In Conversation with Jeremy Snyder, Twinity and Metaversum
June 28, 2009 by Bernard Leong
During Ad-Tech Singapore 2009, I worked together with Jeremy Snyder from Twinity (and Metaversum, the parent company) on a panel about innovation and experimental marketing. So, we thought it will be great for him to share about his experiences on virtual worlds and how it is like for a foreigner to set up shop in Singapore. While this is happening in the midst, Twinity has just announced a partnership with AsiaOne for the upcoming release of Virtual Singapore, where they will launch a virtual Orchard Road and Marina Bay in the third quarter of 2009, in conjunction with a major partner who will be announced closer to the release date. So, with all these interesting happenings in the virtual world space, it will be great to share this quick interview with Jeremy Snyder.
BL: Hi Jeremy, great to have you here in SGE. Tell us about your background and how did you get involved with Twinity and Metaversum?
Jeremy: My background is in software and business. I started out in the language industry, working for the leading maker of language productivity software for about 7 years. From 2003 onward, I led the team that was focused on bringing our enterprise software package to the web. We created a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering that was very successful and profitable. When you look below the surface, virtual worlds are also a SaaS application, with a client-server architecture and an emerging business model. That allowed me to bring together my experience with an exciting new area. I was present at the founding of Metaversum, having previously worked with our CEO.
BL: We understand that Twinity is a 3D virtual world that links the real with the virtual world based on realistic replicas of the world’s most vibrant metropolises. What are the three interesting features of Twinity that you will like people to know?
Jeremy: Twinity has a great set of baseline features that you’ll find in all the leading virtual world platforms, but the things that really set Twinity apart are the quality of the city environments, the ability to upload your own photos and create an avatar that’s truly you, and the multimedia features in Twinity. We’re able to create a lot of very exciting experiences that combine socializing, video, web content, in-world browsers, and game elements, all in a persistent 3D environment.
BL: Given there are many virtual worlds out there, how does Twinity distinguish itself from the other virtual worlds like Second Life and HiPiHi?
Jeremy: Really the main difference is the focus on the connection to reality. Twinity has real cities and lets the members be themselves, from using their real names to using their real faces. Twinity starts with the premise that a virtual world can enhance your life online, instead of escaping from it.
BL: Does Twinity open its platform for developers and partners? If so, how do developers and partners contribute to the platform?
Jeremy: We do have a developer program that interested parties can contact us directly to get more information about. Our approach on that side is largely to leverage existing tools and standards. For instance, Twinity supports Collada imports, which lets professional art and modeling companies re-use 3D existing content in Twinity.
BL: We understand Twinity has opened a replica of Berlin city as a beta. What are the activities that most users do within the Berlin virtual world?
Jeremy: We see most Twinizens (Twinity members) spending time exploring the city, where we have a number of the most important tourist and historical landmarks (and more coming), and then the social experiences. Most Twinizens get their own apartments, decorate them with furniture and embedded media, like photos and video. Then they invite their friends over and have parties.
BL: How does Twinity help brands to engage users within the virtual worlds? Any interesting case studies you like to share with us?
Jeremy: I can’t share numbers, like virtual item sales or views or so on, since that’s between us and the brand owners, but there are two examples from Twinity that I would like to talk about. Those are the movie launches for both The Spirit and Angels and Demons. For The Spirit, we created a set of sunglasses that Twinizens could wear on their avatars. That gave Twinity the look and feel of The Spirit graphic novel. With those sunglasses on, we put out a contest for creating your best screenshots or machinima (in-world video). The winner made a cool video that was posted on YouTube, and he won an autographed copy of the original. For Angels and Demons, we created a game in Twinity. It was based on the same theme of solving clues embedded in symbols and finding the answer to the mystery. Twinizens who completed the quest could enter a drawing for some cool prizes. These are examples of experience-based marketing, which has been proven to be more effective in engaging communities than traditional media advertising.
BL: What do you see are the trends happening in virtual worlds and where is heading?
Jeremy: I think virtual worlds are going to grow more and more in the next 3–5 years. Bandwidth improvements and GPU advances will continue to make the whole experience smoother and better. Beyond that, I think more web content will be integrated into virtual worlds. We see things like social networking evolving naturally into a virtual world, letting people go beyond asynchronous communication to more engaging 3D interactions with their friends online.
BL: What do you think are the three most important traits for an entrepreneur?
Jeremy: Persistence, vision and people skills. I do think you need some insight to see a big problem and come up with a simple solution to it. Once you’ve got that, you have to be committed and willing to work hard and long. And there are very few people in the world who can see a problem, design a solution and bring it to market all by themselves, so those people skills come in handy, whether for getting developers to write code for you, getting people to want to spread the message for you, or for working with investors.
BL: What are the challenges that you have encountered in setting up a company in Singapore? Any interesting thoughts to share?
Jeremy: Actually, I found moving here and getting set up quite easy. The only challenge I faced was on getting a bank account set up as a wholly foreign-owned entity (WFOE). I had to show a fair amount of documentation to get that squared away.
BL: Jeremy, thank you for the event and we wish you and Twinity all the best.
Jeremy Snyder is the VP Asia-Pacific, Operations & Community for Metaversum, makers of the online virtual world Twinity. Twinity is the first virtual world that mashes up with the real world, bringing the power of real people and real cities into a virtual world. Jeremy is responsible for day-to-day operations, support and community management at Twinity, as well as the Managing Director of the Singapore office of Metaversum. Jeremy’s past work experience includes 6 years in various online ventures, as well as 6 years in software. Jeremy has a BA in Linguistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA) and an MBA in Enterprise Management from George Mason University (USA).
Find out more about SGE’s research arm: SGE Insights, providing customized in-depth research reports to help you navigate the business of technology in Asia.
About The Author
Bernard Leong - Co-Founder
Dr Bernard Leong is currently in Vistaprint as a technology manager, where he manages an engineering team and builds new products for emerging markets. His former entrepreneurial stints include CTO and co-founder of Chalkboard where he has architected the platform for location based advertising across web and mobile, and also an early stage investor in Thymos Capital with Lunch Actually, Padlet and iHipo. His accolades include the Young Professional of the Year Award for the Singapore Computer Society 2010 and Outstanding Young Alumni for National University of Singapore 2007. His expertise includes technology and social media. Currently, Bernard also serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with INSEAD Business School and taught courses in entrepreneurship in NTU.Read other posts by Bernard Leong