Ready Player Me, a platform to build dynamic cross-game avatars for virtual worlds, raises $56M led by a16z – TechCrunch

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg was chubby Meta’s Metaverse attempts to make up for the poor graphics in its preview of a new expansion, Horizon Worlds. His Quick response The promise of a better avatar for the actual launch shows how much appearance matters in these situations. Now, at the right time, a startup from Tallinn, Estonia called ready player i — which has built a popular platform for creating dynamic, animated avatars to use in virtual worlds created and operated by others — is announcing $56 million in funding to grow its business.

The company today handles approximately 5 million avatars from approximately 3,000 partners, and the funds will be used in three basic areas: to continue recruiting (the company’s offices are in NYC); to expand the platform with more developer tools, including monetization, and to build more services for creators using Ready Player Me (it provides both an SDK and an API); And to double down on the idea that creating single avatars, and identities, that are interoperable and can be used in multiple virtual environments, will improve the overall user experience, and thus help increase user numbers.

“Our big vision is to connect the metaverse through avatars,” Timmu Toke, co-founder and CEO of Ready Player Me, said in an interview. “Maybe Metaverse” [experiences] Owned by big companies that will make all the rules but have an open vision of where people can travel, built by millions of developers, where no one controls the whole thing. like internet. We’re trying to push the world towards that metaverse.”

The Series B is led by Andreessen Horowitz, the storied VC that in recent times has doubled down on all things Metaverse technology; And it is being joined by a long list of equally big names. David Baszucci, co-founder of Roblox; Twitch co-founder Justin Kahn; Sebastian Knutson and Ricardo Zacconi, co-founders of King Games; sports and entertainment company Endeavor; Kevin Hart and Heartbeat Ventures; The TikTok-y D’Amelio family; punk 6529; Snofro; Kolab currency; plural; Convoy Ventures; Robin Chan, co-founder of Fractal; And others are also participating.

Ready Player Me isn’t disclosing a valuation – Toke said “it’s good” – but the round is fast approaching on the heels of the company’s final round, a Series A $13 million Earlier this year in January a round led by Taavet + Sten (a VC led by Taavet Hinrikus led by Wise/TransferWise and Sten Tamkivi, formerly Teleport and once EIR on a16z; it was this series also in B).

Between then and now, Ready Player Me is growing like a weed. The more than 3,000 partners it works with is more than three times the number in January (when it was around 900).

That number says something about the fragmentation in space at the moment – ​​and also something about how long the audience has a tail right now – for two reasons why companies building services operate in all these different walled gardens. Something is understandable.

Will that concept have staying power over time – for example if we start to see some consolidation and concentration of audiences, or if the big players (like meta) want to take over the creation and control of avatars – remains to be seen. This is certainly a potential gating factor for such startups. Or, potentially, an opportunity: it makes a company like Ready Player Me an acquisition target for those who expect to be a single more powerful platform spread across the metaverse; But it also gives startups some potential strategic incentives to be the platform itself.

In support of the latter route, Ready Player Me states that its technology took eight years to build: the company was composed of wolf3dWhich worked with companies like Tencent, Verizon, HTC and Wargaming to create custom avatar systems.

That work prompted the company to amass a proprietary database of more than 20,000 face scans, which were created using the company’s own 3D scanners. That database was in turn used to create a deep-learning-based platform that could produce real-time animated avatars, not unlike the Animoji you’d find on Apple’s iOS, except that it was ready. With Player Me, animated avatars are created “accurately”. Predict and render real faces from a single 2D photo,” which can be used on desktop, web and mobile. It can also work from 3D images.

(Wolf3D still has a site as you can see from the link above, though the site hasn’t been updated since 2021, when Ready Player Me was unveiled. Toke told me it’s a great lead There is a generator, so it has been placed above, but that enterprise / B2B business has been started for the time being.

These days, Ready Player Me partners span both Web3 and Web2 environments, and they include VRChat, Spatial, Somnium Space, RTFKT, the company said. The startup said it works with creators and fashion brands — clients include Adidas, New Balance, Dior, Pull & Bear and Warner Bros. — to help them build cross-game avatar “assets” in the metaverse. Partners are those who are building the Platform, or games and other experiences within those other Platforms; And so part of what Ready Player Me offers is an opportunity for its network of partners to integrate their avatars into those other experiences.

“Today our main target is mid-sized gaming company rather than large companies. We also talk with Meta and others,” Toke said, “but we think bigger will grow faster and so it makes sense to work with them first.” I come.” He added that a lot of its partners are “still building experiences so a large part of the network is still not active, and there is a lot more development to come.”

The idea of ​​creating a platform for creating avatars that work in multiple environments is central to how a lot of Web3 proponents think the whole effort will become more viable in the long term. Some of the big issues in the Metaverse business model so far have been accessibility and user experience – in fact, you have to buy into device ownership and it’s a bit on the clumsy side to use, actually aimed more at early adopters at large. More on that stuff than on the scale market – so at least building a technology that makes it easier to port one’s identity from one virtual world to another – complete with a single user ID – eliminates one of the hurdles. removes.

“Ready Player Me is favored by both developers and players as the largest platform for avatar-system-as-a-service, and is well on its way to building an interoperable identity protocol for the open metaverse,” said Jonathan Lai, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. “We have been deeply impressed by the team’s mix of developer empathy, technical chops and entrepreneurial pragmatism, and could not be more excited to partner with them on this journey.”

Ready Player Me, a platform to build dynamic cross-game avatars for virtual worlds, raises $56M led by a16z

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