UPDATED 12:25 EDT / DECEMBER 29 2021

EMERGING TECH

Ready Player Me raises $13M to be the avatar ‘passport to the metaverse’

Ready Player Me, a startup that makes 3D avatars for users to use in virtual worlds, announced Tuesday that it closed $13 million in funding led by Taavet+Sten to expand its operations.

The company’s mission is to become the “connective passport to the metaverse,” which allows users to create custom identities for themselves and that permits them to travel with a consistent appearance across multiple virtual worlds. The platform also allows includes virtual fashion and accessories, which opens up opportunities for developers and artists to hawk wares in the metaverse.

Using Ready Player Me’s technology, developers and artists will be able to monetize their work using nonfungible tokens, a type of blockchain technology that allows the ownership and sale of digital assets. With these monetization tools, creatives will be able to make money by selling NFTs in the form of unique avatars, virtual fashion wear, accessories and more.

The Series A round was also joined by the venture capital firms Konvoy Ventures, Nordic Ninja, and Samsung Next Ventures, Tiny VC and Kamerra. Other notable investors included Tom Preston-Werner, co-founder of GitHub, and Stefano Corazza, head of augmented reality at Adobe.

“2021 has been a breakout year for Ready Player Me – our avatar platform adoption has grown from 25 to 900 companies,” said Ready Player Me Chief Executive Timmu Tõke. “By giving people avatars that travel across virtual worlds, we can make the metaverse more connected. The metaverse is not one place or platform, it’s a network of thousands of experiences.”

Being identifiable and fashionable has long been important in virtual spaces, especially games, which sell accessories for virtual characters as a matter of course. Even before “metaverse” became a term of art in the industry, virtual item artists for the first-person shooter game Valve Corp.’s “Team Fortress 2” raised over $2 million during 2011 selling wearable in-game items, such as hats.

This is because “embodiment,” or the sense of personal presence in the virtual space, which is very important to players, as is representing themselves in a consistent way – even if they happen to appear similar to themselves or perhaps a floating burger and fries. Players in massively multiplayer online games such as “World of Warcraft” sometimes spend hours fashioning avatars for themselves from different pieces of clothing and gear acquired through gameplay to produce a desired effect.

Ready Player Me’s avatar technology is already implemented by numerous metaverse experiences including VRChat, Somnium Space, Verizon and Hiberworld. The company has also partnered with popular brands such as Warner Brothers, Dior and New Balance on board to add to its stable of branded fashion.

By providing the ability to take avatars and fashion among separate metaverse apps and universes in the metaverse, Ready Player Me believes will make NFT avatars and virtual fashion even more valuable. At the same time, it says, it will make the cross-app experience for users even more magical, as they won’t have to recreate themselves each time they travel between worlds, the metaverse will feel less fragmented.

This burgeoning industry has attracted investors as well as artists and developers. Including the recent funding round for digital avatar startup Genies, which raised $65 million in May to provide personalized NFT avatars and a marketplace to trade them.

Image: Ready Player Me

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