Gamify your Start Up

James Hamann
4 min readMay 18, 2017

Gamification. Sounds like a weird made up word right? Well it’s not, it’s actually kinda important if you’d like to set yourself apart from the competition. Essentially it just means taking something and integrating game mechanics into it, as a way to drive user engagement and loyalty.

As it’s a fairly big topic, and because I don’t like droning on for ages, I’m splitting this up into two posts. One explaining the background and about why it’s important (this post) and a second about the actual techniques you can employ to achieve it.


I’m going to use Snapchat as a quick example here, they’re not a startup now, I know, but it’s a good example of gamifiying an element of your app to retain and attract users.

In an attempt to keep users sending snaps, Snapchat added the ‘score’, I don’t completely know how it’s worked out but I know the more snaps you send, the more it increases. This all contributes to trophies, which can be viewed in your trophy case. It probably sounds pretty stupid as I explain it, but this score, and the ability to gain trophies, meant people started to send more and more snaps. It became a game to see who could unlock what trophy and the fact each trophy is a mystery, adds even more intrigue, it motivates someone to get a higher score. It’s a great way to get users sending more snaps, but also to get them to keep using the app.

If that wasn’t enough, they’ve also added the streak. Whenever the 🔥 appeared, it meant that you had sent snaps, within 24 hours, for three consecutive days to the same person. Again, this triggered people to keep sending snaps, because they wanted this cool, exclusive 🔥 emoji to show how ‘lit’ they are. Sorry, shit joke. But yeah, without labouring on too much, it’s a good example of how Snapchat implemented some simple gamification techniques to keep users engaged and loyal.

Anyhow, people love rewards and no matter who tells you they don’t like gaming, most people have some form of competitiveness in them. Even if they’re not competitive they still need to be attracted or incentivised to use an app or a product. I’m probably overlapping with the next post a bit here, but a simple loyalty card is a great example of this. You get one and you want to complete the stamps to get a free coffee or meal or whatever it is, but this simple card has incentivised you into returning. It’s added a reward at the end of collecting all of these stamps. It’s a great, simple, example of gamification.

Why is Gamification important?

I think I’ve answered some of this above in the examples, but I’ll explain a little more as to why I think it’s something every company should be thinking about.

The tech start up market is growing and with more competition popping up all the time, it’s important to think about how to make your app/product stand out. It’s important to find ways in which you can draw users into your app and make them spend as much time as possible there. Users are fussy, hell, I’m pretty fussy. I’ve only got so much time in my day to go on my phone, so if I download an app, I want it to add value, to incentivise me to use it again. If I open it once and there’s no real need for it, I’ll forget about it and it’ll gather dust on the final page of my phone screen, until it gets binned. Don’t let this be you. Remind the user, make it fun for them, give them a reason to open the app and engage with it. I’ll delve into this more in my next post.

What about our company?

We’ve looked at this from the perspective of users, but lets briefly switch it up on it’s head and look at employees. As a start up, or any business in fact, everyone will tell you finding and retaining good talent is one of the hardest things.

You want to create a fun, open, challenging, rewarding place to work. Sprinkling some gamficiation techniques about can somewhat help this. It sounds fairly obvious to have reward schemes in your workplace or recognise good work, but sometimes it’s overlooked and people keep asking why they’re loosing staff. Obviously it can come down to a whole host of things, but through adding some form of gamificaiton to every day work, people can become more engaged in what they do. They’re more motivated to deliver or reach their goals. It could be something as stupid as whoever makes the most code commits gets a free round of drinks. Something as simple as that would have people committing code pretty regularly, which is great. It’s a simple example but I’m sure you get the idea.

Next time I’ll dive a little deeper into some specific ways in which you can gamifying your product or app. Until then, thanks for reading and please share and recommend if you like what you read!