Playbasis, a Thailand-based gamification startup that helps companies engage with customers and employees through cool rewards and social games, has raised $770,000 in seed funding from Ardent Capital, 500 Startups and Axis Capital. The startup plans to use this funding to expand its footprint in Asia this year.
Gamification — the idea of adding game elements to services so younger users are attracted to them — hit the peak of Gartner’s Hype Cycle last year, followed by warnings from the research firm that around 80 percent of gamification apps will end up being losers.
Playbasis and several others including Badgeville and Bunchball believe there’s money to be made, as large and mid-sized customers seek newer ways to engage with their target audience who are mostly the millennials. Already, these gamification startups count Ford, Toyota, T Mobile, Marriott, Samsung and AmEx among their customers.
“I don’t think gamification is a fad,” Robert Zepeda, founder of Playbasis said. ”I think the lines between productivity software and entertainment software will only continue to blur. Foursquare, Waze, Duolingo, Line, and even Facebook are already incorporating gamification techniques such as scoring, leader boards, virtual currencies, virtual goods/stickers, etc.”
With around a dozen staff, Playbasis is hoping to become profitable this year. The startup’s SaaS-based platform leverages big data analytics at the back end that helps offer newer features on-the-fly. Its current customers include Accenture, Playboy Thailand, TMB Bank and True Corporation.
Gamification startups such as Playbasis are aspiring to become a part of a customer’s overall social CRM and engagement budgets by combining big data insights with machine-learning algorithms. But this transformation will mean going beyond just doling out badges and points to enhance user engagements.
I spoke to some state-owned and even private banks in India to understand what they think of gamification. A senior IT executive at one of the biggest Indian banks told me there’s huge interest but was unsure if his bank would set aside budgets for gamification. “We are looking at gamification increasingly to woo younger employees of our corporate clients. We found that many of them are buying products from other banks despite having salary accounts with us,” this executive told me.
For now, gamification is generating good interest among enterprises in South Asia, especially in countries such as India where smartphones are increasingly shaping the way new technologies are being embraced. Employers such as the Tatas and several Indian banks are building apps that combine game elements with serious enterprise applications. In that sense, the consumerization of enterprise applications is catching on.
But doling out badges and points are not going to be enough for gamification to make a big standalone enterprise impact.
“We feel that the longer a company works with us and our platform, the value we can bring compounds over time. We can collect massive amounts of data for our customers and offer a social CRM tool as well,” Zepeda said.
The big question facing gamification startups is whether they can sustain the initial interest and turn that into a revenue-generating engagement in the long term for enterprise customers. And this shift will also determine whether some of them can become billion-dollar startups on their own, or become a high-valuation acquisition target for large enterprise software companies such as SAP and Oracle.