Sophomore engineering student Seth Priebatsch has a new way to spell success: SCVNGR.
His latest entrepreneurial venture, SCVNGR garnered Priebatsch a first-place finish in this year’s TigerLaunch Business Plan Competition for students. His winning idea is to create 21st-century scavenger hunts by sending clues to players and keeping tabs on their whereabouts using mobile phone text messaging systems.
Judges at the University weren’t the only ones impressed with the idea, which Priebatsch developed as a freshman with his older sister, Daniella Priebatsch, an “adwords” specialist at Google in Boston. Two firms, DreamIt Ventures and Bantam Group, are funding the fledgling company throughout the summer and providing office space in Philadelphia’s Science Center, an incubator for science and technology ventures.
“We’ve got the summer to prove this is going to work,” Priebatsch says, but the short time frame doesn’t bother him. “The way it’s shaping up, it’s definitely going to work out. I think SCVNGR is going to be huge.” Priebatsch’s Princeton colleagues in the six-person venture include classmate Valeri Karpov and Adam Finkelstein, associate professor of computer science.
Priebatsch’s first foray into entrepreneurial waters came during his senior year of high school in Boston, when he founded PostcardTech to create marketing materials on miniature CDs that can be distributed on postcards.
“It sounds clichéd, but Seth is simply the most remarkable young man I’ve ever met,” says Christopher Cook, director of arts education and outreach for the Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism and Special Events. “He is so goal-oriented. I’m so excited to see how many companies he’ll lead as CEO in his lifetime.”
The office commissioned PostcardTech to create a comprehensive virtual Boston tour for the mayor’s office, covering everything from arts venues and dining to sports and recreation. The office plans to roll the postcard out in September, using it to increase regional tourism and reach underserved populations who may not be aware of the resources right in their backyards.
Priebatsch, who plans to major in operations research and financial engineering, gets to work early to keep up with PostcardTech and SCVNGR, usually rising around 5 a.m. and logging a few hours before heading out for a run to clear his head. He admits it’s a challenge to run two companies and manage his academic career at Princeton, but he’s not complaining.
“They definitely complement each other,” he says. “Here I am getting a world-class education and I can put myself out on these crazy limbs and leverage myself as far as I can possibly go. It’d be much more difficult to pull off something like SCVNGR not at Princeton, where I can bike over to Professor Finkelstein for advice or talk with Greg Olsen [the engineering school’s entrepreneur-in-residence]. It’s a great place to be doing this type of thing.”