NZ Herald business editor at large

Teenager's tech start-up goes global

Facebook for gamers is the quickest way to describe it, says 18 year old Tyler Dye when asked to explain his tech start-up Emblim.

With the social media site going live and targeting the US market this week, Dye is already two years ahead of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who launched his pioneering social media platform when he was 20.

Dye seems every bit as ambitious, talking about the potential to build a $1 billion business.

That kind of success is hard to predict, but what is clear is that the Auckland teenager has taken a very smart idea and turned it into a viable business with impressive speed and focus.

Now, in partnership with local digital development firm BKA, he's launching into a global market of up to 100 million hardcore online gamers.

Dye has been immersed in the online gaming community since he was 13, when he ran a World of Warcraft group.

The communities and chat rooms form a huge part of the world of hardcore online gamers.

It was then he first noticed how much of the hard work was involved in building and maintaining a community site.

"So Emblim is a way to manage those communities, and gamers don't really have that because they've never found their place on Facebook."

It's a huge market, and there are effectively just two major players in it, neither of which are doing a great job of meeting the needs of gamers, he says.

"Pretty much nobody has done it right yet. It's about giving people accessibility to these communities that they've never had before."

Initial marketing will be tightly focused on sponsoring existing communities and targeting the games industry media.

"The gaming realm is very different to other industries, we wouldn't do a typical big marketing campaign," Dye says.

That's not necessarily because he lacks the capital.

Dye launched the company in October last year with not much more than the idea and a solid pitch.

But with some angel-style investment from family, and particularly one key family friend, he was able to build a basic version of the platform.

From there he went to work with digital development firm BKA, initially as a client, using their developers on contract.

But BKA was so impressed with the project they offered to come on board as partners and since then Emblim has had between 4 and 10 people working on it for the past seven months.

Access to the site will be free but there are several different ways to generate revenue, Dye says.

Most online game communities survive on donations from members. Emblim will enable easy payments, taking a small percentage as a processing fee from each donation.

There will also be advertising revenue - allowing each community to build in its own advertising and taking a small cut as per the YouTube model - and internal advertising, allowing communities to pay directly for more promotion on the platform.

The third revenue stream would come from hosting virtual stores or market places for in-game items - such as magic weapons and the properties that get created in worlds like Minecraft, World of Warcraft and Path of Exile.

"In every online game that has millions of users there is an economy that people trade in. We will give people the platform to realise they can make money from their gaming."

Emblim won't launch with a bang.

"That can often have a negative impact in the gaming world," Dye says.

It will start with a focus on the US market and expand from there.

Dye says his initial goal is 100,000 users by the end of the year.

- NZ Herald

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