Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
Eric Yoo and Elmer Cha hope their new lottery-management app, YooLotto, ensures you don’t let millions of dollars waste away in your glove box or kitchen junk drawer. The app keeps track of any Powerball and Megamillions tickets you purchase.
YooLotto automatically updates for winning numbers, with prizes ranging from $10 to grand prizes, and lets you know if you’ve got some money coming your way.
“There was $53 million in unclaimed prizes in Texas last year,” Yoo says. “In the U.S., it totaled $800 million. We wanted to create an app that simplifies the lottery process and brings the money back to users along with great deals.”
“There was $53 million in unclaimed prizes in Texas last year,” says co-creator Eric Yoo. “In the U.S., it totaled $800 million.”
Cha says the idea for the app came when Yoo was in Destin, Florida, in December 2011, when he saw a billboard for Powerball and realized that the lottery game had yet to be digitized. From there it was about getting the technology in order for an app to read lottery numbers from a picture of a ticket.
In case you’re wondering if you’ve got any money sitting around, YooLotto also accepts old tickets up to 180 days after purchase.
“It’s a very specific type of tech,” spokesperson Kristin Kelly says. “It required a specialized team to implement the OCR [optical character recognition] program to be able to pick up the numbers.”
YooLotto is partnering with 7-Eleven as it rolls out in Texas. Lotto winners can find the nearest 7-Eleven to cash in tickets, and all users get special deals and coupons with the app.
“Ninety-four percent of ticket buyers are non-winners,” Yoo says. “We wanted to make all of our users are winners by saying, ‘Hey, sorry you didn’t win, but here’s a coupon for a free Slurpee.’”
Kelly says the partnership benefits consumers while also ensuring 7-Eleven gets people coming into their locations, as opposed to other convenience stores.
“Not a single convenience store has a marketing strategy to bring ticket buyers back to their stores,” Yoo says. “This sponsorship means that lottery customers get convenience, and the stores increase sales.”
Yoo and Cha got YooLotto off the ground thanks to their involvement in the Dallas startup incubator Tech Wildcatters in spring 2012. It was there that they met program director Stewart Youngblood, who helped them polish their pitch before going to 7-Eleven.
The pair has plans to roll out a version 2.0 of the app this summer that will support all of Texas’ lottery games. They hope to begin rolling out support for other states by fall 2013.
Right now, Yoo and Cha are working on adapting the technology to accommodate each state’s unique tickets while also raising more seed funding. They hope to be in New York, California, Florida and Massachusetts.
“I just say, ‘Stop leaving money on the table,’” Kelly says. “That to me was the biggest ‘aha!’ moment when I met Eric and Elmer. Whether it’s $10 or $10,000, people are forgetting about it, and that just seems crazy to me.”