BLACK ENTERPRISE | ARTICLE
ZUHAIRAH SCOTT WASHINGTON EMPLOYS GAMIFICATION TO TEACH COUPLES HOW TO MAKE EACH OTHER HAPPY.
Does technology kill relationships? Not so, says Zuhairah Scott Washington, 35, a Harvard-educated lawyer, who founded Kahnoodle in 2011 to help build sustainable relationships. The iPhone/iPod app uses gamification to intrinsically motivate lovers to speak each other’s “love languages.”
“I’m really passionate about Kahnoodle because 1) I really want my marriage to work, and 2) I didn’t come from a household that had a mom and a dad and a traditional nuclear family. It’s important for me to create something to help build and sustain those types of relationships especially as it relates to black people,” explained Scott Washington who met her husband, when they both worked as associates at San Francisco-based MacFarlane Partners (#2 on the BE 100s Private equity list with $4,400 million in capital under management).
The app has received numerous accolades from national media outlets that have applauded Kahnoodle as one of the most innovative companies of 2012 and one of the most profitable apps in the love and romance category. Her affiliate revenue business model has won pitch competitions with Distilled Intelligence, a startup competition in D.C.; Focus 100, a symposium and pitch competition for startups owned by black women; and she’s received an investment from Fortify VC, a D.C.-based pre-seed equity investment firm. Her reward for winning #FOCUS100: This summer she will be one of the finalists to compete in the country’s most popular accelerator, Tech Stars New York City.
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Washington was inspired to create the app after reading “The 5 Love Languages,” a book by Gary Chapman that describes the different ways in which people want to give and receive love. The app is a fun way for couples to work together to keep their love tanks full, says Scott Washington, who describes it as a visualization of how much love you feel you’ve received from your partner.
“One of the key issues that we face is people feel like there is a stigma to using any [outside agent] to help their relationship. There is the assumption that everything is supposed to be perfect. But Every relationship requires work. We try to make it fun and effortless to do the work needed to build a strong relationship,” says Scott Washington.
While Kahnoodle is free, her team is working to launch a new subscription-based feature called “Date Night,” which will help remove the barriers to people getting out more regularly, such as difficulties finding childcare; something the new mother is familiar with. Kahnoodle will receive a fee through affiliate revenue every time a couple books a date using one of Kahnoodle’s date night deals.
Black Enterprise honors Scott Washington and Kahnoodle this week not only because of her dedication to build and repair black love, but also because her app has had a 300% increase in downloads from month to month since she launched the “Love Coupon Feature” last Fall.
Scott Washington describes gamification as the use of game design and game mechanics in non-game contexts. “It’s commonly used to promote positive behavior change – like losing weight or saving money,” she explains. Here, Scott Washington gives three key elements that she believes must be included in a gamified app in order for it to be successful.
- Points, Badges and Leaderboards – There are limitations to each of these elements but they are the most commonly associated with gamification frameworks. They are necessary but are not sufficient on their own.
- Engagement loops: This is the cycle that encourages a certain action in the game. The game provides the motivation, causing the user to act. Next, the program provides positive feedback (points, virtual rewards, etc.), which provides motivation to complete further actions.
- FUN! Games are inherently fun. To apply gamification effectively the user experience must be fun.