‘Pocket Points’ hits Chico State

Mitch Gardner, left, and Rob Richardson, the creators of “Pocket Points.” Photo Courtesy of Nic Jericho Negri

Mitch Gardner, a senior business marketing major, and Rob Richardson, a junior computer science major, saw themselves and others having a hard time staying off their smartphones in class. They created “Pocket Points,” an application to try to fix the problem.

The Orion: So what exactly is the app?

Richardson: Basically it rewards you for not using your phone in class. As soon as you start the app in class and lock your phone, you start earning points. You earn points until you unlock your phone.

The Orion: What inspired the app?

Richardson: I was sitting in class last year. I was in a kinda boring class, not paying attention really. I was on my phone and was just thinking there are incentives for all these social media apps. There is incentive for games, but what about incentives for just paying attention? As soon as I thought of that I went to Mitch.

Gardner: When he first told me I was like, oh yeah, that’s sick. I went out that night, and when I got home I was lying in bed and I literally could not stop thinking about it. I texted Rob at one in the morning and said, dude, we got to make this happen.

Originally the app was going to be for teachers and they were going to give out extra credit. We were flirting with a bunch of different ideas, then we just had to make a decision and go 100 miles an hour that direction.

The Orion: It seems like people are going to try to cheat their way to more points. How have you guys made it so that won’t happen?

Gardner: Well it only works on campus. At first the library wasn’t even included but we got a lot of people saying they want the library included so they can stay off their phones while studying.

Richardson: We thought about cheating a lot. One of the main things was that we didn’t want businesses to give out deals to people who are sitting on their couch doing nothing. The first thing we worked on was making sure the businesses wouldn’t get cheated.

The Orion: What are the rewards like?

Gardner: We wanted to make sure that with the app, you weren’t just getting average coupons. We wanted to get legit incentives for students. At Pita Pit, you get a buy one get one free, or at Crazy Jane’s you get a free pizza. We don’t even call them coupons; we call them gifts.

Richardson: We didn’t want the gifts to have coupon connotations. A coupon is something that your mom cuts out of the newspaper and uses. We try to make them more than just a 5 to 10 percent discount.

Gardner: That is what the businesses liked the most, that they can appeal to the college age market through our app. The companies can change their coupons through a portal whenever they want. They can also see statistics on how many people are on and using it that day and they can control how many gifts they put out at a time.

The Orion: What do you guys have to say about the criticism that this app is just bribing kids to pay attention in class?

Richardson: We have heard that criticism a lot. Older people we have talked to are like, well, shouldn’t they be off their phone in the first place? Why should you give them something for it? We say, yes, they should be off their phones anyway, but they are not. People who have a problem staying off their phone can use our app. We are the only app in the world that encourages you to be off your phone.

Gardner: We have even had some parents tell us that they want this for their office. We are entrepreneurs and we are always trying to find a problem and come up with a solution, and that is what we did with “Pocket Points.”

Michaela Sundholm can be reached at [email protected] or @Michaela_Sun on Twitter.