Dan Rosen of Alliance of Angels, one of the world’s leading angel groups, told me a powerful little story a few months back. His group, like nearly all angel groups, was struggling to get his angels to provide updated info on how their portfolio companies were doing. They came up with a solution that has solved the problem in its entirety, with no complaints… and in fact with the angels RACING to see who can send in this data first.
If you are like me, you are wondering what they started putting into their coffees at the meetings, right? Well, you’re ALMOST right. What the group manager did was stand at the front of the room and said "I have twenty $5 gift cards to Starbucks in my hand. The first 20 of you to hand in a completed portfolio company update sheet get a card. Begin!" Getting this portfolio company info is no longer a problem.
Think on this. By definition, the angel in that room do NOT need a $5 gift card. Buying a coffee, or a large boat, is something they can do with their play money and never notice. Yet they raced to get these cards (and have every year since). Why? Because humans, especially angels who are mostly successful entrepreneurs, love a race and a challenge. The $5 card wasn’t valuable for the dollar value, but simply as a prize.
This has to be one of the simplest kinds of games you could design. And it generated amazing results. What might happen if we take this concept to the next level? What other game mechanics might help angel groups become dramatically more effective?