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Pay it forward and Karma points: Good Deeds Gamification (part 1)

July 16, 2014 • gal

How the Aleph venture capital fund is encouraging “karma” through pay it forward gamification.


We all want to be part of a better society. When thinking about employees, a corporate culture or the business environment we’re in, we’d like people to do good deeds regardless of whether they will be reciprocated, earning “good karma” (the quasi-buddhist take) or actively engaging in “Pay it forward” (the less buddhist take).

Pay it forward is a great concept and has the power to create re-occurring cycles of good deeds. The idea is simple – when someone does you a favor and you cannot repay them, you can repay some else, that also needs a favor or a good deed done. This creates a sense of good luck and a ton of positive vibes.

Encouraging “pay it forward” in the corporate world has real benefits. Imagine an employee who, upon joining the company, receives support, informal mentorship or just a few great tips from another employee. Imagine that new employee paying it forward a year later, to a newly joined employee. That’s a workplace everyone would like to part of.

We’ve even suggested a pay if forward game a while ago, in this post.

What about Karma? According to Wikipedia “Karma means action, work or deed; it also refers to the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual. Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness…”. Karma in the workplace sense is doing good deeds for the sake of doing them.

That’s why reddit uses Karma Points. It uses them to reflect “how much good the user has done to the reddit community”. Reddit explains how karma is created: “the best way to gain karma is to submit links that other people like and vote for…”.  Actually my favorite part in the reddit Q&A is the answer to the question “why should I try to accumulate karma?”. The reddit Q&A appeals first to the game and leaderboard lust in all of us, responding with the question “why should you try to score points in a video game?”.  Only then it advises you to “look at things from a less competitive and more altruistic perspective… don’t set out to accumulate karma; just set out to be a good person, and let your karma simply be a reminder of your legacy.”

That’s why I was delighted to see an attempt at gamifying karma – or gamifying pay it forward.

In a post titled “Add Good Karma to your Life”, Eran Shir from Aleph VC announced yesterday a beta for an app that seeks to get people to pay it forward. It’s directed at the ecosystem of Israeli entrepreneurs so that startup founders can help each other. What other name could the app have but Karma?

Karma is a “A mobile app dedicated to entrepreneurs who want to help each other, Karma is not another social network or about growing a volume of users. We’ve built Karma to give members of the startup ecosystem a way to ask for help, give help and share knowledge. Karma is about value and access, not vanity”

One of the principles behind karma is a Pay it Forward Economy. He’s how Shir describes this:

“Pay-It-Forward Economy – We help each other out of the goodness of our hearts, but sometimes incentives can be useful to get the ball rolling. That’s why we’ve added a pinch of gamification to Karma. Helping others and referring them to others will award you with Karma points. Karma has a leaderboard, where we celebrate the most helpful members of the community and some of the functionality of Karma, e.g. the breadth of audience to which your requests reach, will be dependent on your Karma points status. At Aleph, we will also provide unique ways for you to redeem your Karma points e.g. office hours and invitations to special events. Down the line, we envision Karma points becoming a currency and forming the basis of our pay-it-forward economy”.

Karma is in beta. I’ve registered for it. The next post in this series will hopefully include some (anonymized) screen shots and some take aways about gamification of a pay if forward economy using leaderboards.

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