The first thing you see when you walk into Omaze is a wall of employees’ childhood photos. The photos act as a reminder to employees of the Los Angeles-based company, which raises money for charity by offering chances to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
“When you’re a kid, you use your imagination to think about what’s possible, to dream big without limits,” explains co-founder and CEO Matt Pohlson. “The photos remind us all to bring our inner child to work every day.”
“Dream the world better” is the core of the Omaze vision. The company brings that vision to life in two ways. First, it does so through the chance to win incredible experiences, like a walk-on role in Star Wars or Pope Francis handing over the keys to a brand-new Lamborghini, and second, through the nonprofits that Omaze supports.
The vision started when Omaze’s co-founders, Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins, found themselves at an auction for the Boys & Girls Club of America. The high-ticket item was a chance to play basketball with Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr., their childhood hero, but they were quickly outbid. Disappointed, they thought, “What if this opportunity was accessible online to all Magic fans around the world, and everyone had the chance to win?” Since then, Omaze’s platform has raised $130 million to support the work of more than 350 charities around the world. Now, the company has been named to Fast Company‘s 2020 Most Innovative Companies list.
The Dream Team
Omaze is methodical about making dreams come true. Whether it’s lunch with Amal and George Clooney on Lake Como, a customized Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van, or the chance to sit with Jon Stewart under Stephen Colbert’s desk, each experience is rigorously researched and vetted before being offered on the website. Then, Omaze’s marketing, partnerships, content, product, tech, customer service, and fulfilment teams bring more than 200 unique experiences to life annually.
Omaze’s culture is defined by five core virtues. “Values are beliefs; virtues are actions,” Pohlson says. Directives like “maximize your ripple effect” and “practice optimism” guide employees’ work and help cultivate an environment that encourages the team to push boundaries.
A Global Ripple Effect
The Omaze team is now working on new offerings, such as one-of-a-kind electric cars and million-dollar homes. The goal is to maximize impact and connect individuals to that impact in tangible ways.
In 2019, Omaze raised $25 million for causes, including $1 million to fund a community hub in PATH’s downtown Los Angeles facility, and enough to build a solar water farm in Kenya that will provide clean water for up to 35,000 people a day. The team envisions Omaze-branded schools, soccer fields in underserved areas, optimism centers, and more, where donors will see their names on the bricks and feel a deeper relationship to the causes.
The team is working to make Omaze the first for-profit company to give $1 billion to charity in a single year. “We want to maximize our ripple effect by providing both funds and optimism at scale,” Pohlson says. “Optimism is a superpower that can make the impossible possible.”