible, but our engineers – we have a back-end engineer and front-end one – they don’t have so much knowledge in application development for mobile systems. So we want to use the money, the $4,000 to create those iOS and Android apps and, I guess for more aggressive marketing for Facebook and Twitter. And I also thought it might be a really good PR idea! Even if we don’t get the money, even if we don’t reach our goal, KickStarter is extremely popular. So it might act as PR, as a good branding opportunity as well, for MangaConnect.
Anime Herald: Absolutely! And how would you describe your experiences interacting with and, even at this point, working with the various backers on your projects? I know you’re definitely an established service, and you maintain an incredibly active Twitter and Facebook presence.
Martin Kaldamukov: (laughs) Thank you! We’re trying our best! Well, basically, it’s a really young service. I think the actual launch maybe happened last month, or two months ago, so we’re still trying to gain more awareness. Trying to, I guess establish our brand. And in order to make people trust you, that’s very hard, because even when we tried to create the service to work with PayPal, there was a lot of reviews going on. Whether we’re a trustable service, whether we’re not doing any shady stuff, you know, money laundering, whatever. So I guess, yeah! Trying to prove to the fans that we are actually trying to solve the problem, as the sum of the problem being their need for more quality manga content, and create this connection between the authors and users. It could take time, but, yeah! As you saw, we’re trying to promote our service as much as possible, and establish some connections. That’s for the fans.
And for the authors, we have a Japanese CEO. The guy on the KickStarter video, he’s Kohei Kurihara. He’s a close friend of mine. We’ve known each other for four years now, so basically, we try to work in a very personal way with authors. Maybe go to those manga events, talk directly to authors. Especially in Japan, which is a bit more of a conservative country than the United States and other western countries, it’s very important to have this personal connection with the creators to explain exactly what the service is about, to gain their trust and, I guess to reassure then that there will be benefits for them if they launch a project. So, as I mentioned, we have this event in Japan called Comiket. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with it. It’s the biggest manga event in the world. And, last year, we were there as well. Actually, the video on KickStarter is taken on that location, Comiket. It’s in Tokyo.
And yeah, we basically try to authors as much as we can. We prepare materials both in Japanese, sometimes in English for foreign authors. We send them the materials over e-mails, and try to explain the service. If they’re interested, of course, we help them launch the project as well. In Japan, there’s also, some of the authors here, they’re really old school. They like to draw the manga by hand, which is amazing and it’s really impressive.
But sometimes, they need some help with actually launching the project on the site, because they’re not familiar with navigating through our system. But, yeah, we’re trying to, I guess consult them, in a way. that’s how we try to establish the connection between authors.
Anime Herald: Fantastic.
Martin Kaldamukov: Yeah! Another thing we’re trying to do right now, in Japan, we have many schools focused only on teaching how to draw manga, for manga creators in a way. Because in Japan, it’s such a big industry, the manga itself, it’s I’m not quite sure, but around a billion or two billion dollar industry. So, our idea is to go to those manga schools and try to popularize our service there, as well.Talk to the young creators who are the future, and any of the young creators there quite familiar with the IT end. Their IT literacy is really high, so they’re more open to exploring channels for promoting their art like MangaConnect.
Anime Herald: And you mentioned that the biggest concerns at this point is building your brand, building your reputation with not only the growing set of artists in Japan, but also the west. What would you say is the one most important thing you would like to say to a potential aritst or a potential creator about MangaConnect that you’d like them to know about the service to pull them over?
Martin Kaldamukov: Well, as you know, a brand something that you don’t create overnight. It’s something which takes a lot of effort. And, how you approach your customer-base and your fans and people who you work with is very important for your brand in the long-term. So, I guess, our message to the creators would be that we are working with them and for them.
And, if they want to explore more opportunities for promoting their brand, for reaching out to more fans, I guess MangaConnect is a good way to try out. There’s nothing to lose. I guess it’s kind of mutually beneficial for the fans, for the creators, and for us as well.
All of us, the people who are working on MangaConnect, are manga fans as well. That’s why we’re doing this. So it’s, I guess, the brand itself and making creators believe in our brand is very important. So, I guess, if they want to promote their art more, it’s good for them to work with us!
Anime Herald: And you’re definitely a gigantic manga fan, as you’ve mentioned, and is definitely evident in the project, which is impressive. What would be the one manga title that you’d recommend to possible onlookers to look into? Something that they might not catch, but is really worth reading?
Martin Kaldamukov: Well, I’ve been living in Japan for quite some time now. Maybe more than seven years, seven and a half. But, actually, I’m a little more old school. The manga I like the most is called Dragon Zakura. It’s a very interesting story about a couple of students who are trying to get into one of the most prestigious universities in Japan. And, basically, the manga is about their efforts. It’s teaching you how to persevere and do your best in order to achieve what you want. So, yeah! I really liked that manga. It’s on my bookshelf, so as every startup you constantly go through different kinds of challenges, so I guess every time we’re in some kind of a challenge I’m referring to that manga in a way! (laughs)
It’s a little bit old, but it’s awesome! I really recommend everyone reads it!
Anime Herald: One last question: Do you have anything that you’d like to say to our readers?
Martin Kaldamukov: I guess I’d like to focus again on our slogan, in a way. We tend to say that, at MangaConnect, we connect creators with the community. So, to the readers, I want to say only that we are trying to establish this global manga community which will cater to their interests, and I guess that’s that strong point of MangaConnect as a crowdfunding service. So, if they want to be part of our community, they’re more than welcome to join at any time, and, yeah! We’re working for them!