South Korea’s Naver Z launches $100M fund for metaverse creators

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The Naver Group, a South Korean online behemoth, is continuing to capitalize on the trendiest internet trends aimed squarely at youthful consumers. It is the company that created the renowned chat app Line and the famous selfie app Snow. In the meanwhile, it’s accelerating towards the metaverse, the blazingly hot notion that’s made Roblox, Epic Games, and other gaming behemoths the toast of the town.

Naver Z will introduce it in the coming months, a Naver subsidiary that operates the 3D-avatar app Zepeto, to promote its recently announced plugin powered by Unity. This platform allows developers to create 2D and 3-dimensional content for mobile phones, PCs, and virtual reality devices.

Zepeto, which has been around for four years, offers a mix of entertainment, gaming, and social networking activities. It enables users to turn their photos into 3D avatars, construct digital settings, and engage with other users via social media. According to Rudy Lee, Naver Z’s chief strategy officer, the app had 20 million monthly active users as of January, up from 10 million in May 2020, when the company launched the app.

The number of registered users has almost doubled to 290 million since the app’s launch a year and a half ago. The average session time in a “World,” a user-generated virtual place that’s roughly equal to Roblox’s “Experience,” is 30 minutes.

There are users of Zepeto all around the globe, but it is notably popular among female teens and early twenty-somethings in South Korea and China, respectively. Given Zepeto’s target demographics, it’s no wonder that premium labels like Gucci and Ralph Lauren, as well as celebrities like Blackpink and Selena Gomez, have enlisted the company’s services to create custom digital experiences for their customers. Accessories from high-end designers that are out of reach for most people in real life are suddenly cheaper in Zepeto’s virtual environment.

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Using the $100 million creator fund, Zepeto intends to broaden its users’ breadth of “metaverse” experiences. Naver Z plans to invest in promising studios that use the Unity plugin to create 3D experiences for Zepeto. It will also award cash prizes to high-potential Zepeto creators who use the plugin based on metrics such as plays, visits, and active users (those interested should submit an application to dl ecofund@naverz-corp.com with links to their development portfolio, according to Lee).

Following on the heels of Naver Z’s massive $190 million Series B financing round, headed by SoftBank Vision Fund II and included participation from Mirae Asset, prominent K-pop talent agencies, and other investment companies, the company has launched this project.

Zepeto, like the majority of virtual entertainment platforms, makes money via the selling of items. Since its start in 2018, it has sold 2 billion pieces of merchandise, with 600 million pledged by the middle of 2020. Their most successful inventor produced a gross income of $500,000 in the previous year.

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