Virtual Businesses, Real Opportunities

Virtual Businesses, Real Opportunities
I’ve been big fan of virtual worlds since starting this blog, but I’m not feeling lonely any more. Virtual worlds are going mainstream, and that is going to create a host of business opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs.

Take this story, for example, about a startup in DC that is charging corporate clients big money to help them set up shop in Linden Lab’s Second Life.

Second Life has, as of tonight, 174,286 residents, who spent almost $200,000 of real money to buy virtual items or rent virtual land.

That’s a medium-sized city, with great demographics, and some real spending.

Electric Sheep, the startup in the article, which cheekily tips its hat to Dick’s classic “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” offers content creation to big companies who want to market to this audience.

In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the early days of the Web, when Web designers were the cutting edge (rather than being outsourced to Pakistan for $0.50 per hour).

The fact is that you can think of virtual worlds as virgin territory for business. Millions of consumers in a commercially underdeveloped landscape, with explosive growth.

And best of all, you don’t even need to create a new business model! People are making money as landlords, nightclub owners, and fashion designers.

What if you could create the McDonalds of virtual worlds? Or the Gap? Or the Best Buy?

What are you waiting for?

3 thoughts on “Virtual Businesses, Real Opportunities

  1. What do you think the value add of these virtual worlds is? I actually have a friend working at Electric Sheep; and from a few (admitedly brief) conversations, I couldn’t figure it out.

    I mean, sure, there’s the coolness factor; but once that wears off? People need reasons to create communities; and I believe the ratio of virtual/face time is poorer in these worlds than in, say, blogging.

    The best value add I could come up with was intentional team building; where there’s time invested upfront.

    I dunno, interesting stuff to ponder. Did you see Joi Ito stopped blogging for WoW?

  2. Jordan,

    The value add of a virtual world is simple: It offers the opportunity to interact with others, but with a different set of rules.

    For example, in the meatspace world, I am limited to meeting certain types of people (people who live in Silicon Valley, and travel in the same high tech/business circles).

    And I’m lucky. I live in a pretty interesting place, and I’m pretty good at meeting people and interacting face to face.

    Now picture instead the life of many others. Maybe they don’t like where they live. Maybe they’re shy. Maybe they’re not good at thinking on their feet.

    A virtual world provides an opportunity for real human connection without all the problems that they encounter in the real world.

    It also has a lot of unique advantages. You can do exciting things like kill monsters and destroy your enemies–without going to jail. You can choose to drop into your virtual life whenever you want, and leave whenever you want. You aren’t bound by your physical constraints. I knew a guy who, while fighting cancer and bed-ridden with chemo, kept himself sane by playing “City of Heroes.”

    This is not to say that virtual worlds are perfect. They are subject to bullying, fraud, and all sorts of other ills. But for many, they are a more attractive option than the “real world.”

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