Getting paid to wake up? All you need to know about the student-run startup Paywake

Juniors Jack Mandelkorn and Kai Medina attempt to incentivize waking up on time with a new startup for USC students.

A photo of Paywake's website on a computer screen.

On the corner of Figueroa and 32nd Street, right outside the CVS Pharmacy, large block letters painted on the sidewalk read “Get paid to wake up.”

These advertisements, found along several other sidewalks and walk signals near campus, are promoting the new startup Paywake, co-founded by USC juniors Jack Mandelkorn and Kai Medina.

The website prompts users to schedule a wake-up time and make a deposit ranging from $5 to $99. Users have three minutes after their wake-up time to login to Paywake and prove they’re awake through photo verification. The photo verification process requires users to take a photo of a common household object or appliance, such as a light switch or a showerhead, to confirm they are out of bed.

Mandelkorn, a computer science major, said that the idea was born after he had to wake up early on a weekday morning to trade stocks, but had only gotten three hours of sleep the night prior.

“I should have been feeling pretty sluggish. But what I noticed when I woke up that morning was that I was really intensely alert, even on three hours of sleep, because money was on the line,” Mandelkorn said. “Basically, if I didn’t wake up on time, I would have lost money.”

Later that day, he called Medina, a business administration major, and the two brainstormed how to make this idea a product.

Now, Paywake has some USC students rushing to wake up on time.

Senior computer science and business administration major Angad Sood was using the service for the second time when the app asked him to submit an image of a doorknob.

“I sent the image of a door handle and it wasn’t working, so I was scared that it wouldn’t work,” Sood said. “And you only get three minutes to send it.”

To his surprise, he said, he didn’t lose any money, despite betting the maximum amount of $99 each day.

Users who wake up on time will get paid more than their initial deposit, with the additional money coming from those who missed their wake ups, according to the website.

In the event a user wakes up on time, Paywake will pay them their initial deposit plus at least $0.01. The higher the initial deposit, the higher your earnings will be if you wake up on time. Payouts go out at noon each day, and users can transfer their earnings to either their bank or Venmo account.

Paywake keeps 15% of the money from those who missed their wake ups and redistributes the rest to users who woke up on time, according to their website.

Co-founder Mandelkorn said he heard anecdotes from users saying how easy it is to make money from waking up on time. Some, he said, even use the money to pay for their lunches.

“It was really beautiful to start seeing this whole product and machine start to work and how people use it, because there are so many awesome success stories of friends or people you know, who are like, ‘I’ve been using this, and it’s actually really helping,’” he said.

While their primary users are currently students within the USC community, both Mandelkorn and Medina have big plans for the users of Paywake in the future.

“Obviously, everyone wakes up in the morning and everyone wants money,” Medina said. “Anyone who is going to work, you could be 30, 40, 50. It doesn’t matter.”

Mandelkorn and Medina said they hope to add a donation button to the app in the future so users are able to donate their earnings.

They said they are looking into developing an app for Android and IOS platforms.

Anyone can start earning money from waking up on time here.