Akoha is an unusual gaming site where players must carry out missions in the real world in order to earn points. Missions may include inviting someone for coffee, giving a favorite book as a gift, or buying someone a meal, all in an attempt to share experiences with people and create a more meaningful world. Once missions are completed, players can pass on their points cards, and they can also track the cards to see how players have carried out the missions in the past.
Akoha is based in Montreal, Canada and was founded in December 2006 by Austin Hill, CEO, and Alex Eberts, VP of products. After attending a TED Conference on “Ideas Big Enough to Change the World”, Hill and Eberts came up with this innovative concept of using online communities to make the world a better place. In 1997 the duo co-founded another company, Zero-Knowledge Systems, which is now called Radialpoint.
In April 2008, the company raised $1.9 million in funding from angel investors including Canadian investors Ron Dembo (founder of Zerofootprint.net), Jake Eberts (film producer of Chariots of Fire and Gandhi), David Chamandy (co-founder of Lavalife), and seed fund Montreal Start Up.
In May of this year, Akoha was selected as one of Canada’s 20 Hottest Innovative Companies. They released a private beta of their game at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco about two weeks ago; the game is expected to be open to the public in 2009. Each person who receives a mission card will be able to register online and get their own deck of cards to join the game. Players can track their missions across the world as each story will be documented on the site. Players will be able to use a combination of real and virtual money to buy the cards.
The concept of “Play it Forward” and do something good for someone else is great, but how long it can sustain remains to be seen. As Chris Brogan summarizes the game, “Go do something helpful. Be a good person. Share something. Play it forward. Easy, right?”
Perhaps. But making money may not be quite so easy with this concept. Should we call this a “social venture,” and assume that making a huge return on investment is not the objective? I personally do not see anything wrong with that assumption, as long as the investors who put money into the startup are in synch with it. More often than not, mismatched expectations yield a lot of grief!
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008