Team Building Exercises Go Mobile (and Off the Wall) with GooseChase

February 3, 2012

2:30 pm

Anyone who has been through team building exercises before knows how truly painful they can be.  Someone tosses a NERF football at you, you nervously dig through your memory bank for a story that makes you stand out from the crowd, while simultaneously learning very little about your colleagues and feeling like you're wasting your time in the process.  Your boss says that it's good for team building but his eyes are saying, “HR is making me do this.”

What if team building exercises were actually fun?

Enter GooseChase.

GooseChase combines two premises, the aforementioned (dreaded) team building exercises with radical scavenger hunt objectives.  The result is pretty damn hilarious.

The Ontario-based scavenger hunt mobile app has already created quite a buzz, being the only Canadian startup represented at this year's SXSW Interactive Accelerator.  I caught up with GooseChase Co-Founder and CEO, Andrew Cross, to learn more of the inspiration behind his new sensation.

Tech Cocktail:  What was the inspiration behind a team building-based mobile app?  Where did the idea stem from?

Andrew Cross: GooseChase actually started as a fun project during a hack weekend at the University of Waterloo in early 2011. I've got a bit of an obsession with extreme events like Warrior Dash and City Chase, and my phone never leaves my side, so it seemed natural to try and combine the two. Since scavenger hunts are already a crowd-favorite, we just turned up the excitement and intensity with mobile apps and we were off.

The other key thing we realized was that most typical scavenger hunt missions suck. A list of “go find this” and “go take a picture of this building” doesn't stay fun for very long. So we've put a lot of effort into making our missions intense, but also highly entertaining.

“As an example, one my favorites is ‘Rickroll in real life,' where you have to knock on someone's door and Rickroll them karaoke style. And it's every bit as entertaining as you would expect. I think it's missions like these that have really helped us connect with our users and give them an awesome experience.”

(Editor's note: Awesome)

Tech Cocktail:  What is your favorite personal case study from a GooseChase team building exercise?

Cross: My favourite case study with GooseChase so far has to be the competition we ran in partnership with last year. For a week, we had ~1,500 people all over the world competing in real-time. We even put a couple “Super-Missions” in there that we thought only a couple people would do (e.g., shaving the BlackBerry logo in your hair, kissing a lobster, etc. – see below), but once the game got going, people started completing these missions like it was nothing. The winner ended up doing something like 110 missions and barely edged out second place.

Head Shave GooseChaseMmmm Lobster! GooseChase image

While the participation was certainly impressive, the key part, for me at least, was the social effect that we saw. As the pictures came in throughout the week, we started to notice that the “teams” were growing. What had started out as an extreme game was now a social game. People saw others having a blast and decided to join in. Even competitors were congratulating each other on their awesome photos. Something about GooseChase just sucks people in and the excitement spreads beyond those that initially started. That's when we realized that we had something big.

Tech Cocktail:  Does GooseChase ever look to expand this model outside of the enterprise or classroom?  Is there a city-wide scavenger hunt platform for down the road?

Cross:  We've taken a lot of what we've learned and built it into our v2.0 platform (launching soon!). Specifically, limiting ourselves to just enterprise and the classroom is a waste. This needs to be a product that can be used in just about any situation. We've already used it for schools, team building, big conferences and massive contests, but there's plenty of other use cases out there and we want to find them. And with the game discovery engine we're building in the new version, I think we'll see some very interesting ones emerge.

Tech Cocktail:  Have you received funding to date?  Are you looking for funding moving forward?

Cross:  As of now, we haven't taken any funding. That's not to say that we won't in the future, but so far we've been able to fund all our development with a couple government grants, revenue and the money we've received as part of the Start-Up Chile program. We are talking with investors, but at this time it's only to build relationships. This way, when we do raise, we'll know who would be a good fit and we'll have a pre-existing relationship.

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.