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!