Like many working parents, Ted Mann spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic balancing work with keeping his kids entertained.
The former CEO of Slyce — now called Partium, after it merged with Austria-based Humai — said his two youngest boys would frequently come into his office, trading cards in tow, making pronouncements like “I think this Pokémon card is worth $100” or “this Bryce Harper card is worth that much.” The 10- and 7-year-olds kept asking their dad how much he thought the cards were worth, Mann said, and spent time going through Mann’s own box of sports cards he’d collected over the years. They tried to pin a value down for each card using eBay, but couldn’t get the info they were looking for.
So, after trying to find an app that would help them out, Mann decided it could be time to build one of his own. He started it as a side project with the help of his sons, but eventually realized that the app could have real legs.
Mann reached out to technologist Kostas Nasis — the former CTO at Mann’s first company, SnipSnap, and “one of the most talented engineers I know” — and the pair began work on what is now known as CollX, a visual search function app that scrapes pricing data from multiple websites to help a user understand the rarity and price of a sports card.
Check out how we used CollX at the Philly Card show!
— CollX (@CollX_App) December 7, 2021
Mann officially left Partium this fall to pursue the app full time with Nasis. The pair set up an office in Haddenfield, New Jersey, and the app launches this week. Nasis is cofounder and CTO, while Mann is cofounder and CEO.
The market research they conducted excited them: About 25% of Americans own baseball cards and nearly 40% have at least one kind of trading card in their possession, according to Mann. This company will be the third that he’s worked on using visual search technology (Slyce specialized in search for retail and Partium in part-finding services). It’s a funny through-line of his career, the cofounder said, which started out in journalism.
“I never set out to build image recognition software,” Mann said. “Slyce, Partium, now with CollX — in a lot of ways, what is appealing was that I love this technology. There’s incredible accuracy, and with the current marketplace and comps, finding out where it’s sold, it’s very cool.”
CollX’s database has info on nearly 10 million cards — 4.5 million baseball cards, 4 million football cards and 1.5 million basketball cards, per Mann. The team, which he said is made up of eight full and part-time employees, plans to add more sports cards, and other collectible cards such as Pokémon and Magic the Gathering.
The company has raised a bit of capital through angel investors (though Mann declined to share specific figures or name funders) and plans to raise an institutional round sometime this year. The founders also see themselves hiring, and adding a marketplace function for the app which would allow users to buy or sell in addition to pricing their cards.
“It started as a hobby, and then my kids were showing it to their friends and liking it,” Mann said, “and now we are going after this huge market for real.”-30-