The force is strong with startup Omaze and the team behind the ‘Star Wars’ fan experience

The UpTake: Co-founders Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins discuss how Magic Johnson inspired them to create Omaze, how the Star Wars campaign came about and their ambitious plans to build a charity marketplace.

J. J. Abrams isn’t quite done casting “Star Wars: Episode VII.”  The cast could include you and a friend. All you have to do is donate $10 to a worthy cause. And a Venice, California, startup is helping to power that effort.

The campaign is called Star Wars: Force for Change, an initiative of Disney, Lucasfilm and Bad Robot toward creative solutions to big world problems. And partnering with those entertainment giants is the tiny startup, Omaze, an online platform for fundraising inspired by Magic Johnson and helmed by co-founders Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins.

What follows is an excerpt of a Q&A session with the two. For the full version, go to L.A. Biz.

What inspired the idea for Omaze?

Pohlson: Ryan and I went to an auction that Magic Johnson was hosting for the Boys & Girls Club, where he was offering the chance to play basketball with him and go to the Lakers game, but it was one of those things where it was only available to the wealthy people sitting in the room. Ryan and I were in grad school at the time, so as we sat there as the auction happened, we couldn’t afford to participate, and we watched it go up to $15,000.

Magic is our childhood hero. There is nothing that we want more than to play basketball with Magic Johnson. So we just kind of sat there thinking, “Wow, this is really too bad that we can’t be part of it,” and when we were driving home that night, we thought if we made this available to everybody, so that all people could donate $10 for the chance to win, you could make so much more money, open up a whole new base of donors, and everyone would have the chance to win these once-in-a-lifetime experiences. “Read more”


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