Merchant Spotlight - SCVNGR: building a game layer on top of the world


This is our second post as part of the Merchant Spotlight series, where we interview our merchants to glean insight into how they run their businesses. We hope this series will be a great resource to entrepreneurs who are just getting started!

This week, we're catching up with Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja at SCVNGR. SCVNGR is a location-based game where you go place, check-in and complete challenges to earn points and unlock rewards. It's simple, it's fun and you get rewarded for playing. SCVNGR has also recently launched LevelUp a daily deal site with a key difference. LevelUp focuses on repeat customers and has partnered with American Express to allow users to redeem their coupons by simply swiping their cards.

How did the company get started and how did you gain momentum in the early days?

Ever since SCVNGR launched its consumer app in May of 2010, we've been growing like crazy. We reached 500k users in October, 1mm users inFebruary and we're still growing exponentially every day. We've been building what we call the "game layer on top of the world," which essentially is a mashup of real-world experiences (like going to a restaurant) with game dynamics (checking in, completing a challenge,earning points toward a reward like a free appetizer --or even building long-term loyalty between a business and its customers).

What differentiates SCVNGR from competitors like Foursquare and Gowalla?

There's so much more to the game layer than just checking in, which is where a lot of other location-based services stop. What differentiatesSCVNGR from other place-based check-in services are challenges, which are fun, quick things to do at a place. SCVNGR partners with a number of big name brands, like Coca-Cola, 7-Eleven and Neiman Marcus to name a few. We're helping these brands engage their customers in a way that no other location service can -- which in the long term creates a more loyal customer base that's having a blast while improving the company's bottom line.

In March, we kicked off a pilot called LevelUp, which solves theloyalty problem of daily deals by giving people three, increasingly better deals they can unlock over time at a single business. We just launched the first ever 'couponless' deal with American Express inMay, which lets AmEx customers simply activate their cards withLevelUp, buy a deal, and swipe their card at the merchant without having to show a coupon at checkout time. This kind of innovation is shaking up the way companies think of customer loyalty and bringing our technology and game dynamics right into the customer's transaction. Which we consider an epic win!

SCVNGR is growing fast. What is your process for hiring? How do you find the right people for your team?

Being here in Boston is really awesome because we have access to some of the absolute best talent in the technology industry. We've been able to find people who are not only outrageously smart, but also honest, hardworking and committed to building something -- and building it big. When we see a certain fire in someone, we know it's right.

What are some unique aspects of your company culture?

SCVNGR's whole concept is centered around games, so naturally our office is awesome! We work hard, but we also play hard as well. We have Nerf Guns, A.R. Drone quadricopters, you name it! But what make sour culture really unique is how supportive we all are of each other.We have an all-company lunch meeting several times a month called"Lunch Time Share Time" where people can just talk about the excellent work they're doing, bounce around ideas and congratulate each other for their hard work.

Are there any principles that your company lives and dies by?

Life is a game - have fun playing!

What else is interesting about SCVNGR? (A tidbit or fact that few people have heard, for example.)

I'm actually a ninja.

And a Braintree-related question: What problem did Braintree help you solve, that other payment providers couldn't?

Braintree was the best solution out there for us as we started diving further into the transaction with LevelUp. Our goal is to connect people with places using game mechanics and that's what we're good at.What we're not good at is all the nitty-gritty (but super important)detail that goes into making a payment solution simple, secure and PCIcompliant. Luckily for us, Braintree had all the hard parts of that ready to go. We were able to plug in and get back to focusing on what we do best.

Jen Busenbark Jen is a Lead Product Manager who joined Braintree in 2009. She helped design all current processes including planning, building, testing, launching & just about everything else in software delivery. More posts by this author

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