CSU, Chico News

Students Create App that Rewards Students for Not Using Phones in Class

Date: 02-20-2015

­­­Ernesto Rivera, Editorial Assistant
Public Affairs

Two California State University, Chico students are offering an incentive to students to put their phones down during class: discounts and free food at local businesses.

Rob Richardson and Mitch Gardner are the creators of Pocket Points, an iPhone application gaining national and global attention in recent weeks. When students turn the app on “class mode,” it blocks the phone from functioning, and users start receiving points. The longer the phone is in class mode, the more points the student accumulates. Points can then be redeemed at various local Chico businesses.

In the spring semester of 2014, Richardson, a computer science major, approached Gardner, a business marketing major, with an idea for what would eventually become Pocket Points.

Richardson spent the summer developing the app while Gardner went around signing up local businesses to offer deals on the app.

The project launched on the CSU, Chico campus the week of Sept. 10, 2014. Now, the app has more than 22,000 downloads and has expanded to eight other schools including UC Berkeley, Pennsylvania State University and University of Arizona.

Pocket Points has been featured in Time, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, the BBC’s “Newsday” program and MTV. It has also found its way to the Apple App Store’s “trending” list.

Both Richardson and Gardner have taken a leave of absence from CSU, Chico to focus on the expansion of Pocket Points and to add team members to be able to manage it all. Pocket Points went from a two-person staff to a 20-person staff in less than a year.

Richardson and Gardner are scheduled to come back to CSU, Chico in the fall.

Alina Tichinin, an anthropology major, has been using the app for a couple of months and used her points to get discounts and free food from Brooklyn Bagels and the campus Creekside Café.

“I really like it—you get free stuff for not using your phone,” she said. “I don’t use my phone a lot in class anyway so it was a great extra incentive to not check my phone.”

Richardson and Gardner quickly realized they had a lot to learn about running a business and received support and guidance from David Rahn, a professor in the College of Business.

“He got us from an idea to launching a product,” Gardner said. “We’ve never run a business before, we didn’t know what a business plan even was and he really guided us. We would never be where we are right now without David Rahn.”

Now the two Wildcat entrepreneurs are focusing on providing one of their most-requested features: an Android version.

“We want to release it ASAP,” Richardson said. “We know it’s in high demand; we know everyone’s requesting it.”

Another priority for Pocket Points is attracting national retailers and expanding to more schools.

“We’re definitely not just trying to work on local deals but bigger, national retailers,” Richardson said.

“Say we have Jamba Juice and get every store in the company, then we can launch at every school,” Gardner said.

For more information on Pocket Points, visit https://pocketpoints.com/.


Photo caption: Pocket Points cofounder/COO Mitch Gardner, left, and cofounder/CEO Rob Richardson in their downtown Chico office. (Photo by Ernesto Rivera, Public Affairs and Publications)