Emily McAllister
Chief Marketing Officer
3 min

Lean For The Long Term

A startup used the skateboard method for their mvp

CardSnacks was inspired by co-founder Mark Wachen’s own kids. While his daughter grew up having classic childhood birthday parties filled with brightly wrapped gifts and lots of cake, by the time Mark’s youngest son was old enough to have a proper birthday party, the friends arrived mostly toting gift cards instead. He attributed the shift to increasingly busy parent schedules, but realized even buying just a gift card still meant a trip to the store. Online gift cards were clunky as well, mostly involving boring email confirmations that had to be printed out and tucked inside a greeting card or awkwardly forwarded to a parent’s email address. 

Mark wanted to create a thoughtful gift card experience, combining photos, videos, music, and more, that felt just as meaningful as a carefully chosen present, all from inside an app. 

Another benefit Mark saw in making gift cards digital but still personalized was that it was an ideal solution for when you needed a last-minute gift.  “The situation I always joked about was that you could show up to a party, realize you forgot to bring a present, and duck into the bathroom for 30 seconds to quickly create a completely personalized CardSnack for the host.  Then you could schedule it to arrive 20 minutes later, it would look like you planned it all along,” laughed Mark.

With the skills and experience from working in tech for more than 20 years, Mark set out to draft the early wireframes himself, focused on delivering a really fun, personal experience for both gift givers and recipients. With a promising early version of the product in sight, Mark and his co-founders began building an iOS app. He first began working with Turtle to build an Android version of the app.

“My co-founders were exceptional front-end iOS and backend developers.  But we didn’t have Android expertise, and we weren’t ready to invest in a full time Android developer. We wanted to stay as lean as possible for as long as possible,” explained Mark.

The dedication to keeping the team tight and their efforts laser focused has meant they can move exceptionally fast. Mark never ended up needing to hire a full time Android developer, instead relying on Turtle to scale up and down any Android development needs as they arose. 

This year, CardSnacks is expanding to launch an intuitive web app that enables digital gift cards at scale for business use. 

“We realized companies were using the mobile apps for business purposes, like a real estate broker sending Home Depot gift cards to new homeowners, or a company sending holiday gifts or employee birthday gifts, and we knew we could expand the platform to make that all easier for them,” said Mark. 

The new web app, built with the same lean core team and flex-time web developers through Turtle, helps businesses integrate their contacts or CRMs so you can automatically upload contacts, set up automated campaigns for gifts or reminders, and stay in touch with employees and clients effortlessly. The additional development help freed up Mark’s own time, allowing him to concentrate on partnerships with animators to create more than 2,000 hand drawn card templates, and negotiate licensing agreements for over 40,000 popular music tracks.

“We wanted fractional work both for our animators and developers.  For animators, it’s easier because each animation can be a one-off piece of work. However with a developer, it’s a continuous relationship and it was important to get that right. Turtle helped us stay lean while finding the best talent so we didn’t ever need to worry,” explained Mark. 

The CardSnacks team has designed an almost entirely asynchronous work experience for both core team members and their fractional hires. The tools they’ve built have been structured so that anyone can jump in if an issue comes up, and with the team spread across the globe from New York to Israel to Belarus, someone is nearly always available to step in and help.

With more than 2 million cards sent  to date, CardSnacks is gearing up for a busy holiday season, especially as families and friends across the globe turn to digital gifting from the comfort of their own living rooms in lieu of holiday travel, and businesses want to thank their employees and customers, but need to do so remotely


It’s exciting to see the rapid growth CardSnacks has been able to achieve as a lean startup, and the team at Turtle is excited to help them continue to grow and succeed heading into this busy time. If you’re interested in learning more about hiring developers fractionally, feel free to reach out anytime to emily@turtle.dev


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