Entrepreneurs try to cash in on catching Pokémon

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In the past week, dozens of Pokémon related services have been posted to Craigslist, including driving people around to hunt Pokémon. | Sophia Kembowski/Getty Images

For some, Pokémon Go is more than a game. It’s a business opportunity.

Entrepreneur Anurup Kankanhalli is offering to drive players to Pokémon hubs for $15 an hour.

Drawing inspiration from ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, Kankanhalli sells rides to places where Pokémon appear, battlegrounds called Gyms and PokéStops, or the places where you find items to capture creatures.

With advertising on Craigslist, he said he’ll stop wherever customers want and provide recommendations on where to find Pokémon. As a safety precaution, he’ll exchange IDs with customers.

Gold Coast Dogs (above) is one of the PokéStops in Pokémon Go. The Chicago Diner, D.S. Tequila Company and Emerald Loop are also game locations. | Angie Stewart/ Sun-Times

Gold Coast Dogs (above) is one of the PokéStops in Pokémon Go. The Chicago Diner, D.S. Tequila Company and Emerald Loop are also game locations. | Angie Stewart/ Sun-Times

“You’re taking an idea . . . and trying to build wealth for yourself and build experiences for others and boost the economy in general,” Kankanhalli said.

He isn’t alone in offering what he calls an “innovative business experience” based on the app.

On Facebook, one man said he’s offering Uber and Lyft rides for Pokémon Go gamers at $8 for 45 minutes. On Craigslist, someone else is advertising suburban Pokémon Go “safari” group tours at $25 per person.

Chicagoan Jack Guffey is taking a different approach to capitalizing on the craze.

For people who have busy lives but don’t want to fall behind in the game, Guffey will go out to capture and evolve Pokémon for them.

He calls it “surrogate training.”

“People who have other things to do in their daily lives simply won’t be able to stay up to speed with everyone else,” Guffey said. “If a working-class person is busy from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., a surrogate trainer would be able to fill that void.”

The search for Pokémon characters such as Drowzee (above), created a business opportunity for Anurup Kankanhalli, who made $40 by driving reporters to Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo and PokéStops downtown. | Pokémon GO

The search for Pokémon characters such as Drowzee (above), created a business opportunity for Anurup Kankanhalli, who made $40 by driving reporters to Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo and PokéStops downtown. | Pokémon GO

The exchange works by giving Guffey access to the gmail or Pokémon Trainer Club account used to sign up for Pokémon Go.

To eliminate concern that he’d have access to personal information, Guffey said customers can create a gmail address exclusively for the game. If a credit card isn’t linked up to the account, he said, there’s no risk that he’ll spend their money.

Guffey’s service is also a tool for those lacking transportation or hesitant to take part after reports of gameplay gone wrong.

“You can search for specific Pokémon depending on where you’re walking, and you may suddenly find yourself in a bad neighborhood,” he said. “Services like me would eliminate that and pass it on to the surrogate trainer.”

The cost is up for negotiation, depending on what the customer wants, Guffey said. He plans to charge based on the requested action or distance traveled. The price per PokéStop, for example, could be 5 to 10 cents.

So, is business booming for these entrepreneurs? Not exactly.

So far Kankanhalli earned $40 for driving two reporters to catch Pokémon, and one other person expressed interest in the service. Guffey hasn’t had any customers, but people have liked and commented on his social media posts about surrogate training.

Still, Kankanhalli says, Pokémon Go is a movement.

“Businesses, people and the whole dynamic of life is changing,” he said. “I want to see where this goes, but right now it’s just a pastime for the summer.”

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