Start-up taps online platforms to raise conservation cash

A new game encourages people to interact more with wildlife. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A new game encourages people to interact more with wildlife. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

At the turn of the decade, I explored the social networking craze that had hit hard and broadly suggested that we should try to derive value from them.

It could have been argued then, that all these emerging digital fireplaces were passing fads, but the latest statistics point to them being deeply entrenched in our day to day.

In the second quarter of 2017, Facebook Messenger hit 1.2 billion and WhatsApp 1.3 billion monthly active users while Android clocked 2 billion active devices.

What has this got to do with fundraising or technology? And why run with global numbers as opposed to drilling down to a region, say Africa or even more granular – Kenya or Nigeria? Well, the ubiquity of the platforms and mediums simply means that we are now only limited by our ability to imagine global interaction and engagement.

I stumbled on Safari Central, a Kickstarter project by Internet of Elephants, a conservation-focused startup with Kenyan and US roots that has seemingly looked at these numbers and married the global breakout gaming success that is Pokemon Go with a very unique story and proposition that is challenging gamers to “rewild their world” by interacting with wildlife in their very own backyards and actively participating in conservation efforts.

Reading their manifesto it is apparent that the team has looked at the problem from a fresh perspective and incorporated the best of what technology has to offer, riding the wave of current and future trends to create what I believe will be a sustainable initiative.

That they were able to close on their $80,000 funding request plus some spare change from over 330 backers to bring the game to life was a near given, simply from the ideation.

Safari Central is set to be an addictive game based on data collected from actual wildlife movements brought to life in any environment through augmented reality starting with six animals - Lola the black rhino from Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, Mweturia the elephant from Laikipia, Rockstar the Pangolin from Tswalu in South Africa, Beby the lemur from Madagascar, Ethyl the grizzly bear from the US and finally Atiaia the jaguar from Brazil.

The game infused with all the elements that will drive virality and stickability – relatable storylines, awesome user interfaces and user experience, gamification, localisation and a touch of psychological tug on emotions.

Njihia is CEO of Symbiotic| @mbuguanjihia