Interview with Lauren Bigelow, General Manager for North America WeeWorld
TechAddress: Tell me a bit about your company, what it does and what’s your value proposition?
WeeWorld: WeeWorld is the creator of the WeeMees, visual identities for consumers’ digital life. WeeMees help today’s digital society express itself, communicate and have fun with old and new friends throughout their digital life – blogs, websites, instant messaging systems, social networks, mobile phones and email. Incredibly attention-grabbing, WeeMees are the fastest growing online identity experience in the world. So far more than 11 million WeeMees have been created globally, and a new one is created every few seconds!
For consumers, WeeMees allow rich digital personalization, self expression, socializing and play across many digital platforms. Users can show friends and others how they look and feel in a much more personal, dynamic way than any generic picture or emoticon because WeeMees are interactive and animated.
For established partners such as AOL, MSN, Skype, Jamba, Vodafone and Motorola, WeeMees enrich the instant messaging, email and mobile experience, increase return rates, provide additional profile information and add excitement, buzz and fun that appeals to valuable youth segments. Marketers have also discovered the value of providing gear and backgrounds for WeeMees, or even creating celebrity WeeMees. Strategic marketing placements with WeeWorld provide immersive, interactive and indelible brand experiences.
TechAddress: What makes your company stand apart from your competitors?
WeeWorld: What sets WeeWorld and WeeMees apart from the competition the most is the pervasive irreverent and cheeky humor. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, and we make personalization fun. For instance in a recent Ypulse blog titled “WeeWorld Makes You Laugh”, GenY blogger Anastasia Goodstein noted that she was now aware of “why WeeWorld might actually blow up in the U.S.”. http://ypulse.com/archives/2006/10/weeworld_makes.php
In addition, we’ve proactively gone where our target users spend the most time already – instant messaging and mobile – and formed key partnerships to integrate WeeMees directly into the experience. WeeMees are designed to “travel” anywhere the consumer wants to take their unique digital identity throughout their online and mobile worlds.
Following their widespread adoption in the U.K. and E.U., we launched WeeMees in the United States in September via WeeWorld.com, a new partnership with AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) http://aim.weeworld.com and most recently with an extension of our existing global partnership with Windows Live Messenger http://www.wee-mee.com in the United States.
We believe social networks are rapidly evolving toward visual self-expression and experiences and WeeWorld is the only provider poised to deliver on consumers’ increasing visual and interactive demands through our established partnerships and strategic future-focus. For instance, in a recent Mashable! blog titled “WeeMee Partners with Windows Live Messenger in the US” Peter Cashmore noted, “WeeWorld is pretty much leading the pack when it comes to portable avatars – Meez has a great offering, while sites like Habbo Hotel and Cyworld also have the ability to take your avatar elsewhere. But with a more established service and some big name partnerships, WeeWorld is staying ahead.” http://mashable.com/2006/10/10/weemee-partners-with-windows-live-messenger-in-the-us/
TechAddress: What are some of the main features?
WeeWorld: WeeMees are tightly integrated with strategic partners such as AOL, Microsoft and Jamba to provide the seamless transport of users’ WeeMees anywhere, anytime.
- For example, Users can create WeeMees via AIM or MSN and use them in their chat environments when they’re talking to friends.
- In instant messaging through MSN or AOL, users create a visually stimulating, interactive chat environment by selecting different animations, interactive backgrounds and hidden text and emoticon triggers.
- Choose the angry emoticon and your WeeMee has storm clouds and lightning appear around its head. Or use the text triggers such as “LOL” (WeeMee laughs), “OK” (it gives a thumbs up), or “bling” (a gold grill and dollar signs appear).
- The chat background is all part of the fun with secret animations unveiled by click or by keystroke – such as a humvee limo swinging by to give the WeeMee a ride.
- In addition, from AOL, WeeWorld.com is only one click away, where users can blog, play games, or send personalized ecards with their unique WeeMee.
- WeeWorld.com also offers all the needed code and instructions to help consumers port their WeeMee to their favorite blogs, social networks, etc., with no download required.
- Users can even add their WeeMee to their mobile phone http://www.jamster.com/jcw/goto/games/software/prtid-1862764/doc-7377760/info-page for call wallpapers, call ID alerts, etc.
- Above all else, however, our main feature is fun and self-expression.
TechAddress: Who’s your target customer or audience?
WeeWorld: The target for WeeWorld is anyone aged 16-30. Of the most recent 1,000,000 WeeMees built, 33 percent were created by users aged 13-17, and 30 percent were created by users aged 18-24. That being said, WeeMees have universal appeal — two thirds were created and owned by users age 18 and over, including one very dedicated WeeMee fan in her 80s. Anyone embracing today’s digital revolution and living on the Web, is a potential consumer for WeeWorld.
TechAddress: Any new things in particular that you’re working on right now?
WeeWorld: Our U.S. launch has fueled a massive increase the creation of WeeMees. We’ve just launched on Windows Live Messenger this week, as well as the extension to Jamba, where users can create and save their WeeMee on their cell phone and use it as a caller ID or to send to personalized picture messages to friends.
While we recently launched on AIM, we’re also excited to be launching two WeeMee promotions on AIM. One is tailored specifically for the CBS show Gold Rush, complete with a Celebrity WeeMee of the show’s host, Mark Steines, and loads of gold bling accessories for WeeMees and a special background. The other promotion will be released within a week as part of a massive campaign featuring celebrities and iconic brands to promote a charity organization that WeeWorld holds in high regard.
Advertisers are extremely interested in creating customized backgrounds, animations and assets for WeeMees. And our designers are constantly updating WeeWorld.com with new and exciting features to maintain the fresh and fun user experience.
TechAddress: Where do you see your company heading in the future?
WeeWorld: We’ve only just begun so stay tuned! Look for a more extensive WeeWorld.com community, premium WeeMee items for sale such as designer bags or high-end bling, and an evolving, immersive environment ripe for customization. We see ourselves as the visual identity of choice on every email signature, blog and mobile.
TechAddress: Any negative feedback or criticism regarding technology and services?
WeeWorld: The primary request of our users is that they want more community and virtual world features on WeeWorld.com, as well as more accessories, backgrounds and gear for their WeeMees. We view the requests as further validation that the WeeWorld model is in demand and consumers want to be as expressive and unique as possible throughout their digital lives; we’re working hard to make sure that all comes to fruition as soon as possible.
TechAddress: So what would you say is the guiding principle behind your company?
WeeWorld: Be visual. Be fun. Be expressive. Be you.
TechAddress: What is the mission of your company and what are you bringing to the market that is innovative?
WeeWorld: We hope to create the world’s most widely-used and intelligent digital visual identity and have it form the heart of a thriving community for self-expression. We want everyone to have a WeeMee as a personal expression of themselves, with WeeMees becoming as pervasiveness as cell phones and computers – a vision we call “Wee” world domination. 🙂
TechAddress: Where are you in terms of funding and your lifecycle?
WeeWorld: We closed a $15.5M Series B funding round in May 2006 with Benchmark and Accel.
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