At a Los Angeles charity auction some years ago, NBA Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson offered one lucky bidder the chance to sit courtside with him at a game and join him for dinner after. The opportunity fetched the Boys & Girls Club of America a $15,000 donation.

Ryan Cummins and Matt Pohlson, then graduate students were huge fans of Magic’s and felt priced out of the bidding. They also wondered if $15,000 was really the ceiling for such a cool opportunity give the affluence of that night’s audience.

That’s when the idea for Omaze hit: What if they made these same types of opportunities available online, and for a $10 donation so everyone could have a chance at winning? Omaze could help generate significantly more money and awareness for deserving causes, and everyone could have a fair shot at living out their dream experiences.

Hear David speak at Solve San Francisco on March 4th: Register Now for Free

The mission here at Omaze is to make giving fun and easy.We want people to be excited and enjoy the process of giving to charity. We support terrific causes, compelling experiences and the transformative ability of celebrity to inspire charity.

That’s the core essence of Omaze. We’re a small, scrappy company, but we partner with some of the biggest names in entertainment.

Omaze’s most successful campaign to date was a partnership with Star Wars and Disney to raise money for UNICEF. It was hugely successful. For this fundraising event, fans contributed $10 each for a chance to appear in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. We raised $4.26 million dollars for UNICEF through this campaign, which ran last May.

Omaze also has some major upcoming partnerships that we’re really excited about. For example, we just launched our second campaign with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has already raised over a million dollars for our charity events.

It’s rewarding work, and it has caused us to build a truly unique culture. Our culture unites an extremely hardworking team of five full-time developers and myself — not a lot of horsepower but we make the most of it, and then some.

To do these big things we have to be as efficient as possible, so Omaze has invested in a number of DevOps technologies. We’re really big into server automation, continuous integration, automated testing, and continuous deployment. These powerful tools allow us to eliminate inefficiencies and get the most out of the hours our team puts in.

And just as Omaze’s celebrity power fuels our ability to scale for causes, Rackspace is providing game-changing benefits enabling this success through their DevOps service.

We entered the Rackspace DevOps pilot program in August 2014 and immediately saw a huge improvement in performance. With Rackspace, we get a totally different level of managed service in automation and tier-one triage support.

Celebrities have a spotlight, and when they talk about these campaigns in public or post on Facebook or Twitter, our environment spikes. We’ve benchmarked handling 8 billion sessions a day — the equivalent of doing 10,000 transactions every 5 minutes. We can handle this volume on the Rackspace model, which is a major value add for our mission.

Rackspace also provides us global reach and accessibility. LucasFilms, Star Wars, Coca Cola — these are 24-hour, global brands, but each has local markets, too. Coca Cola in Brazil, for example, is doing a promotion that requires rock solid reliability and uptime. And Rackspace is there as that tier-one triage difference-maker, so that my staff and I don’t have to be up 24 hours a day, or swamped with calls at 2 in the morning.

We’re building a culture here, seeking qualified, great people who want to be at Omaze because of the mission. For this reason, our average hire time is much longer than other companies, and we’ll take weeks to get the right person because it’s that important. Rackspace fits our culture perfectly. I can stay focused on our core competencies, knowing Rackspace is providing the support we need on the backend. I don’t have to worry about who’s taking care of my servers.

One of the biggest reasons our Rackspace partnership is so successful is the cost benefit it provides. Prior to joining Rackspace, we were paying for licenses for services like Chef and New Relic, which are already part of the Rackspace package. We save money by not having to carry these licenses anymore or hire experts to run these tools.

We’ve been big fans of Rackspace Fanatical Support from the very beginning because, in order to deliver on Omaze’s stated goal to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences that benefit charitable causes, we need a partner deeply onboard, who loves technology just as much as we do. Even though there’s a larger Rackspace team supporting us, there are 3 or 4 Rackers who’ve become our main, go-to guys. We develop that institutional knowledge together – that’s really what it means to be part of my team. If I have questions or any issues I get to them and I know they’ll get back to me fast. I don’t have to think about it any more.

At Omaze, it’s been an awesome path so far, and we’re confident in the way forward. With Rackspace’s support, we have greater scale and flexibility, and the performance of our team and our offerings is always improving. The Rackspace relationship is enabling us to take charitable one-of-a-kind experiences in important directions.

Hear David speak at Solve San Francisco on March 4th: Register Now for Free

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