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Changing the World One Check in at a Time

CauseWorld is a mobile application that allows users to “check in” to retail stores they visit in exchange for Karma points. Checking in entails using a mobile app to register where you are to share with friends, earn achievements or, in the case of CauseWorld, accumulate Karma. Once you collect enough Karma points, you can donate them to causes like the American Red Cross to benefit the people of Haiti.

Some may think CauseWorld is just another geo-location app in a location arms race between Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, and most recently Yelp and Google with Buzz, to name a few. But if you ask its CEO, Cyriac Roeding (as I did), you will get a much different answer. In fact, Shopkick, the makers of CauseWorld, have attracted some of the highest profile investors in Silicon Valley, with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as part of its iFund and Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and an investor in Facebook. I sat down with Shopkick’s CEO, Cyriac Roeding, to learn more about the newest iPhone darling to grace the app store.

Cyriac Roeding Biography
Cyriac Roeding is the Co-Founder and CEO of Shopkick Inc., a mobile application business focused on bridging the mobile and the physical retail worlds. Previously, Roeding spent a year at KPCB as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence identifying next-generation cross-platform mobile and online venture concepts. Prior to that, Cyriac was Founder and EVP of CBS Mobile. Prior to CBS, Cyriac was the Co-Founder of 12snap, a European mobile marketing and entertainment company with clients such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, L’Oreal, Adidas and MTV Europe. He also spent time at McKinsey & Company advising companies in the global media, software and high-tech spaces in Europe and in Silicon Valley.

What distinguishes CauseWorld from other geo-location apps like Foursquare and Gowalla?
It’s simple – CauseWorld is changing the world. We are not a game – we are actually affecting the world in a positive way, and all of that happens when you walk into a store and check-in.

Consumers get this. In the past seven weeks, we’ve been growing our current user and usage base at least five times faster than Foursquare did. We just haven’t talked about it publicly. We currently have about 14,000 consumer ratings in the app store – that’s about twice the number of other location-based check-in apps, and they have been at this for a year.

Why did your sponsors, Citigroup and Kraft, give you $500,000?
Our sponsors realized that CauseWorld is a next generation marketing platform. In fact, it’s the first company to turn marketing dollars directly into charity money – and at scale. It is a way to harness the power of mobile and social (Facebook) in an amazingly positive way and connect it to brands. The CPM rate is less than $8! And while personal engagements and endorsements to friends are made for the brands, the money invested helps feed families in America, support people in Haiti, plant trees in the rainforest and help fight cancer. Would you as a marketer rather invest your money in billboard ads or in amazing social and mobile marketing that also changes the world at the same time?

What is the strategy for CauseWorld? What do you hope to accomplish through users checking in at retail locations?
CauseWorld is a way to start realizing our company’s vision of bridging the mobile and the retail worlds. It’s interesting because advertisers and retailers are still quoting John Wanamaker, who once said, “Half of my advertising dollars are wasted. I just don’t know which half.” That was in 1886. The irony is that John Wanamaker was also the person who invented department stores. So the problem started in physical retail. What fundamental innovation in physical retail marketing has happened since then? We couldn’t really find one at a breakthrough level of a Google that created a much more efficient way of marketing in the online world where users could search keywords with offers. It’s Shopkick’s goal to address the physical retail world marketing problem, and CauseWorld is our first step. Through CauseWorld we are learning every day with lots of aggregated information what consumers want to do with their cell phones while out shopping, and what they don’t want to do. And while we’re doing that, we help contribute to the world – it is a great experience.

How did you decide to support the Haiti relief effort? Did you think this would be a great way to increase your user base?
We weren’t motivated by building our user base. We couldn’t be CauseWorld if we didn’t provide help in catastrophic situations like the one that happened in Haiti. We realized we had to find the right partner – the American Red Cross was the perfect fit. They are often the first movers whenever natural disaster occurs and have a great brand, so we were happy to work with them.

What was the catalyst for CauseWorld?
It has always been my dream to use technology to change the world for the better. We’ve already donated $250,000 in six weeks, and looking at the results, it’s pretty exciting. So far, we’ve helped provide 125,000 meals for families in America, given 75,000 people in Sudan clean water for a month, planted 32,000 trees in the rainforest, donated 14,000 books to children, offset 800,000 pounds of carbon, provided 16,000 pounds of food to malnourished chimps, and almost 9 million Karmas have been donated to providing relief for Haiti and 4 million Karmas to caring for abused animals.

Today, we are 7,280 Karmas away from providing 32 netbooks to a 6th grade Chicago class.

Anything else before we close?
Yes, three things:

Download CauseWorld – it’s free – and start using it on your iPhone, iPod Touch or Android phone – the G1, Nexus or Droid. If you’re already using it, get everyone else you know on board, so we can change the world. You can find it here: www.causeworld.com
Twitter: @causeworld or www.facebook.com/causeworld.

If you know any donors or marketers, tell them about CauseWorld. Our current sponsors, Citigroup and Kraft, are very happy with our results, and it would be wonderful if we could keep this going. We’re currently donating so fast that we’re not sure how long we can keep this going if we don’t find more sponsors soon!

We are always looking for bright technical people and brilliant marketers. We have an awesome team and great backers. We’re going to change the world!

March 1, 2010
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