I created a startup hijacking the psychology behind playing the lottery to help people save money. We’ve given away over $14 million in cash prizes in nightly prize drawings. AMA about lottery odds, the psychology behind lotteries, or about prize-...
All banks make money - but if you look at the schemes mentioned like UK premium bonds, it's just a different way of paying interest on savings which are secure.
So, you never lose your money (like a savings account), and instead of some miserable rate of interest instead you might "win" a chunk of cash each month like a lottery.
For a lot of folks, this is like playing the lottery (fun, more interesting) but you get to keep the money you paid for the tickets. Given how much a lot of folks throw at lottery tickets every year, it's really not a bad scheme.
Yes this is correct.
We do make money, but people who use Yotta don't lose money. We are a for profit business, but that doesn't mean we can't all be winners. The state lottery is a monopolized product which makes it a horrific economic value for people. With us, you don't lose anything, can only win. And it scratches the lottery itch
I mean that's a bit of a lie isn't it? Anybody shopping for a savings account is going to lose money by stuffing it in a mattress instead of getting interest; you're not claiming that your accounts have industry-record-breaking yields, so your members do lose money in a sense.
Frankly I think you would be better off marketing as a savings account with fun bonuses than as a moral crusade against gambling...
Yes that's the difference between a loss and a foregone gain. Theoretically, you are right. But practically speaking with how humans actually behave, you aren't.
The vast majority of consumer deposits in the US are earning nothing. People aren't motivated to earn a guaranteed 3% instead of their 0%. It doesn't move the needle enough. What is way more exciting is the chance to win big, and winning 3% on average.
We have psychological biases towards winning big instead of getting guaranteed tiny amounts. And if we can help people get more on average than the 0% at a big bank and help them not lose hundreds of dollars a year playing the lottery, because we scratch that itch, then this is a win for everyone, except the big banks and the lottery.
I appreciate this comment as I think there is a non negligible portion of the population that doesn’t really understand how low banking rates are for most individuals/personal accounts. It doesn’t move the needle. This recent banking situation may end up forcing the banks to offer more in interest yields to get people to continue to park their money. Good luck with your efforts - it makes sense to me. May end up on the site.
If nothing else, I appreciate you being able to candidly respond to the tough questions.
How do we know people are actually winning and there is no other funny business going on?
Check out https://www.withyotta.com/transparency
So does it essentially pool the accrued interest from all accounts and instead of paying out each account, each account gets a chance at the lottery? With this set up does someone saving $50 a week ever win big? Or would you need to do multiple deposits to earn multiple tickets? It seems heavily skewed towards larger depositors that get 10-50x the "tickets "per deposit?
Yeah that's a good mental model for how it works. Yeah we have had small balances win big. Someone won $500k once. They had more than $50 though I think.
The more you have on balance, the better your chances cause you get more tickets, but people get lucky on the small end too.
With the more you have on balance what are the odds if you have one million vs one penny?
$1m would get you 40k tickets, so 40k better chance than if you had 1 ticket
Another system that favors the wealthy. Sick business model dude.
No more so than every other banking model.
At least this help motivate people to save money. Rather than waste it on a lottery ticket, they save the cash in case they need it. With nearly 60% of Americans having less than $500 in savings any system that promotes savings is a good system.
Yes the comment by u/two_cheeseburgers is impossible to solve for in the business models of banking.
It's math that a % return will have a higher absolute figure on bigger amounts. There is no way to solve for that.
“Frankly I think you would be better off marketing as a savings account with fun bonuses than as a moral crusade against gambling...”
This is legit. Unfortunately doesn’t market as well.
Edit: they are trying to get the people that drop 20-30 bucks (or more)on lottery per month to deposit with them instead.
I mean all it takes is a smear campaign outting their motives to inadvertently defund teachers. The public school system largely gets funding through state lotteries. If they wanted to do a moral crusade against lotteries they'd start a grant to pay for people in uneducated regions to take stats 101.
There's a better way to fund school systems than giving the public a horrific value on a lottery.
So if I understand things correctly instead of a fixed interest rate you're offering a return on investment in the form of lottery tickets? "Hijacking the psychology behind playing the lottery to help people save money" is a bit much then, not sure how they're saving money as I don't see how you have any proof that money they deposit in your accounts is somehow deducted from what someone would spend on lottery tickets?
Fair business model of course but I just don't think it's as ethical as you make it out to be
It's certainly true not everyone is curbing their lottery spend and using us, but many people do. And that is awesome.
How do you generate the profits that can then be distributed as "lotterized interest"?
Our partner bank earns revenue on interest rates (lending) like other banks. We get a portion of that
Oh, so it's not from fees? The lottery rewards are budgeted from leveraging interest on deposits.
Do you have fees? What are the interest rates on your accounts?
Correct. Not from fees. We have low balance fees (balances under $5) and instant withdrawal fees. But only if you use that feature.
On average, we pay out around 2.70% (average value of the prizes)
instant withdrawal fees
What is an instant withdrawal fee?
Instant transfer to a debit card
Yeah but state lotteries bring in lots of useful tax money no?
In an extremely inefficient way, yes. Hurt the public and bring in tax money to then help the public? Circular, with dead weight loss.
How do you figure?
the way i understand it, it would be exactly like putting my money into bonds but instead of reinvesting the interest or taking it as cash, i am buying lottery tickets. You are receiving interest in the form of lottery tickets. this company takes out the middle man of buying the tickets and having it automatic which is nice.
higher the savings account do i have a higher chance of winning. IE 1000 account vs 10000
does your for profit margins higher than typical lotteries and are you transparent on how you are paying out
Yes higher chance of winning with higher balance -> more tickets.
The lotteries have insane profit margins. Ours is way way less. Check out https://www.withyotta.com/transparency
Adam, you've posted six other IAmAs under a different account, plus posts to TIL and /r/entrepreneur, under a different account.
Do you have any plans to expand your company that don't involve spamming Reddit?
(AMA 1, AMA 2, AMA 3, AMA 4, TIL, AMA 5, AMA 6, Entrepreneur subreddit)
These have always been very very popular and people are interested in the topic, so we do them again
You’re getting a bit of hate in this AMA but doing a great job being reasonable and respectful in your responses.
Lack of (displayed) frustration is key to being good at soulless marketing of bullshit.
Nah. Bullshitters sweet talk and don't address questions simply and plainly
I've spoken to people who really don't have a good understanding of how odds work, or at best they have a misunderstanding of it. What are the most common misconceptions you've found when it comes to the average person and lottery odds?
Most people think there's some way to improve your odds. There isn't! Except not to play it in the first place...
People also think the odds are better than they are. They see big winners and think it's attainable for them too.
The way to improve your odds is to pick a small lottery and buy up most of the tickets. A dude I knew from MIT did that. There were a bunch of articles on him. It's just brute force + knowing which lottery to game.
I think they had some other edge than just buying more tickets? Some way to know which tickets would be more likely to have winners. I think it was a flaw in the scratch-off product itself
Wasn't scratch tickets. https://alum.mit.edu/slice/calculated-approach-winning-lottery
Ah this is pretty interesting. This wouldn't work with the huge lotteries like Powerball and MegaMillions but smaller ones might have weird things that you can exploit.
The only way to win is not to play - Wargames, 1983
Good quote for the lottery
So you're a bank that instead of offering 0.1% interest to all customers, you offer 0% to everyone and random "prizes" to randomly selected customers. Does this summarize it correctly?
Some people might not win in a given day but on average you get around 2.70% all things considered
Do the scratch off lottery tickets have better odds? I see winning tickets on the windows at gas stations all the time.
They do that so people will think the odds are better. Different scratch offs have different odds, so it's hard to make a blanket statement here.
Wouldn't the answer be 'yes-ish'? Scratch-off odds are usually much better than Powerball/Megamillions tickets simply by virtue of having many breakeven/freeplay/low win options. It's not that you're more likely to win a lot of money, but with scratchers, you're generally less likely to lose.
That said, scratcher odds are usually not great either, and those breakeven, freeplay, or low win values are baked in as a way to entice more spending on tickets.
Yeah but sometimes it's just a tradeoff of variance, and your EV could still be lower
Scratch off tickets give you the odds of winning on the ticket. These odds are for Winny Any of the prizes (so breaking even to the big one). Usually odds of winning a scratch off tickets are between 1 and 3 to 1 and 5
Yeah "any prize" but usually it'll be the smallest one
Can you explain what is actually revolutionary or interesting about this? As somebody with a degree in neuroscience, this sounds like buzzword bullshit. You aren’t hijacking anything. You are just offering a gamble in place of standard interest rates.
It's combining something humans inherently love (lotteries) but is unhealthy with a healthy way to scratch that itch.
Do you have any evidence that suggests this does anything to reduce gambling in problem individuals? It doesn't seem plausible that somebody will stop gambling just because of this saving plan, they will just gamble directly. People aren't stupid, putting $25 in a savings accounts doesn't approach the pyschological activation of buying a scratch off. Going to the corner store, using a coin to reveal your numbers, it's all part of the process. You've basically boiled all of it down to a simple sterile button. And anybody with basic financial literacy will realize that you have lower interest rates in order to prob up this gambling scheme, and so it makes more sense to go with a traditional savings institution.
We don't have hard numbers, but plenty of anecdotal stories from people who say that prize linked savings helps scratch the itch of playing the lottery, making them buy fewer lottery tickets as a result.
We are fans of hard numbers here, anecdotes don't really mean anything, data-wise. Surely you know this?
Idrc, I think you have a good idea and execute it well.
We need to run another survey to get a sense for this
Since swapping to a full draw every day, I haven’t had an desire to buy a traditional lottery ticket.
I hope Yotta is able to continue this program going forward. The slight psychological rush is definitely more present when all numbers are drawn at once.
That's awesome to hear! Love stories like this
Just wanted to add my voice and say that using Yotta has really illustrated to me just how absurd winning the lottery is. Especially since the change was made to do full drawings every day. Few hundred tickets every day and I rarely hit even 3 numbers on a single ticket.
Thanks for breaking my habit of buying a few lottery tickets when the jackpot gets real high.
Yeah - the lottery itself doesn't run every day so might have more frequent wins, but also way more losses
Welp, it's back. Is this advertising working for you? I attempted to sign up for Yotta after the last AMA but my information could not be verified or something something and I was straight up denied. Im guessing it has to do with me getting a name change but not having all of my accounts reflect it. Your support team just refused to take any legal documents proving my identity and said I was simply barred from joining.
Can you DM me with the email used?
Wait so you offer a gamble instead of saving %?
We offer a fun way to save, through a sweepstakes. Gambling implies a risk of loss.
I assume you have a large cash pile to pay out in case someone hits a big win... how have rising rates affected your business? Would you say you're more or less exposed than the traditional depository?
Rising rates have helped us. It enables us to pay more prizes in the sweepstakes every day. We also do have a large cash pile for the bigger wins.
We are not a bank, but have a bank partner. Banks generally are benefitted by rising rates.
As a follow up, what are your thoughts on SVB?
I'm shocked by the poor cash management of other companies. Companies should keep the vast majority of their corporate funds in treasury bills and then use a few banks for daily operating expenses.
I think that the last 10 years have been up and to the right, and that most people got complacent and lost sight of proper risk management. Ultimately I think it's good the government stepped in and helped depositors out while wiping the shareholders out who deserved to be wiped out.
Hopefully, the events of the past year (more broadly in the economy) are a good wake up call to everyone about risk management.
Sorry, this is a legitimate question I am just highly suspicious of what your company is offering and what it is doing at the expense of the consumer to do so.
No nothing really
I only buy lottery tickets when I want to dream about what I would do with the money, it helps, is this normal ?
Yeah very normal - that's how they get people in and why they take such a big profit margin
So what you’re saying is that we shouldn’t gamble on this, we should gamble on that?
I get the feeling this guy has a pretty serious history of sloppy steaks and chicken spaghetti at Chickalino’s.
I don't like spaghetti actually. Worst noodle. Prefer rigatoni and pappardelle.
Gambling implies you might lose something. We don't have that.
Aren't you losing the opportunity of gaining interest that you would gain at other FIs?
Most FIs pay crap interest. You might be slightly trading some EV from the highest options in the market, but not by much.
And either way. Gambling your 3% interest "away" on the $500 you can afford to put into savings is way better than gambling away $500 on legitimate lotto tickets...
Not sure why people find this so difficult to wrap their heads around
Yes this exactly
Thank you for saying that! Spaghetti is a garbage pasta.
It's so bad. Carries sauce terribly. Hard to eat. Gets messy everywhere
Is Yotta available in Canada?
No just the US
If (or rather WHEN) I win Powerball, is it smarter to take the annuity or lump sum? I know it used to be smarter to always take the lump sum but wondering if the recommendation has changed.
If you trust your ability to be disciplined, the lump sum is better. You can do better by investing it then the annuity is giving you.
If you need help being responsible, the annuity can force you to not waste all the money at one time.
Will there be additional programming/workshops/guides to save or invest money built into the app/offering?
Nothing planned on this front right now
How can I use ChatGPT or AI to win Powerball next week? I asked it to generate numbers for me but 28-36-41-51-58-24 just doesn’t feel like a winning set of numbers imo
I don't think those will be the winning numbers either. Wait for GPT5
So you are not a bank and therefore don't have to abide the banking regulations? You are also not a lottery, therefore not regulated by the gambling board? Am, I correct in that assumption?
From what I see is that you are a self proclaimed financial technology startup that like people to deposit money with them, so you can invest this money and earn interest. In return the customer get the chance to win a litle bit of money, but no interest or anything else.
Sounds to me like a nice get rich quick scheem that relies on the predatory system of taking advantage of financially weak people.
Sad thing is that there are enough people that will actually join this.
We partner with a bank, which is regulated. We operate as a sweepstakes, which is regulated by sweepstakes law.
We don't invest any funds. It's held at Evolve, our partner bank, which is an FDIC insured bank.
This OP pops up here every few months pedaling this shady mess. Same shady marketing-speech script too.
100% a business taking advantage of people prone to gambling addictions.
Care to elaborate?
Interesting. I really like some of your responses to the naysayers in here as well.
Clearly there is a spread which works for yotta and that's fine, otherwise you wouldn't be able to exist and offer the service.
My question is: what are the odds of winning? Do you control the odds based on what you need to achieve as a firm? Is it actually possible to win the million dollar jackpot every night or is that a once in a while thing you give out while the majority of winnings will stick in that 2 cents range?
Thanks - we actually have this page that probably is better than any answer I can give https://www.withyotta.com/transparency -> shows the winnings histories at each prize level.
No doubt most of our winnings will be the smallest prizes, similar to the lottery in that regard.
How much do the organizations that run the lottery make?
The payouts are around 50%, so there's about 50% in profit to go around to governments, marketing, staff, etc.
Why did Yotta stop displaying my APY? It used to be prominently displayed, now I have to calculate it myself.
We are going to be bringing it back
My understanding is that part of the reason we haven't seen more of this is because of state restrictions on who is allowed to run lotteries (basically, only the state).
How has Yotta been able to get around those laws?
That is a big problem for why lotteries are such terrible value for consumers. They are monopolized by the state. We operate as a sweepstakes, not a lottery, which is legal.
Agreed - I'm a huge fan of what you are doing for exactly that reason. State lotteries are just a shadow tax on people that don't understand statistics.
The sweepstakes comment is interesting, but it feels like that might be a distinction without a difference to my non-lawyer self. I assume you've had legal experts weigh in to ensure this is all on the up and up?
There has to be a way to enter for free. We work with a sweepstakes attorney and have a way to enter for free.
Why did you switch to daily vs weekly prizes? Since the change, it doesn't feel as exciting. It's not as fun to win 7 cents a day. The changes in the prize structure also makes it seem much less likely to win anything of value. Especially when the weekly totals have been less than they used to be since the change. I loved the idea of winning something and waiting until the end of the week to see. I have only ever bought a couple lotto tickets, but I found the prospect of winning 1,000, 5,000, or 20,000 bucks through yotta thrilling. Of course that did not happen and after looking it up, the chances of wining is even less than lotto. I recently pulled my money from yotta and put it in a high yield savings account where it'll earn at least 2-3% more on average. What motivated the change? And do you think you'll ever be able to offer competitive APY rates or better chances at winning something that matters (not including the products you offer to raise your chances like the bank account and direct deposit and stuff - I'm not going to sign up for more stuff)?
People wanted more excitement and fun on a daily basis, generally speaking. And many with fewer tickets found the weekly model not interesting by the third day.
You can create a weekly contest within the daily model if you want. Just store your tickets every day and only play all of them on one day a week. We do pay around 2.70% on average so are in-line with that range
Whats the point of talking up doing research into lotteries and psychology when its literally the simplest thing to understand? were you just trying to find the optimal average payout?
Yeah finding the right distribution of payouts, the payouts themselves, understanding psychology to build a great product, etc.
Why the word ‘Yotta’? Does it have to do with the similarities between the sound of T and D?
It's the highest metric prefix. Kind of random
How automated is your product? When it comes to daily drawings, how active do I need to be to benefit?
I.e. do I need to be frequently checking? Or can I deposit and leave it there for later, visiting infrequently to see if I won a drawing?
It's all automated, so you don't need to check if you don't want to. You'll automatically get paid every 7 days
Hey Adam, longtime Yotta user and think it's great. I'm not a gambler or lottery player, but there is certainly an increased sense of excitement around 8:05pm every day! The lost opportunity cost doesn't really bother me, as I figure that's the price to pay for maaaaybe winning $10k+.
Please bring back the APR/APY/Earnings section to the app. Many folks aren't going to try and figure their rate of return. Removing the calculations was a little shiesty IMO.
Love the redesign, but the back button (galaxy fold 3) doesn't close the app - at least let it pop a 'sure you want to exit?" message.
Regardless, keep up the great work!
We are working on this! And thanks for the bug report
How does this differ from premium bonds, if at all?
It's pretty similar, but with a much more fun UI and interface and drawings every day rather than once a month.
Can you explain more how the lottery works? Do I get a ticket for every 25 dollars, or only one ticket every time I deposit 25 dollars more?
You'll keep getting tickets, don't need to deposit more
Are lucky swipes truly random odds? Is there any hidden hand or limit to one's winnings?
Yes it's based on random number generation, capped at up to $5k per win
Gotcha. Another question I known a lot of users are wondering is, is there any plans on increasing the rate of return? Something that would match other high yield banks in the 4% range .
We don't have near-term plans to increase prizes at the moment. we understand some options have higher yield out there, but to support features like Boxes and lots of other rewards we have out there with ways to earn tickets and win prizes, we need to keep prizes where they are. We are increasing the number of ways you can earn tickets, which will lead to higher prizes though. Ultimately, we want to be paying a very high rate, but not the highest in the market. And that's where we are. Right now it seems that interest rates might end up going down this year, so we don't think many more rate hikes are coming anyway.
Hi there Adam,
I’m a long time Yotta member, going on two years now. I want to ask about the recent app changes. Specifically, why is Yotta no longer showing your winnings broken down and calculated to an APY% amount? Prior to the recent changes it use to show your current month and precious months winnings and a calculated APY. Now all you get is a weekly winning amount. I feel this is intentionally done to obfuscate and mislead users so they can’t gauge whether their winnings are meeting an acceptable return to continue banking with Yotta.
For Redditors who are reading this AMA. I’ve had Yotta for the past two years. Previous to the new version rolling out I stated in past AMAs that my account keeps between $10k and $20k in it (now moving to the lower amount because I don’t feel the system is transparent enough for me to feel confident in keeping cash greater than $10k on it). The highest win I’ve ever had was $152 I believe after I got lucky one week when it was still weekly drawings. Previous to that I got a Apple Pay win when I paid someone back for buying me something. That was $72. Here’s an image of my current winnings so you can see what it looks like.
If you want to join Yotta, using my username HANGMAN (or click here and we’ll both get 500 tickets.
It wasn't intentional but happened during the re-design to save some space. We are working on bringing it back to the app, so that you'll be able to see it again.
What is the "equivalent APR"? (Meaning the total amount you spend on prizes over a year, divided by total deposits.) Have you been able to increase that rate due to the Fed's rate hikes?
Around 2.70%. We did increase with earlier hikes. We have not increased it in the last two months.
If it's a recurring ticket for every $25 deposited, and you're not a bank, what's to stop me from depositing $1000, then withdrawing it all back and repeating over and over for thousands of tickets?
We have some detection to prevent abuse like that. Daily/weekly limits and some internal tools we use to detect abuse.
What is the biggest threat to your bank/model? What keeps you up at night?
We need to do a better job establishing trust with people. Our biggest challenge is people think it's too good to be true, and we need to do a better job with education
What’s your position on bitcoin?
I don't see great use cases for it. Lot of speculation and get rich quick schemes
Hi Adam I haven’t seen the roadmap updated in a little bit are there any features that are in development that you can tell us about and could you also give us ETAs on the features that are close to release?
We are working on a couple exciting features - Boxes, Profiles, and better money management. More to come on these soon!
How do you make money on the money customers are saving?
We earn money through our partner bank Evolve, who earns interest from the deposits via lending, like other banks.
Have you considered doing this outside the USA? Or is there in fact similar enterprises doing this in other countries?
We would but it's a bit of a regulatory pain
Are you looking at becoming available in Canada? I’ve never bought a lottery ticket, but this is really neat.
Would there be difficulties partnering with Canadian banks considering they’re federally regulated?
Looking at it, but nothing too soon. It's just another regulatory and legal framework to deal with. That's the burden
I'm a member of your program and I love it so thanks first of all. Second, would your bank ever consider offering a hub to purchase T-Bills? That's even more savings and interest gained in average right now with rates how they are. Thanks again!
It would be tough for us to build.. so not on the roadmap currently. Possibly down the road!
How many $1 million prizes have you actually awarded?
No $1m prizes. 1 $500k prize. Many $40k prizes
Hey Adam! Love to see the occasional Ama's
As a long time Yotta user I have a couple of questions.
With the introduction of debit and credit cards have you been concerned at all that people susceptible to gaming addictions might buy things they don't need or spend more money to get a bigger prize with the lucky swipes? Obviously your main savings product doesn't encourage this but I've been somewhat concerned for a while now that this could be a possibility.
Do you have plans to increase interest rates in the near future? As fed rates continue to increase more and more banks looks significantly more competitive than you with base interest rates even without the fun mechanic. Many people (including myself) have considered or have moved money out of Yotta in place of interest rates that can be as much as 2% higher.
Finally, something I've been curious about for a while now you say you're out of credit cards atm which is understandable considering the chip shortage but what's preventing you from issuing virtual cards to new users in the meantime? There are multiple banks out there that currently only issue virtual cards (ex. future and prizepool) and tons of people only use google/apple pay anyway so it wouldn't be an issue.
- Yes this is something we consider with regard to gamified spending. Ultimately, we want to pass on value with our card products to our customers in the form of rewards and it felt weird to go with a standard cash back amount given the rest of the product. We have not seen or heard from folks that they are making more purchases as a result of the feature, but it's something we are cognizant of and keeping an eye on.
- We don't have near-term plans to increase prizes at the moment. we understand some options have higher yield out there, but to support features like Boxes and lots of other rewards we have out there with ways to earn tickets and win prizes, we need to keep prizes where they are. We are increasing the number of ways you can earn tickets, which will lead to higher prizes though. Ultimately, we want to be paying a very high rate, but not the highest in the market. And that's where we are. Right now it seems that interest rates might end up going down this year, so we don't think many more rate hikes are coming anyway.
- We are going to be using new partners for the credit card product and are waiting for those partners to be live before issuing new credit cards.
What do you say to parents opening children’s account on Yotta? Is it still bad to introduce the lottery element even though your product is good?
I'd suggest parents talk to their kids about the distinction between gambling and gamification, and emphasize that this is about gamification but not gambling.
I downloaded and entered info. Waiting for the deposits I guess? I'm intrigued and unless this is just the ultimate scam it sounds better then having your money sit and do nothing. In reality, isn't sitting money actually losing value at this point?
In real-terms yes. Inflation is still around 6%, so you're losing out to it. You're still losing out no matter what with risk-free yields though since they are below inflation, but some yield is better than none.
It's interesting to me how so many people are angry with the "system" but balk at new ideas that go against it.
nothing changes if nothing changes
One of the benefits of a lottery system is the notion that buying more tickets increases the odds of winning. Does this translate to Yotta? I.e. does the amount you have in savings play a role in the odds of “winning” a bonus?
Yeah more in savings means more tickets means higher chances of winning
if you buy one ticket, your odds of winning powerball are 1 in 292,201,338, but if you don't buy a ticket, your odds are 0. so does a person who buys 1 ticket have infinitely greater (yet still infinitesimal) odds of winning than a person who doesn't?
Yeah but also infinitely greater chance of losing
Isn't "hijacking the psychology behind playing the lottery" just another way of saying you're the house now?
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