Girls in the Middle East like dressing up their virtual Stardolls

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Stockholm -based Stardoll emerged from a simple Geocities page in the early part of the century, to “Paperdoll Heaven” in 2004. As Stardoll it took $4 million in Series A funding from Index Ventures in February 2006, and $6 million in a B Series round lead by none other than Sequoiain June the same year. Now it’s about to enter the Middle East after seeing growing traffic there.

It’s signed a partnership with Maktoob (an internet services company in the Middle East similar to TOM in China). Somewhere along the line Stardoll, which is essentially aimed at young girls (teens and “tweens”) dressing up dolls online, started to appeal girls in the Middle East. This is a region better known for women who wear the all-encompassing “hijab”. Clearly they are enjoying expressing themselves in a virtual manner, given that their real-world options are – broadly speaking – somewhat more limited than women in the West.

Maktoob is launching an all-new Arabic-language version of Stardoll today at the Dubai World Game Expo, available at stardoll.maktoob.com. The site is also available in Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and United Arab Emirates.

Stardoll has about 20 million users worldwide an claims to have 8 million unique visitors every month – 94% of whom are teen and tween girls. Most users are girls between the age of 10 to 17 and online safety is a huge consideration. Stardoll adds a layer of anonymity to all accounts. Users can never reveal personal information such as their real name or city of origin on their pages. Joining the site for the first time, you start with 25 “star dollars” that can be used to buy accessories for each virtual doll. Accessories range from 1 – 35 star dollars with users able to buy additional star dollars at a rate set by the site.

And Stardoll appears to be going OK in the West too. Earlier this month Elle magazine struck a media partnership with Stardoll launch an e-magazine targeting style-conscious young women. Stardoll Magazine, which will offer personal style tips, exclusive videos and live chats with “notable fashion designers”.

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