Is SCVNGR’s Chief Ninja The Next Mark Zuckerberg?

by · March 21, 2011

Clockwise from top: Aaron, the back-end engineer; Kellian, the museum-geek; Mechanical Mastermind SCVNGRBot; and Debra, the unicyclist

Aaron Graves is 8-years-old and a back-end engineer at SCVNGR. His interests include dogs, Legos, Ruby on Rails, and throwing things at girls. Attempts to determine his favorite Sponge Bob character were rebuffed as “plebeian” and… “contributing to the commercialization of childhood,” whatever that means. This is how one of the team members of SCVNGR,  a game about going places, doing challenges and earning points is described by Seth Priebatsch Chief Ninja of SCVNGR.  Fearing human-rights violation, I Googled Aaron’s name only to find that on Twitter he’s a Boston University graduate with many years work experience.

SCVNGR has enticed comparisons with similar but perhaps comparatively less commercial-focused Foursquare and Gowalla.  In his recent SXSW 2011 keynote, Priebatsch talked about LevelUp, a  new project that offers local businesses a tiered loyalty scheme for customers that incentivizes them to keep coming back to get better discount deals.  

Facebook is all about connections…,” Priebatsch said unabashedly during a previous presentation at TEDx, “ it is so last decade,” and SCVNGR , he beamed with confidence, the game layer, “is all about influence…influencing behavior is so next decade.”  That is some smug confidence from SCVNGR’s Chief Ninja, almost always attired in orange with orange-framed-sunglasses- perched-tightly over his head. 


SCVNGR is currently a meeting darling and one of the most talked about platforms at SXSW, but for me, the team behind it is almost as interesting as the product. Like Priebatsch, the SCVNGR team is young, quirky and yes, cool – no cronies here!  His own title of Chief Ninja seems lame for the Princeton dropout, when you meet Chief Rockstar aka COO Michael J. Hagan responsible for generating “lethal levels of cash-flow”.   

Pixel Czar Will Smith (not to be confused by the singer-actor) is actually Design Architect experimenting dangerously with lens flares, gamma rays, and a blue screen of death. Kellian Adams, Museum Education Technologist, and self proclaimed “museum geek and ed-tech extraordinaire” who is on the go to reach museums, educators and students, and showing them how to use technology to connect with art, history and the Humanities in a totally new way. And of course she is always suggesting to the world, and in no particular order, to: “Learn to swing dance / Play a Scvngr / Go to the Iris Apfel exhibit.” 

Thanks. The swing dancing is a bit of a stretch though. One of SCVNGR rockstars is actually a unicyclist. Pray, then what is Debra Swersky, the unicyclist, doing for SCVNGR? She is the Event Engineer, busy executing a super large-scale promotion. Fabian Perez, titled King of Bling, is the designer. Kate Reynolds is Clue Shredder (in real life she just designs games). SCVNGR is also proud employer to 4’10” Melody Tran who works as Marketing Director, having given up her dream of headlining tours to rock SCVNGR marketing. Shell Riehl, The Infotainer, works her magic preventing cracks in the office infrastructure and keeps the diverse employees of SCVNGR happy and overdosed on culture, events and fun. But the best teammate, rockstar, staff SCVNGR can boast of is really Mechanical Mastermind SCVNGRBot, who is always happy. He is the tireless mechanical mastermind who ensures SCVNGR always works.   

Priebatsch often says that he wants to build a game layer on top of the world…with the team of rockstars he has collected, we are sure, he’ll succeed.  One of my colleagues predicts that Seth Priebatsch will be the next Mark Zuckerberg soon. Right now, I am too engrossed in Facebook to disagree!

Post By Anirudh Sharma (38 Posts)


Discussion8 Comments

  1. krumbs says:

    Good read. Loved the headline. Spiffy and smart!

  2. duckoola says:

    interesting read…and author has described it so vividly, it makes one wonder how exciting it will be to work in the same office as this ‘band’ of staff. SCVNGR’s success will be anyone’s guess, I mean c’mon, did anyone guess that the geeky Mark Zukerberg would have made it so far? I think not even in his(Mark) wildest dreams would he have imagined being mega-successful; successful, yes but mega, nah. If the Ninja fights his game right, he may just oust FB into the history books as one of those ‘one-hit-wonders’ but a notch higher than Friendster 😛

  3. jaydeep shetty says:

    i think Seth will probably do very well. But about being the next Zuckerberg, does anybody else want to be Zuckerberg? I doubt Social Networks will continue to be the next big thing. Also manning your office with people who are bright and possess a few fetishes or irrelevant talent is not necessarily a formula for success. This is a well written piece but i think assumes that the constituents of success in the digital space last decade will continue to remain unchanged in the next decade.

  4. Anirudh Sharma says:

    @Jaydeep Shetty: I can say with confidence that many, many people would love to swap positions with Mark Zuckerberg right now but you are right about one thing…dynamics of of success whether in the virtual, digital or national environment will all change in the next decade.

    @Duckoola: As much as I like the “ccol” SCVNGR team, I wouldn’t want to be in the same office just for a simple reason – I don’t want to be reminded at every passing moment of being an ancient, rumbling pre-hirtoric building 🙂 And whether Seth becomes the next Zuckerberg or not, FB will not be a one-hit-wonder anytime soon…but, that’s just my thought!

  5. Mina says:

    Interesting blog post but yes, I agree with the last line: Facebook isn’t “so lat decade”! It is here to stay! Games are interesting and increasingly popular, but comparing it with facebook sometimes gives me the impression of comparing apples with oranges!

  6. Uno Spazio says:

    Well written and smart … 🙂 you are doing very good Anirudh! 🙂

  7. Not a Kool Aid Drinker says:

    Seth ain’t the next Zuck, he’s just the next putz who THINKS he’s the next Zuck. Pretty sad how delusional and megalomaniacal this guy is.

  8. Ryan Biggs says:

    Mark Zuckerburg avoids publicity, rarely does interviews, and I don’t know that he has ever done a keynote at a tech conference.

    Seth seems to be on an endless self-promotion tour, so much so that I have to wonder which “rockstar” is running his company.

    He’s also one of those tiresome gamers who assumes that the entire world wants to play video games endlessly, not just 8-12 year old boys.

    I live in SCVNGR’s home town, Boston, and I’m yet to meet anybody who actually plays SCVNGR.

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