Interview with Michael Lehman, Director of Marketing from Meez
TechAddress: Tell me a bit about your company, what it does and what’s your value proposition?
Meez: Meez is in the avatar business. At Meez.com, users can customize their own avatar (digital persona) by choosing from loads of options: clothing, hairstyles, skin color, accessories, backgrounds, tattoos, piercings, etc. For the consumer, Meez is a way to express their personal style and passions in the digital world. In many ways, it’s like a ring tone. For advertisers, Meez is a marketing vehicle that can help them effectively tap into the youth market. For example, we have a relationship with Major League Baseball so that our users can dress their Meez in virtual MLB jerseys. It’s a way Baseball to extend their brand online in a way that is much more powerful than banner ads.
TechAddress: What makes your company stand apart from your competitors?
Meez: Portability. Many avatar-related sites are focused on building up a virtual world. They want to be a destination site. We don’t believe the world needs another destination site, so Meez emphasizes portability. We want our users to take their avatars wherever they go: MySpace, their blogs, instant messenger – even your phone. Meez avatars can be posted anywhere that accepts a digital photo.
TechAddress: What are some of the main features?
Meez: Meez avatars are 3D and they animate. So your Meez can kick a soccer ball, strum a guitar or just laze on the couch. It’s a way for users to express what they’re passionate about – and have a little fun.
TechAddress: Who’s your target customer or audience?
Meez: We’re definitely strong with the teen audience. 40% of our users are 13-18. But we’ve been surprised at how old our user base skews. 25% of our users are over 30.
TechAddress: Any new things in particular that you’re working on right now?
Meez: This Fall, we’ll be launching pincodes, which will enable advertisers to bridge the gap between the real and virtual worlds. For example, a shoe manufacturer might sell a pair of real-world sneakers that comes with a pin code; the pin code would unlock a virtual pair of the same sneakers on Meez.com.
TechAddress: Where do you see your company heading in the future?
Meez: We’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of offering the user a fun, fully-interactive experience with their avatar. For example, there’s a lot we can do to take advantage of the 3D nature of our avatar characters. We’re also working hard to make it easy for people to use their Meez avatars in more places, e.g. online games.
TechAddress: Any negative feedback or criticism regarding technology and services?
Meez: We’ve gotten tons of suggestions from users on things they want to be able to do with their Meez. We’re still in beta, but we have a pretty aggressive release schedule, so we’ll be delivering on a lot of new features in the near term.
TechAddress: So what would you say is the guiding principle behind your company?
Meez: Our mantra is “let the consumer decide.” So when it comes to adding items (hairstyles, clothing, accessories, etc) that people can use to customize their Meez, we listen closely to user suggestions and we try to offer as many different “looks” as we can. Right now, we’re adding about 50 new items a week. Even items that we think are ugly, because someone might want to wear it on their Meez.
TechAddress: What is the mission of your company and what are you bringing to the market that is innovative?
Meez: Our goal is to make avatars more mainstream. So we’ve created a point-and-click site where the average user can creative a fully customized, animated avatar in minutes. No one else offers this ease-of-use combined with 3D animation and portability to other sites and services.
TechAddress: Where are you in terms of funding and your lifecycle?
Meez: We completed a Series A round late last year. The primary investors are Battery Ventures, Transcosmos Partners and Allen & Co.
TechAddress: If your technology or service is not formally launched yet, when’s the launch date?
Meez: We launched at the end of March this year.
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