Steal of the century: The story of Snatch

Founder and CEO Joe Martin describes Snatch as “an augmented reality treasure hunt. But instead of finding fantastical animals or beasts you find real life prizes.”

Every day they hide hundreds of thousands of virtual parcels around the country and challenge their users to find them. Then it flips into Augmented Reality (AR) and they have to capture and hold the parcel for six hours, stopping other users from ‘snatching’ it from you. No one knows what’s inside but with a prize on the line things get pretty intense.

“We create a frenzy on the streets.” said Joe, “A  guy emailed us saying ‘I have ten parcels every night and when I wake up they’re gone. Can you ban the person who’s taking them?’ It turned out it was his mum. She’d been saying to him ‘just go out, put your phone down, you’re too addicted to the game’. And there was another mum making sure there were no phones at the dinner table but she was secretly Snatching under the table. Mums are ruthless.”

With prizes like a year’s worth of Topman/Topshop and lump sums of cash up for grabs, it’s understandable why people want to play. “We work with just under 100 brands but we challenge them to be better. Instead of chucking loads of money at advertising on intrusive print, TV, billboards and stuff you can’t measure, we want to put their product in people’s hands.”

By measuring the engagement between users and the brand, it gives the Snatch team an easy way to see what resonates and how to target more accurately in the future. “We build those personas in the background and when we work with other brands we can say ‘these guys here like music, they’re 18-24’ and we start matching brands with consumers.”

Understanding what their users want is an essential part of what makes Snatch a success. “It taps into social dynamics. We actually did a study as to how people in the UK feel about how people feel about stealing versus how they feel about having stuff stolen off them.  Over 38% would steal if they could get away with it. The other 62% are probably lying. We play into the primal instinct of human nature but it’s a platform for discovery.”

Not only that, there’s machine learning running in the background, which means the game is always learning how to become bigger, better and more effective. Snatch trigger certain events in certain areas, while promoting a community-focused, aspirational movement. “We just made every football stadium in the  UK into a NOW TV safe house, where you’re safe from [other players] Snatching but you also get given a relevant offer.”

“Millennials are very much aware of their value. But at the same time, they know what they want. And they’ll get what they want. We don’t hide the marketing. It’s non-intrusive. I see this as an ‘opt-in’ generation. If you can get people to opt-in because they want to. That’s what we’re seeing with brands. We don’t tell people they have to opt-in but they can if they want to and we’ll tailor it.”

But sometimes there’s a downside to success. Early on, a lot more users than they anticipated meant the game briefly went offline. ‘All the passion from the community turned into frustration. It’s painful to see because you don’t want people to have a bad experience but most see it as growing pains. And because it had happened with Pokémon Go first, they accepted it. The difference is we don’t have a team of 60 developers to sort it out.

Snatch has grown from two people to nearly thirty this year alone, using the shared working spaces at WeWork in London. Even with their early success, they’re not slowing down and have just opened another office at a WeWork in San Francisco, as they prepare to Snatch America.

Joe’s Top advice for entrepreneurs

l “I got this advice at an entrepreneur’s conference in 2013. I asked what advice the speaker would give himself when he was starting out. ‘Hire people who are better than you.’ That’s what stuck with me the most. And it’s what we’ll do. Identify the gaps and fill them with people.”

2 “Fail fast. The whole failure thing, particularly in tech, is the best way to learn. We say to everyone here, don’t be afraid of it, just don’t hide it. It’s how you grow. Our job roles are all about learning, so the quicker you fail, the quicker you grow.”
You can download Snatch now in the App Store and Google Play


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