Alumni startup combines video games with activism

Two USC alumni are working to make video games the key to a better tomorrow.

Alumni Kwabena Osei-Larbi, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in international relations, and Kameni Ngahdeu, who graduated in 2016 with a degree in human biology, are the co-founders of Kaydabi, a mobile game development company that combines philanthropy with entertainment. Kaydabi aims to create games that increase awareness for environmental and social issues.

Osei-Larbi and Ngahdeu started working on their startup two years ago. Coming from Ghana and Cameroon respectively, the two said that their backgrounds made them feel the need to develop Kaydabi and make a change.

“We had an interest in entrepreneurship and were passionate about games as well,” Osei-Larbi said. “We were playing games at one point and realized how powerful these games could be. This platform can bring a lot of change in making awareness and charity as fun processes.”

Kaydabi’s mobile games not only works to spread awareness for social causes but also to raise money for them. The games are free to download and play, but money can be donated through optional in-app purchases that is then donated to the different causes.

“The gaming industry is so big. To make a game and also having something positive applied to it, felt like that is what we should do,” said Ngahdeu.

Part of the success of Kaydabi is due to help from the USC Incubator program and professors like Paul Orlando, adjunct professor at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Anthony Borquez and Michael Napoliello, adjunct professors at USC Marshall School of Business.

“The professors at USC were super helpful. They made us see things that we weren’t aware of. After all it’s not about money but about how passionate you are in what you are doing,” Ngahdeu said. “Meeting these professors and taking those classes helped us a lot in doing this.”

Kaydabi ensures that everyone is able to take part in the social changes. Osei-Larbi cited one of his games about environmentalism as an example of the power to make a contribution by playing games.

“Our first game is themed around wildlife conservation and endangered animals. When you play the game, you get to rescue a character and vote for your favorite animal. Those votes are used to tell how much money each animal raised in that month. That money goes to the charity for saving that animal,” Osei-Larbi said. “So without spending anything in the game, users will still be able to make a difference. It is an interactive and philanthropic experience rather than just being entertainment.”

Kaydabi partners with the world’s largest wildlife conservation organizations like African Wildlife Foundation, World Parrot Trust, Sea Turtle Conservancy and Defenders of Wildlife in raising money for these causes.

“We wanted to find charities that cover all animals in the game. Each animal is tied to one of the charities so as to raise a significant amount of money for it,” said Ngahdeu.

Their first game Wild Warriors is set to launch for both Android and IOS on June 13. This game has an in-app feature that links to websites for each endangered animal that provide more information about them. People also have the option to donate money on these websites for the preservation of these animals.

Kaydabi hopes to address more topics with its games in the future, and Osei-Larbi says that this mentality to better the community is embodied in the named Kaydabi itself.

“Kaydabi is derived from a Ghanaian word meaning, ‘to learn from your past in order to build a better tomorrow,’” Osei Larbi said. Our first cause is wildlife conservation but we also want to work towards different other causes like alleviating poverty, access to clean water and child education. We hope to build a game around each of them so that we can raise money and awareness about it.”