Believe it or not, Magic Johnson was the motivating force behind the creation of Omaze, a cause marketplace that raises money and awareness for charity by offering the chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Co-founders Ryan Cummins and Matt Pohlson were beside themselves after missing out on an opportunity to sit with Johnson courtside at a Lakers games and have dinner with him afterwards that was being auctioned off during an event the former Lakers great was hosting for the Boys & Girls Club of America. On the way home after missing out with a chance to hang out with their childhood hero, they began mulling their loss in a practical way. Why should life’s most amazing experiences only be available to a select few? In their eyes, how could a prize which was priceless only raise a meager $15,000 for the Boys & Girls Club? That’s when a simple but genius idea hit: what if they made these same types of opportunities available online, and for a $10 donation everyone could have a chance at winning? They could not help generate significantly more money and awareness for deserving causes, but all people could share the chance to live out dream experiences. Thus, Omaze was born, and in the years since its creation, it has disrupted traditional models of fundraising and simultaneously raised millions for charity through campaigns ranging from the chance to appear in Star Wars: Episode VII, to riding in a tank and crushing a car with Arnold Schwarzenegger, to walking the red carpet on a date with George Clooney. We couldn’t resist checking out the desk of Cummins, a man who uses the power of story to inspire social change. Prior to launching Omaze, he pursued his passion for using storytelling to create social impact as the executive producer of content for “Decade of Difference”, the Clinton Foundation’s globally televised concert event featuring stars of film, music, politics, and sports. Before that he created Untitled Thinkers, a media property based on a series of intimate conversations he filmed with 120 Nobel Prize and Fields Medal winners, Pulitzers and Internet Pioneers. Ryan started his career in cause content as the first director on “Live Earth”, the largest concert ever thrown, featuring 150 artists in seven major cities all on the same day. Here is a peek at this Omaze-ing guy’s desktop essentials.
- Little known fact: Omaze actually launched out of another company’s windowless storage room, where my co-founder Matt and I first squeezed around this desk. It very well could have been a local high school students failed woodshop project, but for sentimental reasons we’ve made sure it travels with us as Omaze continues to grow.
- The dog leash belongs to Chief, Omaze’s unofficial CFO, spiritual guide, and resident lap warmer. Chief and I have spent 12 awesome years together, and he’s been a high-performing team member since Day
- The Chewbacca bust is a donor reward from our Star Wars: Force for Change campaign, a partnership with Disney, Lucasfilm and Bad Robot that raised $4.26 million for Unicef Innovation Labs. The winner got to fulfill his childhood dream of appearing in Star Wars: Episode VII. And I’m now fulfilling my childhood dream of kickin’ it with Chewbacca every day.
- The script is from a recent campaign we launched to benefit New York Collaborates for Autism and Night of Too Many Stars. For me it’s a reminder of the incredible team we have here at Omaze, who quickly organized six fundraising experiences including the chance to attend the final taping of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (a personal hero).
- Adult males are supposed to drink ~13 cups of water daily, though I’m confident I outperforming that thanks to my stainless steel S’well bottle. I’d should also take this opportunity to thank every single member of my team for reminding me where I left it last.
- Finally, the beautiful lady in the white dress is my best friend and wife, Lisa. She’s taught me more about what’s good in this world than I’d ever imagined possible, and each day I am grateful for her inspiration. (Apparently so is Chief – he follows her lead now.)