IMVU has relaunched itself as Together Labs and raised $35 million from Structural Capital, NetEase, and other investors. And Together Labs, which is the parent company, has also launched a new division called WithMe Entertainment with a focus on user-generated content.
Together Labs will continue to operate IMVU, the social platform where young folks create their own avatars. Now it’s moving to an adjacent space, targeting teens ages 13 to 17 via WithMe, which will focus on user-generated content including games.
A common thread between the divisions will be VCoin, which is Together Labs’ new transferable digital currency that will allow users to buy, gift, hold, earn, and convert earnings to real money. The company launched VCoin on January 12, after a November ruling by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that approved a plan to enable virtual world payments through a blockchain-based cryptocurrency.
“This structure will allow us to be able to launch new brands, new products, even new business units, minimizing any brand confusions,” said Daren Tsui, CEO at Together Labs, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We are very excited about the funding. The purpose of this growth capital is so that we can grow more aggressively and use it for product development across different business units. The reorganization of the corporate structure has created much more clear brands.”
The Redwood City, California-based company wants VCoin to power the virtual economy in the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One. IMVU will be talking about this development at our GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse event on January 27-28. Together Labs could partner with other companies that might also use VCoin, as it is a solution that has the rare approval from the SEC.
VCoin is an important development for IMVU, which has 7 million monthly active users who exchange 14 billion Credits a month and engage in 27.5 million monthly unique transactions. The market has more than 50 million products available today, with the catalog growing by 400,000 items a month.
“We had record-breaking traffic in 2020,” Tsui said.
All of this — as well as the strong growth of social media and games during the pandemic — helped Together Labs raise the money from its investors. NetEase is one of China’s big online game services providers.
The WithMe division will focus on strengthening friendships through shared experiences in virtual spaces. Those experiences will include user-generated games, Tsui said. IMVU will also hold a session on “Making Friends in the Metaverse” at our metaverse event. While IMVU focuses on young adults, WithMe will target teens ages 13 to 17, Tsui said.
“Our mission is to empower friendship, allow our users to connect in a very authentic way,” Tsui said. “There’s going to be a vibrant ecosystem with service providers and creators who can transact peer-to-peer and be able to get paid. WithMe is a natural extension of IMVU.”
The focus of Together Labs will be creating products that redefine social media as a catalyst for authentic human connections. Kai Tse, managing partner at Structural Capital, said in a statement that the fund is impressed with IMVU’s growing business and the new initiatives that position it between social media and gaming.
With IMVU, users interact socially with avatars that they create, and meet each other and chat in rooms that they design. Many users focus on music, fashion, and other interests, and they can sell items that they create such as clothing. Both IMVU and WithMe will have separate product teams.
Tsui said WithMe users will be able to create simple games, such as trivia, and share it with their friends. They can use scripting logic and a 3D engine to create their games.
“Our games will be a lot more social by nature,” Tsui said. “Rather than a battle royale, our activities might be more like an escape room. You can collaborate with other people and communicate with each other. You could also draw together or watch YouTube together.”
Lindsay Anne Aamodt, director of marketing at Together Labs, said in an interview, “It’s more about solving problems together.”
That sounds a lot more like Roblox, the kids’ virtual world with 150 million monthly active users. But Tsui said his company will target users who are older than the average age on Roblox.
“We want to grow more aggressively from the user perspective,” Tsui said. “We have been very good at monetizing our users. But we feel we can do a lot more.”
Aamodt said that Together Labs is aiming to be a leader in the metaverse space, and each of its divisions is aimed at doing that.
IMVU was founded in 2004, and that last time it raised money was 2008. To date, the company has raised $77 million. Together Labs has around 250 people.
Meanwhile, last week the Blockchain Game Alliance announced that VCoin had become part of the group. The group is dedicated to promoting blockchain within the game industry. As a member of the BGA, VCoin will join various other blockchain and gaming companies such as The Sandbox, Enjin, Animoca Brands, and Dapper Labs.
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