Meet Timmu Tõke, the CEO of Ready Player Me, a cross-game avatar platform on a mission to break down the walls and build more open and connected virtual worlds.
Ready Player Me empowers developers, content creators, and end-users to create and customize their own 3D avatars, enabling seamless integration across various platforms. Today, Ready Player Me is used by over 8000 companies, and in the previous year, Timmu was awarded the title of Founder of the Year 2022.
- Can you tell us about the story behind the creation of Ready Player Me and what inspired you to start this company?
The company has actually been active for nearly a decade now, although we operated under a different name for most of that time. Like many startups, it’s been a wild ride, and we’ve gone through 5-6 pivots over the years. However, since 2020, our focus has been on building and scaling Ready Player Me.
In 2013, we began as a 3D printing service provider in Estonia. Afterward, we shifted our focus to developing hardware 3D scanners. However, we understood that in the future more of our daily lives were transitioning to virtual worlds, and we recognized the growing need for people to be represented in these spaces. As a result, we shifted our attention to building custom avatar systems for large companies like HTC, Tencent, and H&M. Working with these firms, we realized that there were specific characteristics they were seeking in an avatar system. This realization prompted us to consider the possibility of standardizing this as a product and making it accessible to small and mid-size developers as well. In May 2020, we launched the first version of Ready Player Me.
But what inspired us to start the company and has remained our driving force throughout all our pivots, is our goal to create avatars and bring humans into virtual worlds. While we’ve taken different approaches over time, every pivot has been necessary to get us to where we are today. Each iteration has helped us unlock the next stage of growth.
“But what inspired us to start the company and has remained our driving force throughout all our pivots, is our goal to create avatars and bring humans into virtual worlds.”
– Timmu Tõke, CEO of Ready Player Me
2. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced while building Ready Player Me and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is to build a product that people actually need and love. It took us many iterations over the years to get to a product that solves a clear problem for customers and has the potential to make a major impact in an industry. When we started the company in university, we had no prior experience or knowledge in… well, anything. We faced a lot of painful learning experiences along the way, but we kept experimenting and striving to be better with each iteration. It wasn’t easy to keep reinventing ourselves every year for a long time.
3. What do you see as the future of virtual avatars and how do you see Ready Player Me evolving to meet the changing landscape?
We believe that people will spend more time in virtual worlds with every year that goes by – they play games, they hang out together, they go to virtual events. And in all of those experiences, people are represented as avatars.
Our focus as a company is to enable and assist developers in creating the best games and experiences. Currently, we save developers time and money by providing a plug-and-play avatar system so they don’t have to create their own. We’re now building tools to help developers monetize their games and acquire users from the Ready Player Me network. The gaming industry is already a $200B industry as is growing rapidly, avatars are one of the primary ways games generate revenue.
“We believe that people will spend more time in virtual worlds with every year that goes by – they play games, they hang out together, they go to virtual events. And in all of those experiences, people are represented as avatars.”
– Timmu Tõke, CEO of Ready Player Me
4. Could you talk about your team and their backgrounds, and what makes them uniquely suited to build Ready Player Me?
I am incredibly proud of the team we have assembled. We are a truly global team with members from 16 countries and 24 different nationalities, and we have grown threefold to almost 80 people in the past year. Our product & engineering teams are primarily based in Europe, while we are currently expanding sales & marketing in the US. Our team has a diverse range of skill sets, as creating avatar systems requires expertise in various areas, from human anatomy to scaling avatars on different platforms while maintaining visual quality.
What makes us uniquely suited to build Ready Player Me is our shared values and passion for the product. We are all driven to make a positive impact and to do the best work of our lifetimes. We deeply care about the challenges faced by developers, as they are the ones who ultimately give us value. And beyond that, we are simply a great group of people who enjoy having fun together.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to join Timmu and other industry experts at the official Latitude 59 side event, “The Rise of AI in Gaming,” on May 24.