Abhay Rana aka Nemo

A survey of OneCardToRuleThemAll companies

A lot of companies have come up with the idea for reducing all your cards into a single piece of plastic. Here’s a summary of all the ones I could find, and their fate. Beware: this field is very much a startup graveyard. The only remaining survivor seems to be Curve1 but it’s also the first one that’s attempting this outside of US.

There seem to be a lot of challenges (regulatory, financial, and technical) before such a thing becomes reality. And there’s Apple/Samsung Pay as well. Here’s a summary of all the companies I could find in this space. If I’ve missed any, please let me know, and I’ll add them here.

A photo of a hand holding a blank card

Curve (2015-)

Curve allows you to spend from any of your accounts using just one card, clearing the clutter from your wallet and simplifying your finances.

  • Curve has raised a total of $74M at a valuation north of $250M, out of which £6M were from a crowdfunding campaign in 2019.
  • Their waitlist is at 800,000+ users.
  • Curve faced flak for failing to disclose its usage numbers (<100,000 monthly active users out of total 500,000) to crowdfund investors.
  • Only works with Visa/MasterCard. Used to work with Amex, but Curve has a history of working and being blocked by Amex repeatedly.
  • See this page for some details on how it works.

Coin (YC W13) (2012-2017)

Plastc (2014-2017)

  • Single dynamic card with e-Ink touchscreen. See obligatory launch video with fancy AR.
  • Crowdfunded $9M on pre-orders in October 2014.
  • Delayed launch to April 2016, and then again to September 2016.
  • Shut down and declared bankruptcy in April 2017.
  • Complete story via digg.com.

Stratos (2015-2015)

Swyp (2014-2017)

  • Had a pre-order campaign in 2014.
  • Raised $5M from Khosla Ventures in 2017.
  • Tried to pivot in 2017, failed.
  • Offered customers a debit card with an app called Hoot in 2017 as an alternative to refunds. I don’t think the Hoot card ever materialized.
  • Tilt (Swyp’s payment processor) also ceased operations in 2017, due to unrelated reasons.
  • Swyp finally shut down in December 2017.

Final (YC W15) (2014-2017)

  • Final was with a credit card with a different number for every website. As a independent card, Final doesn’t exactly fit in this list, but it’s a very relevant and loved product.
  • Announced itself with a snazzy video in mid 2014
  • Raised $4M and launched in August 2016, but remained invite-only till the very end.
  • Final’s blog has some interesting content: A Request for Credit Cards program to build card-issuance backed businesses and the Payment card landscape for 2017.
  • Shut down in december 2017 and acquired by Goldman Sachs in an acqui-hire.

Indian Landscape

India hasn’t seen a true single-card app yet, but there have been lots of related attempts:

With the emergence of UPI, and low penetration rate of credit cards, I don’t see a market in India - but I’d love to be proven wrong.


Did I miss anything? Reach out and let me know.

Thanks to Harman for reviewing drafts of this, and PRL for getting me interested enough to document this.

  1. Curve used to live on imaginecurve.com, then switched to curve.app and now to curve.com, which must have cost them millions. 

  2. Unlike others on the list, vCard is entirely a virtual card, and supports UPI transfers from your credit limit. 

His Dark Materials Season 1 Readthrough

A long time ago, I tried to do a readthrough for Game of Thrones (Book 1) alongside the first season. I managed to reach Episode 5, before I sped through the rest of the book, but I tried.

Trying something similar for His Dark Materials, which is a great series if you’re looking to watch something new. Instead of noting down Chapter/Book equivalence (like I tried last time), going to write down my thoughts here as I’m reading along. Spoiler Warning for the entire first season obviously.

Overall

The show is very tightly knit with the book with a few over-arching changes from the story-telling perspective:

  • You get to see other points-of-view, other than just Lyra. Helps establish what else is happening, especially in the other worlds.
  • A lot of infodumps are prevented, or better, broken down into multiple sessions.
  • The major change from the first book is ofcourse showing Will’s PoV and our earth.

Chapter 1

  • The opening scene with the great flood sets some context, but isn’t in the books.
  • The Master/Butler chat on the wine poisoining happens much later in the books.
  • There is a lot of foreshadowing around Lyra’s parentage that happens in the first 2 chapters that is entirely missed in the show.

Chapter 2

  • The entire Grumman’s skull and hunt sub-plot hasn’t shown up in the book so far (presumably because we only see Lyra’s PoV).
  • The party scene is very-well handled (with all the subtle changes for the better. Superb acting as well :)
  • The hiding-lyra-in-the-boat scene is merely given a passing mention in the book, but so well done in the show.

Chapter 3

  • Splitting Lyra’s parentage reveal (Coulter reveals her father) is a smart move in the show.
  • The show changes Lyra’s kidnappers from Turkish slavers to Gobblers.
  • The Alethiometer reveal happens with both Father Coram and John Fa in the book. The section also has a huge infodump, especially since it involves the parentage reveal. The show breaks it into 3: alethiometer reveal with Father Coram, a previous interrogation of Lyra with John Fa, and Lyra’s parentage reveal (mother) with Ma Costa.

Chapter 4

  • The one notable “not-in-the-book” scene is the Coulter’s meeting with Iofur.

Chapter 5

  • Interesting to note that the characters of Billy and Roger are fused in both the film and the TV adaptations.

Chapter 6

  • Lyra starts a fire in the books, but the show makes it more dramatic by destroying the machine.
  • The balloon ride covers a lot more in the books.

Learnings

Overall, the show has been nicely adapted so far, and I think there’s a few reasons:

  1. The show barely messes with Lyra’s timeline. Important to ensure this to avoid creating cascading issues down the path.
  2. Majority of the changes are either made on kill-able subplots, or side-plots that show us what’s going on elsewhere.
  3. And finally, the show spends time on where the medium works best. The scaring scene in Chapter 2, for eg.

I’m still sad that the ghosts in the crypt don’t get to be seen, though.

Star Wars Beskar Viewing Order

I tweeted out my recommended viewing order for Star Wars recently1:

Thought I should expand a bit on the what and why. Spoilers towards the end (marked). I also went ahead and named it:

The Beskar Order

  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
  3. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Returns
  4. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
  5. The Mandalorian (S01E01-04)
  6. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
  7. The Mandalorian (S01E05-08)

If you’ve enjoyed the above, you should pick between the following 2 next:

  1. If you liked the core Skywalker Saga (Episodes IV-VI), and want to explore Anakin’s origins - Go and watch the prequel trilogy (Episode I, II, III).
  2. If you liked Force Awakens, you should go finish the sequels (Star Wars Episode VIII, IX)

In either case, I want to leave this as a choice to the viewer. The prequel trilogy has a lot of flaws. The Machete order famously drops an entire film, and it wasn’t even trying to make room. Go to the prequels if you want to explore the lore. On the flip side, if you liked how Disney handled Episode VII, and want to see closing arcs for the major characters, try the sequels. I wouldn’t recommend interleaving them - it doesn’t get you much and makes it confusing.

If you’re still here after finishing both of these (that makes for a total of 10 films and 1 season of telly) - you ought to explore for yourselves. Here’s suggestions depending on what you’d like:

Clone Wars (TV Series, 7 seasons)
for exploring the franchise at a less grand scale. There’s an Essential viewing order, which covers all the major arcs and best episodes.
The Mandalorian (Season 2, Oct 2020)
To find out what happens to Baby Yoda
Star Wars: Rebels (TV Series, 4 Seasons)
If you want to explore new characters and like something Firefly-esque.

There are boardgames, RPGs, and some really great books in the franchise as well. Pick what you’d like to explore.


Inspiration

The classic Machete Order which does a lot of great things, by skipping a film, preserving tension and plot-twists. Also of note are the various fan-edits, of which I’ve only ever tried The Phantom Edit.

Rationale

I tried to optimize for a few things:

  1. Fun while watching the series. So good stuff comes first, paired films etc, and intentionally including The Mandalorian.
  2. Easy stoppage. In case you don’t like the series, you should be able to stop midway, and still have seen the important/best bits.
  3. Sticking to chronological order in the stuff I picked (as much as possible). Sticking to chronology makes it easier to consume.
  4. Total time. I don’t want to prescribe a “complete-viewing-order”, but rather a “starting point”.

(1) is easy to optimize for. (2/3) results in things getting thrown around a bit, and (4) means I leave out stuff that you should pick for later.

Why not include __?

This is not meant to be an exhaustive order, and I was optimizing for total time. Important mentions:

Solo
Not really essential viewing.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The film is terrible (5.9 on IMDB), because it wasn’t meant to be one.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV Series
I wanted to stick to the main saga, and its just too damn long to recommend casually in any viewing order.
Star Wars: Holiday Special
I still can’t bring myself to finish it. It isn’t even canon any more (Life Day is)
Legends/Resistance
Again, not essential viewing.

FAQ

Who is this for?
Recommended for first-time viewers. If you are doing a rewatch, I recommend following The Beskar Machete order.
Have you watched everything Star Wars?
I can’t even claim to have watched all 12 films, because I couldn’t finish The Clone Wars (movie). I’m still watching Clone Wars (TV series).
Why Beskar?
I wanted something that would work well with Machete, for the hybrid order. It also makes a point about The Mandalorian 2 belonging in the order.
I don’t have this much time!
I’ve tried to optimize for viewing time already. If you wanna trim further - you’ll be left with just the original trilogy (Episode IV, V, VI). Alternatively, just watch The Mandalorian - it stands very well by itself.
Did you backdate this post while publishing?
Yes. I wrote it just a few days after May 4th, and thought it would be nice.

More Rationale (SPOILERS AHEAD)

SPOILERS FROM HERE ONWARDS FOR ALL 12 FILMS. READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL

Why start with Rogue One?

Rogue One is a great film, and I love how well it segues into A New Hope. Watching them both back-to-back makes for a great experience. You have this ragged group that has laid down their lives for just a memory chip - and you get to see that bloom into an entire saga. Finishing the original trilogy from there makes sense. The Machete order strongly recommends against starting with Rogue One, but I’ve tried it and it works.

Why not stick with the Machete order as well?
The Machete order goes (IV, V, II, III, VI), deciding to leave out Episode I, and wedging Episodes II, III before you see Return of the Jedi. I was optimizing for time here a bit, and I had to leave the prequels as “for-later” in order to make space for the remaining. If you’re doing a rewatch, and aren’t short on time - you can totally follow it. This is what it morphs into:3
Beskar Machete Order
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
  • Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Returns
  • Star Wars: Episiode II - Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith
  • Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
  • The Mandalorian (S01E01-04)
  • Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
  • The Mandalorian (S01E05-08)
  • Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
  • Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker
Why add the Mandalorian at all?
Because frankly - it is both a piece of art, and the best entry into the Star Wars canon in a long time. It also fits into chronological order just after Return of the Jedi - you see how the New Republic has been incompetent, and the ashes of the Empire. You get to experience the power vaccuum in the galaxy, which hopefully makes sense before jumping into The Force Awakens and rise of the First Order.
Why jump to Episode VII (The Force Awakens) instead of finishing The Mandalorian?
We jump a bit ahead (before finishing The Mandalorian) to “A Force Awakens”, getting to just the start of Rey’s story. This is the only “chronology break” in the order, but has no side-effects4. The reason for the jump (as opposed to finishing The Mandalorian first) is to have a switch in pace. While I love The Mandalorian, I think pacing it out makes it better.
Why keep Episode VII (The Force Awakens) but not the other sequels?
The best and the worst thing about The Force Awakens is that it is very much “Star Wars”. It doesn’t take any risks, sticks to the tropes, and more importantly - it closes mostly as a self-contained film. Yes, there are a few plot-hooks (Rey’s parentage, Luke, Finn’s coma), but given how badly they are resolved in the following films - it seems Disney didn’t have any better idea to the answers than the viewers. It also gives you a “tasting experience” of the sequels. The sequels have always been polarizing, and watching it gives you a better heading to make the choice b/w Prequels/Sequels later on in the order.

We close with The Mandalorian finale. The Mandalorian isn’t, strictly speaking, essential viewing. While there are hooks, it doesn’t really change anything of consequence to the main saga (at least not in Season 1). But frankly, it is so well made - you deserve to enjoy it. Just look at the trailer:

If you have feedback, send me a tweet. If you’re reading this in the future, note that this was written in May 2020 and could not include media yet to be published.

  1. Happy Star Wars Day! 

  2. Beskar is the Star Wars universe’s Vibranium, and features majorly in The Mandalorian as a minor plot device. 

  3. The arguments against starting with Rogue One don’t even apply to rewatches, so we ignore the Machete Guideline to keep it to the end. 

  4. In other words, watching The Force Awakens can’t alter the experience of watching the last few episodes of The Mandalorian season 1.