Today the Catshack Reports has the unique opportunity of a lengthy interview with none other than Mr. Stephane Salema, co-founder of RateMyPaintball.com. It seems this website has truly taken off with a monumental effort to index any and all paintball teams globally. Grab your chair, get your coffee and read on as we really hit Stephane with some tough questions.
The Catshack Reports: Could you please give us a little background?
Stephane: All right, Iâ€™m French. Nobodyâ€™s perfect. Iâ€™ve been playing paintball locally for about four years now. The usual story, tried it once, got hooked, joined a team, and then the job took over, and now I rarely have time to go back out on the field. But I also have a secret.
Stephane: Iâ€™ll tell you Tom, but please donâ€™t tell anyone. Iâ€™ve only ever played speedball. I guess Iâ€™m not part of the 75%, though that number depends on where you liveâ€¦ There you have it.
The Catshack Reports: As you said, nobodyâ€™s perfectâ€¦ Where did you get the idea for RateMyPaintball?
Stephane: It came up a couple of years back, when I realized that I would eventually have to cut down my paintball habit, but didnâ€™t want to â€œget out of the game,â€ if you know what I mean. But it wasnâ€™t easy. I had to find capital for both the development and marketing, and we still have a few projects on the go that will take further investment. I found a couple of backersâ€”who arenâ€™t paintball playersâ€”and Iâ€™m in the process of getting more partners to develop it further. For marketing and company contacts, I enrolled a few insiders who are helping us out.
The Catshack Reports: RateMyPaintball seems to be taking the paintball world by storm, why do you feel it is as popular as it has become amongst teams and manufacturers alike?
Stephane: I think that an idea is good when it applies to you. You always have to ask yourself, would I use this? This was the kind of site I wanted for my team. It was a small team, that nobody outside of the local league knew existed. I wanted a place where I could compare myself to others, where other players could find me, a place where I could exist in the giant worldwide community of paintball. I think thatâ€™s the main reason why others like it as well. And it comes even before the prizes. You have to understand that we beta-tested this in South Africa for 2 months before launch, and all those teams joined without prizes being offered. Thereâ€™s a strong sense of community in paintball, I wanted to create a place to nurture this community: a worldwide index of paintball teams. Weâ€™ve already had some 300 teams join in one month. Iâ€™m horrible at math, but thatâ€™s like 8 teams a day or something. So it works. Iâ€™d like the site to have 1000 by Christmas. And I think thatâ€™s a realistic objective.
The Catshack Reports: And for manufacturers?
Stephane: Itâ€™s a win-win for teams and manufacturers. We needed an extra incentive for teams to join (though registration takes less than 2 minutes) and having prizes going to popular non-sponsored teams in a country was that incentive. Manufacturers get banners throughout the site, and are reaching a new, very international market of paintball consumers. The site makes no money on this, by the way. Any manufacturer can step in and offer a prize, it will only cost them the product and shipping. Itâ€™s the closest thing to direct marketing that exists in paintball. We have a series of prizes currently online, including Kingman, thatâ€™s giving 7 markers to the most popular non-sponsored speedball team in the world, or Milsig thatâ€™s offering a great prize for a Canadian scenario team. More national prizes are lined up. Empire, for example, has just renewed and will offer something for the US. But whatâ€™s really interesting is that leagues now want to offer prizes locally. We didnâ€™t expect that.
The Catshack Reports: In fact, you just launched a league section of the site.
Stephane: Which he havenâ€™t officially started promoting outside of South Africa. But itâ€™s now open to leagues worldwide. Again, weâ€™re not going after the PSP and the Millennium, weâ€™re interested in helping small leagues in far away countries that could benefit from showing theyâ€™re popular there. Believe it or not, weâ€™re already working on some prizes for and from leagues. Some want to give away product, others free annual registration, weâ€™re not going to prevent them.
The Catshack Reports: What do your foresee as far as the future and growth of paintball as a sport?
Stephane: Thatâ€™s a tough question. Itâ€™s been very difficult for the industry as a whole, because letâ€™s face it, paintball is one of those sports that is closely tied to the economy. You canâ€™t play for free. This is one of the reasons why this site can help strengthen the community. Not only by showing how strong we are when weâ€™re together, but since the site is very social, it can help broadcast your passion to your friends. And Iâ€™m sure some of them havenâ€™t played paintball. Yet.
Stephane: Iâ€™m amazed to see teams registering from countries that I didnâ€™t know existed. True, Iâ€™m also bad at geography. But on a more serious note, the example of South Africa is a perfect case study. By now, all their leagues and probably 70% of their teams have registered. Itâ€™s amazing to see how much people love the sport there, and how keen they have been on the site, and how brands understand that this type of market penetration is a viable way to grow their business. Weâ€™ll also be able to publish stats every quarter on different areas of the world. This will help the entire community. For example, our fastest-growing country at the moment is Russia. Weâ€™ve also seen a lot of scenario teams coming in from Portugal. I didnâ€™t know the milsim market in Portugal was this activeâ€¦ did you?
The Catshack Reports: Indexing teams is a next to impossible task given the statistic that most players are in the game a maximum of 2.5 years. How do you plan to keep the index list current as teams come and go from existence?
Stephane: Tom, youâ€™re an ass for throwing me a curve ball like that. But I guess thatâ€™s why your readers like you so much. We actually thought about this for a long time and have a solution. We couldnâ€™t count on teams bothering to delete a profile, or notifying us when they disbanded, so we did the opposite. We have an automatic system that analyzes the voting data and tells us when a team is no longer getting votes. If a team hasnâ€™t gotten a vote in a set period of time, maybe 8 months, maybe a year, we contact the person who posted it and ask them if theyâ€™re still active. If we have no answer, the profile is taken off automatically. Itâ€™s not perfect, but as I mentioned earlier, nobodyâ€™s perfect.
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