Millions is giving away $1 million — but who’s the real winner?

Millions is a new startup with a big promise: simply pick six numbers on its website, follow the @Millions Twitter account, and you could win $1 million.

It’s not some kind of scam, either: it’s being funded by same big names, like Biz Stone (one of the co-founders of Twitter), Joey Zwillinger (an Allbirds co-founder), Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal (co-founders and CEOs of Warby Parker), Jeff Raider (who helped found both Warby Parker and Harry’s), and Daniel Greenberg (who helped found the viral internet firm MSCHF) among others. And the company — whose actual team is staying anonymous for now — is going to do 10 lottery drawings for the big $1 million prize.

It sounds too good to be true. A free million-dollar giveaway being run by an anonymous new internet startup, all for just following them on Twitter?

Well, that’s because it sort of is: Millions isn’t promising to actually give away $1 million. It’s effectively holding a standard pick-six lottery, similar to things like the Powerball or Mega Millions lotteries. If someone actually wins that lottery, the company will pay up.

But it turns out, that’s a big if. The Millions lottery is actually much, much harder to win than even the biggest real-world games because it has users pick six balls from 1-99, instead of the 1-69 or 1-70 pools that the traditional games require.

It’s not a perfect analog since both Powerball and Mega Millions have players match five balls, and then also correctly guess a 1-26 or 1-25 Powerball / Mega Ball number, instead of a straight pick-six format here, but the odds speak for themselves. Winning the Powerball jackpot is about a one in 292,201,338 chance. Winning the grand prize in the Mega Millions lottery is about one in 302,575,350.

Winning the $1 million jackpot in Millions is 1 in 1,120,529,256 chance

Winning the $1 million jackpot in Millions? One in 1,120,529,256. Mathematically speaking, your chance of winning a major lottery (already infinitesimally small) is still nearly three times as likely as winning the jackpot in Millions.

Of course, the organizers behind Millions seem well aware of this: when asked about the low chances, the Millions organizers told The Verge that the “odds of winning the Weekly Prize are slim. But hey, all it costs is a Twitter follow!”

Looking at the official rules, the $1 million prize isn’t even listed as the “grand prize” of the competition. It’s a secondary, weekly prize that the company will give out if — and only if — someone hits the over one in a billion shot of matching all six numbers in one of the 10 weekly drawings. On the off chance that multiple winners hit that number somehow, it’ll get divided up.

The “real” prize is a far more modest $10,000, which will be randomly given to one of the entrants at the end of the 10 weeks — a sizable prize, to be sure, but a far cry from $1 million.

The difference, of course, is that even with Millions’ one-in-a-billion odds, it’s still free to enter. Buying a lottery ticket costs $2; entering the Millions giveaway is free — or at least, free in terms of actual money.

So, why bother? Well, because it seems that the actual point of Millions is to build up a brand and Twitter presence for the new company. The initial $1,000,000 giveaway is just the theoretical starting point; as the site explains, “Millions builds products that give away money to people. @Millions is the first of such experiences.” The company has already been giving away smaller prizes on Twitter for the past several weeks as a soft launch, too.

In essence, the big Millions giveaway is just another standard lottery — but instead of buying a ticket with cash, you’re paying with a Twitter follow and your contact information, valuable data that the company can use to help build its brand and launch future products down the line.

Millions could easily parlay this first venture into hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Twitter followers, all for the low cost of $10,000. And it’s easy to imagine future lotteries that then leverage that user base down the line for other ventures that may actually make money.

Of course, someone might win that $1 million prize. Millions is doing 10 drawings, one every week over the next ten weeks. Depending on how popular the service gets and how lucky everyone is, someone could actually get paid. But the odds are certainly not in anyone’s favor — except for Millions’, that is.

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