When Brian Nichols participated in the Running of the Bulls in Spain with his brother back in 2009, the pair captured some great images on camera. They liked the photos so much, they even planned to have one printed and framed for their mother as a birthday gift. That plan fell apart when Nichols’ brother lost his camera.
Even if the camera’s finder wanted to return it, Nichols—who grew up in Burlingame and whose family now lives in Hillsborough—realized it would be impossible. With no name or contact information on the camera, it was unlikely it would find its way back to two boys in California.
“It was just heartbreaking,” Nichols said. “Everyone’s lost something valuable [and] they can’t really come up with how they would better prepare themselves for next time.”
Shortly after his return to America and still lamenting the loss of the camera, University of Southern California grad Nichols began dreaming up RewardTag.
Officially launched in February 2011, RewardTag provides identification labels easily adhered to valuable devices, such as cameras, cell phones or e-readers. Here’s how it works: Say someone loses a camera with a RewardTag attached and another individual picks it up. The RewardTag urges the finder to visit RewardTag.com, where the finder can enter the ID number on the sticker. Entering the number takes the finder to a page with the owner’s contact information, as well as an offered reward.
The idea behind RewardTag is that finders of lost objects want to return them if they can—especially if there is an award, such as money, attached.
To test the theory, Nichols and partner Danny Coorsh purposely lost 10 items in downtown Los Angeles. Nine of the items were returned.
After this test, the pair took their theory one step further. Using a weather balloon and parachute, they launched a cellphone into space. Four months later, they were contacted by a hiker who had found the phone in Joshua Tree National Park, 180 miles away. He returned the phone, refusing the cash reward.
After receiving press coverage from Southwest’s Spirit magazine, NBC and CBS for the act, RewardTag has garnered more interest.
“It all started with that stunt that I came up with with the weather balloon,” Nichols said. “It really got the ball rolling.”
The stories led to a deal—although Nichols said it is admittedly small—with Logitech, which is placing RewardTags on some products presale as an added value.
Another boost for the company was winning “Most Promising Business Concept” at the 2011 USC Innovators Showcase. While the pair refused any funding from the investors who voted on the showcase, they took on two advisors that they meet with weekly to discuss things like business development and branding.
“They’ve been incredibly useful,” said Nichols.
Moving forward, Nichols said he hopes to build more deals like the one with Logitech, contracting with electronic manufacturers to have RewardTags as built-in component on their devices.
However, RewardTag is in need of additional funding to produce its next round of tags and materials. Nichols and Coorsh recently started an Indiegogo campaign, asking friends and family to donate whatever they can to help propel RewardTag forward.
“Starting a business is extremely expensive,” Nichols said. “We’re trying to get some more cash flow so we can keep the wheels turning.”
To find out how you can help RewardTag visit http://www.indiegogo.com/rewardtag. Donors have until September 9.
To learn more about the company, watch the video (posted at right).