The player: Tim Stevens, president and CEO of Doppelganger, a software company that creates online virtual worlds.
The play: Doppelganger is aiming for the emerging market of designing virtual worlds. These online worlds, where users select avatars for themselves and then use them to interact with other participants and even celebrities and actors, are bubbling up in popularity. Networks such as Showtime and MTV have created virtual worlds for some of their shows. Earlier this year, Doppelganger launched a virtual world in conjunction with Telepictures Productions’ “The Tyra Banks Show.”
The pitch: Doppelganger focuses on the youth demographic, targeting 13- to 23-year-olds with music, media and fashion virtual worlds. “We pay a lot of attention to architecture and city planning, too,” Mr. Stevens said. “We really focus on creating a world that is rich with anticipation and vibrancy.”
In the mix: Mr. Stevens said he’s in talks with virtually all TV networks and studios with properties that target young viewers. For the “Tyra Banks” virtual world, Doppelganger crafted a virtual studio where Ms. Banks hosts weekly virtual events, such as a swimsuit party and a Grammys party. At the swimsuit party, Doppelganger designed a virtual suit for Ms. Banks’ avatar that replicated the one she wore on her talk show and on her 1997 Sports Illustrated cover. Doppelganger competes with Second Life, which has garnered attention for its work with Showtime.
What’s next: In the coming weeks, Doppelganger expects to announce an expanded production schedule for virtual world events for “Tyra Banks.”
Backstory: The company was founded in 2005. Mr. Stevens came on board as CEO earlier this year to scale the business and grow ad sales and revenues.
The money guys: A handful of angel investors provided seed capital in 2005. Since then, Doppelganger has received funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Trident Capital and Greycroft Partners amounting to about $14 million. Doppelganger makes money by striking advertising deals to include brands in the virtual worlds and by selling premium items in those environs. Clients also pay a design and development fee to Doppelganger to build the virtual world. Mr. Stevens expects to reach profitability in 2008.
Background: Mr. Stevens was born and raised in Sacramento, Calif. He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and management from the University of Oregon and a law degree from the University of California at Davis. He has held previous executive positions at Internet and software companies. The 41-year-old married father of two now lives in Cupertino, Calif.
Who knew? Mr. Stevens is an avid Snoopy and Peanuts collector and counts comic books, combs, pencils, paperweights, posters and hairbrushes in his collection.