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  ‘Meez’ Handed $4M  
 
 
Posted 2006-03-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Collaborate.com collaborator David Coleman reveals some interesting details about Meez.com, a newly-launched online service that allows users to download images of personalized avatars (I wrote an earlier report here). According to Coleman, "Meez has received over $4 million in venture funding. [Meez CEO Sean Ryan] got his idea from watching people in Korea (the number one connected country on the planet) interact with each other...Ryan plans to make money by offering users the chance to have their avatars wear licensed brands...and premium clothing designs for a fee." Four million bucks for a business plan based on branded, customized avatars. It's like 1999 all over again.

The closest competitor to Meez is IMVU, an already-established service that features truly 3D avatars, themed chatrooms, and user-created content. IMVU is, in my opinion, vastly superior to Meez in its presentation, usability, and creative opportunities. The differentiating factor between the two services at present is that IMVU does not (as far as I know) offer users the chance to download images of their avatars for use on online communities. It would be a trivial effort for IMVU to offer this functionality if it hasn't already done so. At this point, Meez would be playing some serious catch-up to the tune of four million dollars.
 
     
 
   
 
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  3 Comments  
 
   
 
Comment posted by csven
March 30, 2006 @ 12:38 pm
     
 
I don't think this has legs. In fact, that Hive7 thing I tried last night could probably go 3D and rip the market right out from this one. There are already java-based 3D modelers. With Hive7's built in customization capability, someone is bound to hook those two up. People can upload their own avatars, coders can create embedded games. In some ways it's quite a bit like SL.

$4M down the drain, imo.
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Sean Ryan
April 1, 2006 @ 7:24 pm
     
 
I'd say that we just launched into beta this week so we still have a long way to go, but that we're quite different from IMVU. First is that we're entirely web-based, so there is no need to download a client and we can work across PC, Mac and Linux platforms. Second is that we offer licensed content such as MLB and NHL merchandise, in addition to the large set of items wse produce ourselves. Finally, our goal is not to have users come to yet another destination site - we focus on exporting the Meez so that they can work with services the user already is a member of, such as MySpace, blogs or IM services. IMVU does great stuff - it's just a different type of company.

Thx, Sean Ryan
CEO, Meez
 
     
 
     
   
 
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
April 2, 2006 @ 11:06 am
     
 
Thanks for the first-hand info, Sean. With regards to your key differentiators:

"First is that we're entirely web-based, so there is no need to download a client and we can work across PC, Mac and Linux platforms."

Cross-platform goodness, definitely. I see the Mac and Linux markets as being of negligible significance, unless you're catering speficically to them, but I don't have hard numbers to back that up. I don't think downloading a small client is a big deal for most users (heck, even Second Life's 20+ MB client scored Linden Lab 165,000 accounts). I see downloading a small client as on par (in terms of user tasks) with exporting an avatar pic and distributing it to online communities, blogs, and IM services. In fact, downloading and installing client software is probably easier for some people than downloading a graphic, finding a place for it online, uploading it, then modifying their page code or profile to display the graphic. Or perhaps this is all a trivial operation for today's digital generation.

"Second is that we offer licensed content such as MLB and NHL merchandise, in addition to the large set of items wse produce ourselves."

It's impressive that Meez snagged licenses for official (virtual) MLB and NHL apparel--obviously you've done what IMVU and Second Life haven't (apparently) been able to achieve in terms of offering licensed content. However, there are other branded avatars available through other services (e.g. imstar). It will be interesting to see how Meez competes with a force the size of Yahoo (which has offered Chrysler-, Adidas-, and FCUK-branded avatars) in that department, for example.

As for Meez-created content, I think it's important to offer an initial batch of decent customization options from the outset (as Meez has done), but ultimately do you really want to be in the content-creation business? There, Second Life, IMVU, The Sims all seem to leverage user-created content effectively... while 90% of user-created content is crap, you still don't have to pay for that other 10%.

"Finally, our goal is not to have users come to yet another destination site - we focus on exporting the Meez so that they can work with services the user already is a member of..."

Rhetorically speaking, if people can't get Meez anywhere else, then Meez has to be a destination site, right? If there aren't many (or any) reasons for Meez users to return to Meez.com as a destination site, then you've effectively created a one-shot product. That would be like selling a razor-blade that never need to be replaced.
 
     
 
     
   
 
 
     
 
     
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