Last week, Mark Zuckerberg teased bad graphics in a preview of Horizon Worlds, Meta’s metaverse effort. His quick response speaks to how promising better avatars for real startups can look in these situations. Now, in perfect timing, a startup from Tallinn, Estonia, called RediPlayer Me — which built a popular platform for creating dynamic, animated avatars and virtual worlds built and operated by others — is raising $56 million. Financial support to grow the business.
The company today hosts about 5 million avatars from 3,000 partners, and the money is 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 additional services for developers using ReadyPlayMe (which offers both an SDK and an API). And it doubles down on the idea that creating single avatars and identities that can work with each other and be used in multiple virtual environments can help improve user experience and increase user numbers.
“Our big vision is to connect Metavas through avatars,” said Timu Tok, Co-Founder and CEO. Ready Player I, in an interview. “A metaverse might exist. [experiences] Owned by big companies, who make all the rules, but there is an open vision for people to travel, built by millions of developers, no one controls the whole thing. Like the internet. We’re trying to push the world in that direction.
The Series B is led by Andreessen Horowitz, whose VC has recently doubled down on all things Web3, including Metaverse Technology. And a long list of equally big names is joining. Roblox co-founder David Bazuki; Twitch co-founder Justin Kahn; Sebastian Knutsson & Riccardo Zacconi, co-founders of King Games; sports and entertainment company Endeavor; Kevin Hart and Hartbett Ventures; Tick Tock D’Amelio Family; Punk6529; snowfro Cooperation currency; a lot of; Convoy Ventures; Fractal co-founder Robin Chan; And others are participating.
The showrunner isn’t disclosing the price — Took said it’s “good” — but the round comes on the heels of the company’s last round, which raised $13 million in a Series A round led by Tavet+ earlier this year in January. Sten (VC is directed by Tavet Hinrikus ex of Weiss/Transferwise and Sten Tamkivi, ex of Teleport and one time EIR at a16z, also in this series B.
Then and now, Ready Player One is growing like a weed. It has more than 3,000 partners, 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 right now — and how long-tailed the audience is, as well — that there are a couple of reasons why they’re building companies that work in all these different walled gardens.
Whether that concept will have staying power over time — for example, if we start to see some consolidation and focus of the audience, or if big players (like Meta) want to create and dominate avatars — remains to be seen. . That can definitely be one for such startups. Or, maybe, chance: A company like RedPlayer Me makes it an acquisition target for those looking to become the single most powerful platform in the Metaverse. But it does provide some potential strategic pressure for the startup to grow and become a platform itself.
To support the latter, Reddy says its Me technology has been eight years in the making: the company was spun off from Wolf3D, which works with companies like Tencent, Verizon, HTC and Wargaming to build custom simulation systems.
That work led the company to amass a proprietary database of more than 20,000 facial scans created using its own 3D scanners. That database, in turn, was used to build a deep-learning-based platform that can produce real-time animated avatars, unlike the Animojis you find on Apple’s iOS, except with Ready Player Me, where the animated avatars are actually generated. Predict and display real faces from a single 2D photo” that can be used on desktop, web and mobile. It can also be made from 3D images.
(Wolf3D still has a website, as you can see from the link above, although the site hasn’t been updated since 2021, when the Ready Player One was announced. Talk told me it’s a great lead generator, so it’s still there, but that corporate/B2B business is out for now.)
These days, Ready Player Me partners run both Web3 and Web2 environments, and they include VRChat, Spatial, Somnium Space, RTFKT, the company said. The startup says it will work with creatives and fashion brands — whose clients include Adidas, New Balance, Dior, Pool & Bear and Warner Brothers — to help them build cross-game avatar “assets” on the Metaverse. The partners are those who develop platforms or games and other experiences within those other platforms. And so part of what ReadyPlayer offers is the opportunity for its network of partners to integrate their models with other practices.
“Our main target is medium-sized gaming companies rather than large companies. We talk to Meta and others,” Tok said, “but we think the big ones will grow faster and we think it makes sense to work with them first. Many of the partners are “still building experience, so the network “A large part of the network is still not activated, and there will be much more development,” he explained.
The idea of building a platform to create prototypes that work across multiple environments is central to many Web3 proponents thinking that the overall effort will be more effective in the long run. Some of the biggest issues in Metaverse’s business models have been accessibility and user experience – practically, you have to buy into owning a device and it’s a bit on the downside to use, it’s really aimed at early adopters who are willing to take it further. On top of that baggage, creating at least one technology to make it easier to transport identity from one virtual world to another from the mass market—complete with a single user identity—removes one of the barriers.
“Ready Player I Loved by both developers and Players It is the largest platform for avatar-systems-as-a-service, and they are well positioned to build an interactive identity protocol for the open metaverse,” Andreessen Horowitz general partner Jonathan Lai said in a statement. “We are deeply impressed by the team’s combination of developer passion, technical chops and entrepreneurial pragmatism, and are even more excited to partner with them on this journey.”