It was the Spring of 2010 when we first stumbled on the concept of Game Mechanics. This idea that you could apply the “rules” that makes games like Monopoly so much fun to real world activities was fascinating. We decided to “gamify” restaurants for a couple reasons. First, we love to eat and drink at restaurants, maybe a little too much. Second, the “buy 10 get 1 free” punch card programs had been around since the stone age and are, well, kinda lame. We wanted to make restaurant game that was not only fun but dead simple, no checkins or scanning QR codes. Wouldn’t it be cool if all you had to do was what you already do, pay your bill with a debit or credit card? It took us a little over a year to build the first Mogl prototype complete with credit card tracking and a game based around competing with other patrons to win monthly cash jackpots based on how much cash-back you earned. Mogl was born on March 20th 2011.
1 month after we launched I went on the Summit Series cruise, one of the most inspirational weekends of my life. While on the cruise I saw Blake mcousky from Tom’s shoes talk about the one for one model. It was a no brainer to add a one for one model to Mogl where every time you eat out we donate a meal to a local food bank. This was an awesome addition to the Mogl game and ended up being on of my favorite components. Life was good at Mogl, we were growing like crazy. We expanded from San Diego to LA and then San Francisco. We had over 700 restaurants in San Diego, that’s 1 in 6 restaurants participating which had never been done before. The revenues looked just like a hockey stick and we were feeling pretty good.
I decided to take the company to a food bank one day to make our whole meal for a meal program come to life. It was an amazing day. Volunteering your time to help others is incredibly rewarding. The whole team was pumped and we went out for drinks afterwards and had one of the best nights of bonding as a company we’ve ever had. I came back to work the next day fired up about food banks and how our meal for a meal program was really making a difference. I started researching the hunger problem in the US and my excitement quickly turned to sadness. I was blown away with what I found. 50 million American’s suffer from hunger, what!?! On average they miss 16 meals a month and the majority of those effected are children. 1 in 5 kids in the US are meal insecure. It was hard to believe. And to make matters worse the US ranks last out of all advanced economy countries on food insecurity according to the IMF. Basically we have failed to take care of those who can’t afford 3 meals a day.
I also learned that there is enough food for everyone but we throw away 30% of the food produced in America. If we could just get the food to those in need before it goes bad we could fix this problem. If you break it down it’s basically a distribution problem and food banks can solve it if they just had enough money. They can deliver a meal to someone in need for around 20 cents because they get food donated from corporation, farmers and grocery stores. The problem is Food Banks are using the old school method of asking people for money and putting on charity galas to raise money. This is effective but it’s not enough. In any given city Food Bank donations are providing 20% – 50% of the meals needed.
It was clear to me that the system was broken. The government wasn’t doing enough and the old school method of asking for money wasn’t going to solve the problem. To make matters worse Mogl’s meal for a meal program wasn’t going to solve it either. But, what if we let people donate their cash-back? That 10% cash-back could be 10 – 100 meals every time they ate out. Would people donate? What if we gamified it? What if we made it fun to fight hunger. What if we made it social so you could invite friends and play along with them, maybe even compete against them to see who could donate the most meals? Once that idea popped up it was like taking the red pill in the matrix, there was no getting it out of our heads.
So we’ve been working like crazy for the last 10 months to completely redesign everything from the ground up. We’re launching the new app and website today and it’s packed with cool features. When you use a Mogl credit card at participating restaurants you’ll get an alert within seconds that you earned cash-back, we’re talking real time. Then with just the swipe of your finger you can donate the cash-back to a local food bank and we’ll tell you how many meals that provides to the people in need in your city. Then you can share it on facebook, twitter or instagram and see how you stack up against your friends. We’ve also built a hunger tracker which uses data from the Map the Meal Gap study to show the total meals needed each month vs the meals being provided so you can follow along as you, your friends and others in your city fight hunger.
We hope you like it and are as fired up as we are about this new way to fight hunger with hunger. Together we can help the millions of people who face hunger right here in America.