Heroes: Technology Professional of the Year
CEO and founder
For many organizations, embracing technology means email, video, social media, data analytics and mobile. For Jude Ower, founder and CEO of Playmob, it means video games.
Ower's company, a London-based tech startup, provides a technology platform that allows charities and game studios or other corporations to partner for social giving campaigns that capitalize on the booming gaming industry. Playmob partners charities with game developers, who then create an in-game item—say, an exclusive seed in Farmville—that players can buy, with proceeds going to the charity.
To date, Playmob has run 25 campaigns of this sort, working with major gaming studios such as EA and Rovio and raising more than $750,000 in funds for World Wildlife Fund, Oxfam and other organizations. And that's only one half of Playmob's business model.
The other half focuses on corporate social responsibility. Playmob created an enterprise platform that allows a corporation's employees to gain rewards in the form of "charity points." Sophie Fox, Playmob's production manager for charities, explained how the system works. "Our enterprise platform encourages employees to complete digital actions for the company (i.e., completing a training survey) and in return the employee receives a charity point," she said. "They then choose where they want to allocate the charity points to—for example, feeding a child in Africa for one month or providing a child in India with mosquito nets. This helps staff to feel like they are doing good while reinforcing the corporate's brand."
"This new way of using a corporate social responsibility budget is innovative and exciting," adds Fox. "Playmob and Jude have big ambitions—we aim to raise $1 billion for charity."
Ower spent 10 years as a game developer before founding Playmob, and the company's innovative approach to technology and giving is a direct result of her experience. She's combined the achievement-based rewards systems popular in today's biggest video games with proven crowdfunding tactics like stretch goals and social giving to create a tech platform that's the first of its kind.
And judging by its early success, there's a good chance it won't be the last.