Wearing clothing to support your favorite sports teams or movie, game and comic franchises is a pretty common thing. But what if the clothing itself was an integral part of an ongoing story more than just advertising your fandom? That’s what SclObo is aiming to do within gaming and nerd culture.
SclObo, whose name was picked from a set of CAPTCHA text (the “l” is a lower-case L), was founded by past and current University of Washington Bothell students Niko Richardson and Jonathan Augustus. The clothes they sell look like everyday shirts and hats, but those shirts and hats are actually the outfits of the characters in an original ongoing story that appears in the blog section of their website.
Wearing a piece of SclObo clothing is basically like cosplaying for one of their characters. But instead of elaborate and impractical costumes, the clothing SclObo is selling is something more subtle that you can wear on the street any day.
Think of it this way: If you wanted to dress up as Mario you would need to wear overalls and a plumber’s hat. That’s not something most people would want to do outside of a convention or costume party. But if you want to dress up as one of the characters from SclObo’s story, you would just need to wear their shirt or hat. These clothes look like normal streetwear, so they’re something you could feel comfortable wearing every day.
That’s because the characters in their story are everyday people. The only difference between us and them is that they happen to be able to enter another dimension filled with all the elements you would expect from a fantasy world.
SclObo thinks this story will help gamers make connections and form a strong community.
“At our core, what we really care about is community and inclusivity within that community,” Richardson said. “Being part of that community growing up is what helped us stay out of trouble.”
Richardson and Augustus both hail from South Central Los Angeles, where they found themselves feeling out of place in their respective schools. But through games, they were able to find a place where they felt like they belonged. And the thing that ended up being at the core of those relationships were stories.
“When you meet someone through a video game, it’s always some kind of crazy story that you have in common,” said Augustus. “Whether that’s a story around the game or the story of the game itself, it’s the thing that brings us all together regardless of where we’re from or what our backgrounds are.”
After tossing around the idea for fun, SclObo’s founders decided to take their idea to the next level by entering the University of Washington Business Plan competition. Though it turned out to be a nerve-wracking experience, the company went on to win the second-place prize and become a part of the Jones + Foster Accelerator program.
“SclObo is a startup that represents what we talk about when we focus on the personal passion of the team. Niko and Jonathan’s personal journey from gamers to entrepreneurs really resonates with people. They work hard, they listen, and take advice to heart,” said Amy Sallin, manager of the accelerator program. “They moved from one of 83 initial entries to the second place winner—that takes a lot of grit and determination.”
Seattle-based entrepreneur Jesse Proudman, CEO of cryptocurrency investment platform Strix Leviathan, is a judge of the business plan competition and serves as an advisor to the young companies in the accelerator program. He was equally impressed with SclObo.
“The moment I saw SclObo present in the finals of last years the UW Business Plan Competition, they immediately reminded me of Jake and Riley from Strideline, one of the Accelerator’s most successful teams,” Proudman said, referring to Riley Goodman and Jake Director, founders of the Seattle-based Strideline socks startup. “Founders with deep passion, unrelenting energy and a meaningful story are the absolute right ingredients (for success).”
Richardson and Augustus have already encountered a bit of that success. They plan to release their clothing in a “season” format, similar to collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering. They’ve already released the first season, and it performed above their expectations. They’re planning to release an expansion to the first season soon.
SclObo is currently running a campaign on Kickstarter to bolster the expansion and give people the chance to get a physical anthology of the story, which is only available on the SclObo website now.
Richardson and Augustus also plan to partner with different influencers on places like Twitch and YouTube to create characters based on these influencers, expanding SclObo’s story and promoting their clothing at the same time.
If SclObo continues to grow, Richardson and Augustus hope to incorporate their clothing and story into other media, including a game, where owning the clothing would give you a boost in the game.
“When we first had this idea, we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if the clothing you buy is your clothing in the game and it has stats and all kinds of stuff.’” Richardson said. “So, five years from now, we’re making that game!”