Focus OnIn Depth

NetEase Invested in IMVU, New Changes Has Taken Place in Friends Discovery Market

Young People in Friends Discovery Market

Compared with other groups, young people in Europe and America are the favorite in the eyes of investment institutions.

2020 may be the year with the most frequent financing of social products in recent years. Innovative forms of interaction, facing new vertical groups, all kinds of new and old products have gained some opportunities. On January 25, 2014, the virtual image social platform IMVU, which has been online, completed a $35 million financing. Netease led the investment. The company’s last financing was in 2009 (the company was established as early as 2004). As far as we know, some China investment institutions looking at overseas social networking basically focus on young users in the European and American markets.

In addition, according to venture beat, the financing will be mainly used to develop the company’s new social game community, with me. Tsui, CEO of IMVU, said that with me is somewhat similar to Roblox, but the target users are older than Roblox users. For IMVU, which has recorded millions of dollars a month, Netease’s support in games may be more valued.

Social market ushers in financing year

In IMVU, users mainly set their virtual image by pinching their faces and choosing clothes to participate in various activities in the IMVU community. The use scenarios include Chat Room, Live Room, etc. Users can interact with other users in the virtual scene of the community with their virtual image.

chat room in IMVU

IMVU has strong liquidity overseas. According to the data of Sensor Tower, the revenue of the IOS + Android terminal of IMVU in December 2020 is close to the US $5 million.

According to CrunchBase, although IMVU’s community products were launched in 2014, the company behind it was established as early as 2004. The previous four rounds of financing were completed between 2006 and 2009. That is to say, the latest financing of $35 million is the first financing that IMVU has obtained since the launch of the App. Before that, we can often hear the financing information of social products.

Among all social apps, from a more detailed perspective, “Friend Discovery”, which means making new friends among strangers, is the fastest-growing category, with a year-on-year growth of 208%.

What are the new changes in Friend Discovery?

The Fast-Growing Mobile Social Apps

Here I also want to analyze Itsme, which is also a virtual social app.

Although both belong to virtual image dating, the difference between Itsme and IMVU is that the core of IMVU is the user’s virtual image, and the interactive rules in the community are the extension of the virtual image. But Itsme is essentially a matching dating app, just replacing the user’s real image with a virtual one.

In Itsme, users can pinch their faces according to their own preferences. When the user’s face is facing the screen, the virtual image on the screen will change with the user’s own look and action. This way of Friend Discovery with virtual images reduces the pressure of many users when they communicate with strangers. The copywriting in Itsme’s advertising materials also reflects the pain point of the users this app wants to solve: “meeting friends without having to be face to face because I’m shy”.

In addition to video social interaction, Itsme also introduces interactive ways of text, audio, and even drawing. In order to help users find the most suitable friends, Itsme will match people with similar interests and hobbies according to different user tags. From the comment area of the app store, many users say that they like this way of Friend Discovery without showing their face, and they have successfully made many friends from all over the world through this app.

Reviews to Itsme
Reviews to Itsme

Before that, some Chinese game publishers also tried to cut into this track in this way. At that time, the cognition of entrepreneurs was that Asian users would be shyer about Friend Discovery, and masquerading could solve some problems. However, the rapid growth of Itsme in the United States is counter common sense, which also reminds developers that they need more in-depth insight into users.

Moreover, if Itsme is directly understood as the “virtual image version” of video matching and dating, it is not correct. This app is more “fresh” and does not have too obvious hormonal breath.

I tried it out. First of all, the entry interface is small earth made up of users. You can select a specific user to view his / her basic information and interests manually to decide whether to further contact him/her. The filter in the upper right corner can further narrow the selection range. If this interface is called an active dating interface, then the leftmost menu is a “passive dating” to match directly.

The growth of Itsme in the U.S. market also reflects that the “virtual image”, a popular social element of Generation Z young people in the U.S., can be used not only in game-based scenarios but also as a substitute for a real image in a variety of online social scenarios. And from the characteristics of virtual images convenient for DIY, we can also develop more payment points or commercial opportunities. For example, some time ago, in order to expand its e-commerce business, Snapchat planned to cooperate with fashion brands to let users dress up their Bitmoji with virtual fashion items of these brands.

Snapchat & Levi's
Snapchat & Levi’s Brand Cooperation

In addition to more attempts in the form of interaction, more and more vertical is another keyword of the U.S. dating market in 2020.

The U.S. dating market is becoming more and more vertical.

An app grows rapidly by virtue of the function of Drink with me!

The growing popularity of dating apps for vertical groups is another important trend in the U.S. dating market. In December 2020, the valuation of vertical communities started by games like discord rose to $7 billion, which was hard to imagine before.

Recently, the author observed that an app called Beer Buddy, which helps users find drinkers, has grown significantly on the list of app store and Google play in the United States.

Beer Buddy App
Beer Buddy App

The recent growth of Beer Buddy’s ranking in App Store (top) and Google play (bottom) free rankings data source: app Annie

Judging from netizens’ comments on Beer Buddy on the social platform, this social app is indeed popular among drinkers. On Twitter, a user said that since the installation of “Beer Buddy”, the phone rings every five minutes.

In the United States and other European and American countries, drinking culture is different from that in China. In China, people often get together to drink at weddings, festivals, and other occasions for the purpose of celebration. But in Europe and the United States, “drinking” has a stronger social attribute. In American dramas, there is no lack of people meeting with friends after work to chat and drink in bars.

beer buddy app

Therefore, “Drink with me!” has become a big demand for overseas drinkers. On the basis of grasping this demand, the author thinks that there are two reasons for the rapid growth of user volume in the short term.

The first is to rely on Snapchat for fission communication in marketing and customer acquisition. There are many ways for users of Beer Buddy to add friends, including scanning QR codes and searching user name. The first option is to add friends on Snapchat. After selecting “add friends on Snapchat”, users can edit a filter with a bee buddy theme and send it to their friends.

In addition to the filter for inviting friends to join, Beer Buddy and Snapchat have also cooperated in a way similar to co-branding on the expression pack, the favorite chat element of Generation Z. when a user of Beer Buddy invites a friend through Snapchat, a friend from Beer Buddy will appear in the process of chatting with this Snapchat friend When invited Snapchat friends to chat and send their expressions on Beer Buddy, they will also be accompanied by the expression of Bitmoji in Snapchat.

beer buddy twitter reviews
Beer Buddy Twitter

According to App Annie’s data, Snapchat is the most commonly used application of Generation Z in 2020, and it has also become an important channel to achieve user growth. Among the fastest-growing dating apps in the United States in 2020 according to Apptopia statistics, except Itsme mentioned above, Hoop, Wizz, and Wink all have Snapchat login options when they log in. Hoop is even a dating app developed around Snapchat. If the user is interested in a stranger, the communication with the stranger is not completed in the app like other dating apps, but requests to add Snapchat friends of the other party. Both parties can continue to interact on Snapchat, that is to say, the role of Hoop is only to “find new friends” and help Snapchat get users. In fact, there are many products around Snapchat, and some of them have achieved good results. A friend interactive game called Sendit once ranked No. 3 on the US IOS list.

In addition to marketing, Beer Buddy has achieved the goal of providing as comprehensive functions as possible around the group of “drinkers” in product design, which is one of the reasons why it has gained a large number of users.

The first is the “map” function of the bottom level label. Through this function, users can easily see nearby places where they can drink and nearby friends or strangers who are drinking or want to drink.

beer buddy function

The way map is played is more intuitive, and it has shown a high degree of popularity among social media users of Generation Z. According to Twitter blogger Turner Novak, “at present, about one-third of Snapchat users use the map function, which may be the most underrated revenue source of Snapchat.”

Around the vertical group, the comprehensive function is also reflected in two aspects. In Beer Buddy, users can not only find wine friends but also publish their current status, which is convenient for wine friends to know their status. In addition to choosing the type of wine you are drinking, users can also choose such status options as “ready to drink”, “abstinence”, “safe at home” and “on the way home”. These status options are topics that friends should know before and after drinking with each friend but need additional communication You only need to publish your own news to let other friends know, which reduces the cost of communication.

beer buddy user

Such a design has also received positive feedback from users. One user commented in the app store, “this app not only provides an interesting way to drink with your friends but also helps your friends know what you’re doing and ensure that you get home safely after drinking.”

In addition, in view of the problem that people all over the world don’t know who to let drink on the wine table, Beer Buddy also has built-in 9 small games suitable for the wine table to meet the social needs of users when drinking.

The recent growth of Beer Buddy has sent out two signals

1. Although social platforms have been occupied by giants in the U.S. market, in the context of the explosion of users’ social demand, there is still a lot of room for the growth of social products for vertical groups or with innovative play methods.

2. In marketing promotion, it is very important to find suitable promotion channels for target groups. At the same time, in terms of products, it is necessary to restore the use scenarios of target users as much as possible, and design products according to the needs of users in these scenarios. Even some subtle points are still important bonus items if they can bring convenience to users and improve efficiency.

In addition to the Friends Discovery products targeting a specific vertical group, such as Beer Buddy, there are also comprehensive platforms to help users of various preferences “find organizations”. For example, IRL, the activity discovery platform that received US $16 million in round B financing in September last year.
On the IRL platform, users can participate in star watching, games, music, sports, and other activities with other users. At the same time, users can organize activities and invite friends to join. The events you decide to attend will appear on the user’s calendar in the form of a schedule.


In fact, IRL grew in April after the outbreak of the overseas epidemic, relying on the transformation to online virtual activities. In fact, IRL is not the only activity discovery platform to achieve growth through the epidemic. According to the silicon rabbit race, Hopin, an online activity platform, has received $170 million in financing only 18 months after its launch, and its valuation has reached $2.1 billion.

With the shift of American users’ social behavior to online, “Friend Discovery” has burst out the strongest demand. In the process of a large number of users seeking to find friends online, some emerging models or segmentation groups are worthy of attention. For example, Friend Discovery with the help of virtual images is becoming more and more popular among users in the United States, and there is a strong demand for Friend Discovery among groups driven by interests. Almost all the new phenomena or new products in the American dating market are related to Generation Z.


Sylvia G

Reporter at Firmknow News. U.S. IPOs, consumer and private equity deals. Preemptively skeptical. My opinion belongs to me.
Back to top button