I had a chance recently to catch up with Scott Dodson (in between late night calls getting him a Leaderboard up and running for a Vancouver workshop on gamification)
[Toby] What is Bobber Interactive?
[Scott] Bobber is an award-winning technology company that provides financial institutions with customer engagement solutions that drive high-value online behavior and monetization. Central to this is Bobber’s Engagement Platform, which augments existing products and services with game-inspired mechanics to deliver highly relevant, sustained user experiences for the young adult market. Our financial management app on Facebook, GoalCard, is a great example of what our Engagement Platform is capable of.
What’s the story behind it? How did you guys get started?
CEO Eric Eastman started the company out of his passion for financial literacy for youth. Having worked in banking (JP Morgan) and with Junior Achievement, he was convinced that better engagement models were needed for this market, and he looked to the game development industry to find them. I met Eric as a speaker at the LOGIN conference in 2008. By that point I had already become interested in using game mechanics to inspire action in non-game industries. At the time “gamification” yielded less than half a dozen total instances on the entire web but both Eric and I felt there was a lot of potential in the concept—if you could execute on it. I started as an advisor, then a consultant, to Bobber and after milling through a number of concepts and prototypes, we brought in a like-minded CTO, John Bito, and built a showpiece of the “vision”—a demo of the user experience—which won us “Best of Show” at Finovate 2010. With the industry’s validation, we formed and capitalized the company.
With GoalCard, our objective has been to provide Generation Y with a way to build a muscle around what we call “financial capability”. It’s easy to try to tackle too much as a startup so we focused around supporting saving for a short to medium term goal—the idea being that if you can successfully save for something that seemed previously out of reach, you could build on that to save for the other important things in your life: education, a car, a down payment, etc. There is really very little out there that is effective at helping people improve their saving skills. GoalCard also has a literacy component – people advance as they become smarter about money.
Games are the language of this generation and (among many other qualities) provide a framework to deliver unambiguous, positive feedback. Reinforcing someone’s experience of learning, of mastery, and giving them a sense of expanded capabilities is critical to sustain their engagement. You don’t come back to something that makes you feel dumb or incompetent. The combination of good gamification and a social context (the beta app lives 100% on facebook at present) is a potent mix.
What do current users like about your service?
GoalCard is still in beta so we are constantly evolving the product based on user feedback. We have great uptake on goal setting (currently anything on the Amazon catalog). The users who have linked their debit card to GoalCard play a lot of “Credits & Debits” a real time matching game where your scores translate into actual cash back towards your goal, and where players can earn “power-ups” for categorizing their purchases. These power-ups can have a huge impact on your score (and the cashback you earn) sometimes generating “epic wins” and as much as five to ten times a normal score.
We’ve had a remarkable amount of inbound interest from major financial institutions and now are engaged in partnerships with two Fortune 150 clients. We’re leveraging the same “engagement platform” upon which we’ve built GoalCard to solve some very specific business problems for each of them—one to drive increased 401K/retirement savings and the other a create an innovative way to deliver credit card rewards points. We see ourselves pursuing more of these B2B2C opportunities in the medium term. The F.I.s are waking up to the power of game mechanics and the one’s we are working with bring brand credibility and huge installed customer bases (nearly 10 million people with these two clients alone)—it’s hard to argue with these kinds of distribution opportunities.
I don’t have much time to write, so I don’t blog, but I make good use of my facebook and twitter accounts (@gamebiz on twitter). I also accept as many speaking opportunities as my schedule allows and try to “nail” them. The game I play with myself when I speak is “Can I deliver the highest rated talk at the conference?” I’m not saying I always hit that mark but I’ve got a pretty decent track record. I’m guessing that it also doesn’t hurt that the “metagame” I’ve been playing lately is Klout.