A San Francisco startup called Grantoo bets it can make a killing on millennials’ addiction to playing online games.
On the site, students play customised, branded games like virtual Scrabble and poker for cash prizes between $75 and $5,000. And they can put that prize money toward paying off debt.
Co-founder Dimitri Sillam told BI the concept came to him around college when he realised how easily his friends wasted time playing games such as “Farmville” and “Angry Birds,” and were still mooching off mum and Dad.
“Everyone was playing games every day, but struggling to pay for tuition,” he said. “Meanwhile in the hallway, there was always some guy from a big bank trying to make us customers.”
The idea for a social gaming website clicked, and with the help of high school pal Mikhael Naayem, the two launched Grantoo this year. They’ve received considerable press to date, and are working hard to land more advertisers who will fatten the money bag for students.
“Kids are spending a ton of hours per month using these games, so advertisers will definitely be on board with doing ads on them, although you need a stimulus for the user,” Sillam said. “It’s something where brands can customise games, which are the DNA of the site, but associate themselves with something that’s charitable and rewardable.”
That the lure of paying off loans is part of a winning business strategy shouldn’t come as a surprise in an era of trillion dollar debt and students being forced to live with their parents indefinitely.
And while we may question how useful trading one bad habit for another might be, it’s hard to trash a site that makes winners pay it forward by donating at least 10 per cent of their prizes to pre-selected causes like Pencils of Promise.