There have been a lot of complaints voiced over the last couple of years from people who wish entrepreneurs would address the world’s “real problems” or do “something bigger” rather than create “me too” applications and websites. I’m not a fan of that sentiment but that’s really a whole other post I need to write. In all honesty, there’s a place and need in the world for all sorts of business visions – big and small.
And after watching a “big vision” TED talk from a few years ago, it has changed my life. Jane McGonigal presented this idea: Millions of people around the world are becoming gaming and computer virtuosos. Through video games, people journey to alternate “worlds” where they have epic journeys and become heroes. What if we tapped into that talent and desire for a world changing quest to change our own? What if we changed the idea behind gaming completely to create games that directly had a real world impact?
While at a recent Wild-Aid fundraising event, I was thumbing through the live auctions and found a company called The Blu that is trying to do just that. Created by Academy Award winner Andy Jones (for Avatar), a digital whale named “Big Blu” takes followers on a journey through a digital ocean that the creators hope will teach us all about our underwater counterparts and why we might want to save whales and their underwater friends. I was intrigued, and the whale, in fact, sold for a whopping $10,000. Proceeds go towards both the team behind Big Blu Wild-Aid’s outreach efforts.
Having been so enthralled by the concept, I was determined to meet the founders, so I sent this tweet:
Within 10 minutes, they were at my table. We chatted about the broader goals of The Blu and we talked about Jane’s vision, which they shared. The Blu is a beautiful digital ocean with revenue sharing for both the digital artists that create the fish and ocean life and the partner ocean conservation organizations around the world that support the educational mission. It’s not exactly a game, but it is a real-time immersive experience that by itself is a big idea and can become much bigger.
Revenue sharing with non-profits through games is not a new idea. Zynga raised millions for Haiti and has had other such fund-raising initiatives behind their games, but this is one of the first games/platforms that I’ve seen that specifically is targeting changing something tangible in the real world, and where the product experience is truly aligned with that mission.
Towards the end of our discussion, it occurred to me that they should talk to Dr. Sylvia Earle. She’s a personal hero of mine and this seemed right up her alley with what she’s trying to accomplish. Dr. Sylvia Earle won the TED Prize for her wish to protect our oceans. Sylvia has spent over 50 years exploring and working on ocean exploration and conservation. She spearheaded the Google Ocean initiative to help go beneath the water’s surface in order to help give the world access to what she sees on her regular ocean dives, so that we can help her in her quest to save it.
They were already on it; I had somehow stumbled into a breaking story.
Sylvia teamed up with Sir Richard Branson, Jackson Browne, Dr. Rita Colwell, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Graeme Kelleher, Sven Lindblad, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Nainoa Thompson, Ted Turner, Captain Don Walsh, Neil Young and Gigi Brisson (the founder) to create the Ocean Elders, a group based off Richard Branson’s idea of elders who help guide world leaders and world issues, but specifically focused on the ocean.
These elders are going to get on The Blu, June 8th, in honor of World Oceans Day and interact with members during the launch (remember the digital whale?) into the digital wild. You can ask live questions and join them on their mission to save the ocean.
From their press release they are going to send out after this post:
What: OceanElders, WildAid, and theBlu.com are holding a global online celebration at theblu.com, in honor of World Oceans Day, June 8, 2012. Entitled, “If You Love The Ocean, Download It!” Interested parties are encouraged to start registering immediately to ensure best interaction with the celebrities and leading ocean advocates expected to participate.
I’m so excited about this. I’ve downloaded The Blu and it runs as a screen saver so you are constantly reminded of our beautiful and bountiful ocean that is sometimes too out of sight and out of mind. I plan on sponsoring loads of little digital fish and I will follow the company closely to see how they evolve.
Even though 70% of the earth’s surface is water, if you took all of it and put it in a sphere of its own, it is quite small in comparison to the Earth. 860 miles in diameter, it is one of the single most important resources to our planet and human-kind, yet no one owns any of it and therefore it has very little protection. Thank you team Blu for dreaming big and using the virtual metaphor to make preservation of the ocean more real.