The last few weeks experiencing the most amazing social phenomenon across rural Italy and now urban London…and how Niantic’s CEO “called it”

[NB: While Pokemon Go seems to be an overnight success, I would suggest you go back and read John Hanke’s January 2016 post about Niantic, the mobile/AR/gaming company he spun off from Google, Ingress (Niantic’s “other” game) and the vision that would lead to Pokemon Go before all this madness kicked off.]

Like many of you, I downloaded Pokemon Go a few weeks ago as soon as it became available on the UK App Store. It just so happened that when it was released, I was enjoying some time with my family in a remote village in Tuscany with very few things around us.

And in that environment, Pokemon was cool… but I quickly had to pull out my credit card to buy incense to turn it from cool to kids-yanking-my-phone-to-capture-them-all cool.

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Very few Pokemons here…

A few days later we went to a a more touristy local town and that’s where we first saw the “social phenomenon” that was Pokemon Go… In a town with a population of 35,000 and a church that counted at least 12 former bishops as popes we observed something incredible: A young boy, probably 10 or 12, walking with phone in hand next to his mother, holding her own phone, both walking towards the local park (which happened to be a Pokemon Gym) to meet an older (~70?) man I assume was the boy’s grandfather who was himself on a phone…and all of them were hunting Pokemons…

In close to 20 years of working in technology I have never seen a product acquire such cross-generational virality in such a short amount of time. It’s truly unbelievable

And so across towns and valleys, with help of some incense and insistent children, our vacation continued and we managed to get to Level 7 across Italy…

…But it was not until I came back to London a few days ago and fired up the app that I realized that I had been playing a different game from all of you. In remote Umbria you might run across a Pokemon or two or a Gym or two. In London, in Shoreditch, beacons of Pokemon surround you. My walk from office to tube station passes through (I counted them) 15 Pokemon points, 6 gyms (and more than a few people flicking their phone in unison).

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So yes, Pokemon Go is fun wherever, but it really comes to life in deep, dense urban environments. The game truly sorrounds you and the potential of this blended AR/gaming experience becomes apparent.

In his post from January, John Hanke wondered whether 2016 would be the year of AR. It certainly looks that way thanks to those furry animals…

Not sure if John could foretell the future but his closing paragraph seems so understatedly ironic in hindsight…Pretty sure it’s been more than a “few million” captured already

(phone’s fully charged back up now… gotta go catch them all!)


Christian Hernandez is the co-founder and Managing Partner of White Star Capital, an early-stage Venture Capital fund backing exceptional entrepreneurs with global ambitions.

Partner at @2150-vc backing technologies that make our world more resilient and sustainable. Salvadoran-born Londoner. YGL of the @wef Father ^3

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