Virtual social app backed by Makers Fund MEW is winning over comic book fans in the US – TechCrunch
Raven Gao did not set up the MEW virtual social platform to ride the wave of the metaverse. He started working on MEW in mid-2019 with a Tencent veteran because he wanted to build a virtual haven for socially awkward introverts like himself.
MEW’s interface can be confusing for many people at first glance. The app’s jargon and aesthetics have obvious appeal to fans of the anime, comics, and gaming (ACG) subculture, Gao noted. Cute anime-style images and creamy colors adorn the app, and the control buttons use terms more familiar to ACG fans. Rather than “register”, MEW calls it “creating your travel record”. Users interact through interest-based hubs called “bastions” run by other users, a design similar to Discord’s. Even the app’s name MEW, which is short for “Members of the Excellent World,” exudes an air of camaraderie for fantasy lovers.
The first iteration of Mew launched in mid-2020, and its reach today is still limited. Several tens of thousands of users are active daily, even if they spend a lot of time – 100 minutes on average – inhabiting centers of interest oriented around the usual suspects like games, movies, anime, but also more universal topics like self-improvement and football.
Silicon Valley’s Makers Fund took a leap of faith in Gao in early 2020 when most Chinese investors thought the founder was ‘crazy’ trying to build a new social network at a time when the industry was dominated by giants like Tencent. In 2021, when the “metaverse” became all the rage in the United States and China, Troph, the parent company of MEW, suddenly found itself coveted by domestic investors.
Troph received more funding from China’s 5Y Capital and Zoo Capital late last year, bringing its total capital raised to date to nearly $10 million. The company has yet to announce the amount of its funding.
The world today has no shortage of startups claiming to build virtual worlds and metaverses. But some of these products are “just an avartar-based social platform mimicking the real world,” while others are just “games with some social property,” Gao explained.
MEW, on the other hand, wants people to experience their “alter ego” online with complete honesty and comfort.
Gao believes he has the right partner to realize this vision. Its co-founder Qiang Li spent five years at Tencent’s QQ, China’s most popular PC-era social network, where he led a front-end team to build the iPad version of the messenger. Even today, QQ, with its many fun features, remains widely popular with young Chinese people.
MEW hasn’t started monetizing but Gao hopes to derive new forms of monetization beyond the conventional types for social media like advertising, subscriptions and donations, by involving its users and sharing potential revenue with them.
“We want to explore a model where users who contribute to our product can share the rewards,” Gao said.
Blockchain naturally comes to mind as a potential incentive mechanism. But Gao said that in the short term, the company will not issue any coin offerings or adopt blockchain.
Troph’s goal this year is to expand into the United States, capturing a similar gaming and anime demographic as it did in China. The company currently has around 30 employees in China and is actively recruiting in the United States.