Canadian Startup Social Stak Turns Professional Networking into a Game

Most entrepreneurs wear their hearts on their sleeve. James Karg wears his on his jacket.

There are two buttons on his coat today: one reads “I’d ship it,” while the other says “I kinda want to run my own show!”

His decisions stem from that desire. After giving VFS’s Entertainment Business Management course a try, he set out on his own as a freelancer while participating in local hackathons and gamejams. By November of 2011, he was an organizer for Startup Weekend. But despite all of the Canadian networking, it took a trip south of the border to inspire Social Stak.

“I took a trip with some friends down to Casual Connect, and by the end of the night up in our hotel room, we did the business card comparison game, all pulling out our stacks,” he recalls. “I got three times the cards. And I figured there had to be some way to get everyone networking this well.”

Back in Vancouver, the app was conceived at the Beakers and Beers event this past August. Currently being co-developed by a fellow VFS alumnus, the app will function as both a rolodex and as a game platform.

You can connect online to trade for cards of desired contacts, but in order to unlock the card’s functionality in Social Stak’s games an in-person meeting is required. There’s a plethora of location-tracking services out there that they could use, but the team seems inclined towards Foursquare at this point in development.

Two games are currently being designed. The first, and most intriguing, is a battle game in the style of Magic: The Gathering or the Pokémon trading card game.

Different workers will have different skills and attributes within the game. There will be some level of user input into people’s Social Stak abilities, but it will be up to James and his team to ensure that the game remains balanced.

When users are being turned into a battle character, a personality quiz will be required to make sure that the card plays out in game as they would in person. Efficient networkers will have priority in play; people with clout might have higher strength in combat. The second game provided will be a trivia game, meant to inspire people to learn about the people that they’ve met in passing and develop relationships with them “IRL.”

“We want you to improve your lead generation, followup, and understanding of your connections,” he says. “We think that by playing with them, they’ll be in front of mind. A lot of life is digital, and of course as developers and game makers and players we love that. But we also are hoping to get (users) taking  digital life offline. We all live in a crazy digital bubble right now, and we need to puncture that to remind people that their offline life is as important as your digital life.”

He and his co-developer are looking to launch fully in March of 2013 to coincide with South by Southwest, though no matter what they will at least be in closed beta at that point.  SocialStak will be a freemium app, with a monthly subscription option to unlock extra features in the battle game.

Social Stak, networking, and entrepreneurship all have one thing in common.  It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game.