For about a month now, Philadelphians have had a daily chance at $100 with just 13 minutes to claim it, thanks to an anonymously run Twitter account dubbed @FindMePhilly. But despite coverage as far-flung as Indianapolis and Phoenix, the man behind it all remains a mystery — and with good reason.
"I have no desire to be famous," says the @FindMePhilly account creator, who goes by the moniker Ben Franklin. "I want this to be strictly about the game, the city, learning, exploring, and maybe winning some cash."
Followers of the @FindMePhilly accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Vine are already familiar with that game, which revolves around those followers finding @FindMePhilly at a Philly landmark of his choosing in under 13 minutes. Or, as the Twitter bio puts it:
$100 if you can find me. You have 13 minutes. Timer starts when I post the first picture from a new location.
And the @FindMePhilly account has been doing just that since it started up on Jan. 17 — the real Ben Franklin's actual birthday.
"I felt like that was a sign and I had to do this," the @FindMePhilly founder says. "I still laugh at what I'm actually doing."
The result has been a kind of exercise in charitable giving for the pseudonymous Franklin, who hopes to lighten up the mood in the city by spreading "as much good Karma as I possibly can" via the $100 giveaways. It is, in some ways, a variation on the age-old expression "pay it forward" — though Franklin hopes to be seen as doing his own thing.
"'Share the wealth,' or something like that would work," he says. "After seeing our first winner decide to buy pizza with her winnings and try to feed the homeless, it got me thinking about giving. Why can't we all do more?"
To that end, he hopes that someone will "step up and match me dollar-for-dollar for charity at least." Which, of course, would be beneficial, given the cost of giving away $100 a day. Franklin has said that he is not a wealthy man, but hopes to continue the @FindMePhilly giveaways as long as possible.
"Yes, expenses are adding up," he says. "I feel like I have everything I need in my life, [so] I want to do some good with what I can share."
Winner Craig Beyerle, 24, of Center City, was on the receiving end of that good last week, when he finally found Franklin after following @FindMePhilly for roughly two weeks. However, he was "sworn to secrecy" as to the mystery man's identity.
"There was a person sitting on a bench with headphones [on], so I simply went up to him and asked if he was the guy behind @FindMePhilly," Beyerle says. "Winning felt amazing — kind of an 'almost too good to be true' moment."
Those moments, it seems, are what @FindMePhilly's Franklin is after in all this. And though ultimately he hopes to "give away a million dollars to a complete stranger someday," for now he'll settle for spreading a little cheer — and maybe changing a few minds while he's at it.
"I don't want Philly to always be known as 'the city that threw snowballs at Santa Claus 40 years ago' or whatever," he says. "I'm having a blast doing this and want to keep it going."