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Comic Con connection is serious business for startup

Surge in geek culture turns entrepreneurs into action figures hunting for revenue

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Ian Griggs, left, with co-founder Wayne Goldblatt. Hazarai is aiming at a $1.1 billion 'geekonomics' marketplace.
Ian Griggs, left, with co-founder Wayne Goldblatt. Hazarai is aiming at a $1.1 billion 'geekonomics' marketplace. - (AARON HOUSTON)

The explosion of Comic Con and success of “The Big Bang Theory” have helped lead a migration of the so-called geek culture from the margins to mainstream. It also made entrepreneur Ian Griggs stop and think: Why can't this be a revenue stream?

With that, Hazarai For All Fankind was born.

Griggis, the CEO and a self-confessed geek, believes the culture — defined by avid interest in comic books, action figures and video games — lacks a centralized online destination where users can buy and sell merchandise, or simply share common passions.

Griggs said comic book conventions are great, but frequent attendance is expensive and time consuming.

"Once you leave, where do you get your next fix?" asked Griggs, a lifelong comic book collector who plans attending the New York City Comic Con, which begins Oct. 10. "You don't want to spend a ton of money traveling, city to city."

Hazarai seeks to fill this void in "geekonomics" through a website where members can upload stores and sell merchandise to fans seeking to augment their collections with rare finds.

Items can range from a 1963 "X-Men" comic selling for $2,200, to artwork of a burning Godzilla fetching $87. George Lucas admirers can buy a "Star Wars"-themed print of the Beatles' "Abbey Road" cover for $20.

"Aside from family and health, these are the things people are most passionate about," Griggs said.

Griggs said hazarai.com also will include sharing platforms and customizable racks akin to Pinterest. Comic book mavens currently flock to Pinterest absent alternatives, Griggs said, but that site mostly targets women interested in food and fashion.

"The mechanism is there, but it's not the ideal location," Griggs said.

Instead, Hazarai is targeting a niche culture, mostly male, that spends about $65 billion annually on these passions, excluding box office sales. Focusing on the hardcore, Hazarai projects an estimated 1.1 million fans spend about $1,100 a year on merchandise, creating a $1.1 billion market.

To finance its growth, Hazarai is seeking $350,000 to fund 18 months of operations. The money is targeted at product development, sales and marketing, and administration. That's atop $25,000 in seed capital the business earned for completing a 16-week boot camp of entrepreneurial training at Clifton-based technology accelerator Tech Launch.

Hazarai plans to devote most energy on user acquisition the next 15 months or so, projecting $1.7 million revenue and its first annual profit in 2015. Hazarai expects a spike in revenue afterward, predicting a jump to $7.7 million in 2016, partly abetted by the planned release of Star Wars, Superman and Batman films in 2015.

"The days of being considered a socially inept nerd are over," Griggs said. "The biggest movies today are all born of geek culture. This is something long overdue."

E-mail to: tomz@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @biztzanki

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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