Last week, Mark Zuckerberg was roundly mocked for the bad graphics in his preview of a new expansion of Horizon Worlds, Meta’s metaverse effort. His quick response promising better avatars for the actual launch speaks to just how much appearances do matter in these situations. Now, in a spot of perfect timing, a startup out of Tallinn, Estonia, called Ready Player Me — which has built a popular platform for creating dynamic, animated avatars to use across virtual worlds built and operated by others — is announcing $56 million in funding to grow its business.
The company today handles about 5 million avatars from across some 3,000 partners, and the funding will be used in three basic areas: to continue hiring (the company has offices in NYC); to expand the platform with more developer tools, including those for monetization and to build more services for creators using Ready Player Me (it offers both an SDK and API); and to double down on the idea that creating single avatars, and identities, that are interoperable and can be used across multiple virtual environments will improve overall user experience, and thus help grow user numbers.
“Our bigger vision is to connect the metaverse through avatars,” said Timmu Toke, co-founder and CEO, Ready Player Me, in an interview. “There may be metaverse [experiences] owned by big companies, who will make all the rules, but there is a vision of an open one where people can travel, built by millions of developers, where no one controls the whole thing. Like the internet. We’re trying to push the world towards that metaverse.”
The Series B is being led by Andreessen Horowitz, the storied VC that has in recent times doubled down on all things web3, including metaverse technology; and it is being joined by a longer list of equally big names. David Baszucki, co-founder of Roblox; Justin Kan, co-founder of Twitch; Sebastian Knutsson and Riccardo Zacconi, King Games co-founders; sports and entertainment company Endeavor; Kevin Hart and Hartbeat Ventures; the TikTok-y D’Amelio family; Punk6529; Snowfro; Collab Currency; Plural; Konvoy Ventures; Robin Chan, co-founder of Fractal; and others are also participating.
Ready Player Me isn’t disclosing a valuation — Toke said “it’s good” — but the round is coming swiftly on the heels of the company’s last round, a Series A of $13 million earlier this year in January in a round led by Taavet + Sten (a VC led by Taavet Hinrikus formerly of Wise/TransferWise and Sten Tamkivi, formerly of Teleport and once an EIR at a16z; it’s also in this Series B).
Between then and now, Ready Player Me has been growing like a weed. The more than 3,000 partners that it works with is more than triple the number it had in January (when the number was around 900).
That number says something about the fragmentation in the space at the moment — and something about how long-tail the audience is right now, too — two reasons why having companies building services that work across all of these different walled gardens makes some sense.
Full Story at TechCrunch