Wemo Media’s Venice offices aren’t too far from the beach, and that makes sense given its first product: a computer-animated underwater world called theBlu.
Using a global team of freelance graphic artists and some Hollywood visual effects veterans, the company is creating marine ecosystems that range from tropical coral reefs to temperate kelp forests that can be explored by students and other ocean enthusiasts that have downloaded theBlu software.
The company, which raised $2 million this year, is in its early stages, but Chief Executive Neville Spiteri said he expects creating such virtual worlds to be big business. Wemo already has plans to roll out other worlds, possibly one in outer space.
“You could think of us as a next-generation Pixar, targeting web and mobile platforms and focused on family entertainment,” he said.
TheBlu allows users to navigate between the different habitats, buy species and update friends using a Facebook tie-in, similar to Zynga Inc.’s hit FarmVille game. Fish and marine mammals that reside in the virtual world cost from $1 to $25. The desktop program is free, but the company sells a $19.99 pro subscription to get immediate access to more habitats. Spiteri said a mobile app will be released in the near future.
The company also has an interesting compensation model for its animators, some of whom are veterans of big Hollywood effects movies such as “Avatar” and “Titanic.” The animators get about one-quarter of the revenue from the sale of items that they design. Another quarter of the revenue for some animals goes towards non-profit or educational organizations such as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The rest goes to Wemo.
The company currently offers 10 marine habitats and is developing four more, including one for the arctic that will feature icebergs and whales.
Spiteri wouldn’t disclose revenues since theBlu made its beta launch in June, but said he projects $100 million in revenue from the application. Wemo plans to add more gamelike features to encourage purchases from users.
He’s also leading Wemo through another round of fundraising, though he declined to say how much capital is being sought.
Wemo will use the money to expand marketing – theBlu was already featured on Times Square electronic billboards in May – as well as continuing to develop new worlds. He said one possibility is partnering with entertainment studios to build virtual worlds populated with their intellectual property.
The company’s ambition already has drawn notice, including a positive write-up in Wired Magazine early this year. Then in June, British entrepreneur Richard Branson and his team wore jerseys adorned with theBlu’s logo while on a kite-surfing journey across the English Channel.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.