I am often challenged to name the UK’s few globally known start-ups and quiet often I forget that WeeWorld, the creators of the popular WeeMee avatars, is a “global” example of a successful UK company. The others being Bebo, DropSend and Last.fm.
Basically WeeWorld lets users create a cartoon character that can act as an avatar for them on instant messengers, blogs and social networking sites, as well as mobile devices. Users pay $2 to create a WeeMee, as well as paying for additional updates to their character via a mobile phone. To the right is my own “business” WeeMee.In May this year, WeeWorld received $15.5 million in a second round of funding from Accel Partners and Benchmark Capital, enabling it to grow its digital identity business internationally. CEO Celia Francis said the London-based firm would use the funds to expand its presence in the United States, support further advertising and sponsorship deals, and achieve what Ms. Francis jokingly referred to as “WeeWorld domination.”
Well true to her word, WeeMee took another step towards global domination this week by forming a strategic partnership with AOL which allows the millions of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) users across the UK, North America and Canada to create and communicate via their own personalised WeeMee. You can also use your WeeMee on MSN, Skype, Friends ReUnited and Excite.
According to the WeeWorld Corporate website, “the company is not yet profitable” but 10 million users have already created WeeMees with 500,000 new users joining monthly.
Celia Francis, CEO of WeeWorld said “Users easily create their unique WeeMee identity to use across all their digital communications channels – from instant messaging to email, blogging, VoIP, picture messaging and mobile IDs – and can search for other WeeMees worldwide, based on interests, looks, location, passions, enthusiasms and opinions.”
I spoke with Celia about a month ago when news of this partnership was circulating. Although I had heard hints of it being AOL, I had actually hoped it was a leading social Network such Bebo, MySpace and/or Piczo which I think is certainly more “strategic” and of higher value, given that AOL is selling most of its European companies and seriously lagging behind the big three in the USA.
We also spoke about two other strategic directions that I felt WeeWorld might look to develop. The first was supporting Microsoft’s meta-identity solution called CardSpace which will be part of Windows Vista and also available for Windows XP (SP2 + .NET3). Below is an example screenshot from my own CardSpace, using my own WeeMee avatars to create two persona’s – my businss and my personal – each with a different address, email and phone number.
Therefore if I came across sites that accepted Microsoft’s “Federated Identity” CardSpace, I could then choose which card persona to use in order to provide my login credentials. [note: This is a mockup I created and is currently not a service available from WeeWorld.] Of course, if this were possible, I am sure there would be no reason why WeeWorld couldn’t extend that support to the other identity solutions e.g OpenID, Yadis or sxip.
The second opportunity might be if WeeWorld decided to support the hCard microformat. Again below is an example of how my WeeMee might be used inside of a hCard microformat. I created this using the simple hCard creator which is free. Additional microformat support could include a person’s social network and profile (xfn & xmdp) as well as including their interests and their Geo Location. [note: Again this is a mockup by me and not a service currently available from WeeWorld]