Interview with Brian McKelvey, Worlize

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


Earlier this month, Los Angeles-based startup Worlize ( announced it had received a seed round of funding, and launched a firm to focus on social gaming and chat. The firm's CEO is Brian McKelvey, who we caught up with recently to learn more about his background, the firm, and the market it hopes to serve.

Thanks for the interview. What's the idea behind Worlize?

Brian McKelvey: We're building a virtual world, which attaches to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and all the social networks. It's built on a gaming platform, and is a way for users to create their own content and portions of that world.

How did the firm come about?

Brian McKelvey: I'd been looking around at all the social gaming platforms and virtual worlds online, such as Second Life, Farmville, and other apps on the Apple App Store for inspiration. I felt like the virtual worlds out there, the 3D virtual worlds, were very cool, but had such a high barrier to entry for content creation. If you want to create 3D content for those worlds, it requires 3D graphics design tools like 3D Studio for the Mac, or Maya Studio for the PC, in order to build that content, or to create your own custom avatars and rooms. Looking at social gaming platforms, they are fun and addictive, but they're very prescriptive--you can get really hooked on Farmville, planting and harvesting crops, but there is really no way to really customize that experience, and to use it to interact with friends.. I wanted to create something that takes the best of both of those worlds, an avatar-based chat platform, which is 2D, to lower th barrier to entry so that anyone with PhotoShop or a graphics program can create their own custom content, and customize that world to their heart's content, and where advanced users can even use a Javascript API to create their own custom games..

What's your background?

Brian McKelvey: For the last ten years, I've worked in software engineering, ranging from building social viral games for Paramount, Lionsgate, and GSN. Also, more recently, I was with LiveNation and was building point-of-sales applications. It's been a combination of both social gaming and business applications.

What drove you to start the company?

Brian McKelvey: I really wanted to have fun. I wanted to create something exciting, creative, and which users really appreciate, and give people the tools to enable them to express themselves. I am really excited about it. I want to see what users create, and how they use the platform, to build innovative new games and virtual worlds.

You said it's a combination of virtual worlds and social networking sites like Facebook--how does that integrate together?

Brian McKelvey: We provide a fully integrated dashboard which is available on all of the social platforms, such as MySpace and Facebook, which provides friend messaging, notifications, and what not. We also have ties to link up to your friends on Worlize through their profile on the social network site. You can make new friends on Worlize, and then take that and make new connections on the social networks, and develop a more meaningful friendship..

How far along is the service, and when will it be available to users?

Brian McKelvey: We're currently running a private beta, which will become more open towards the end of summer. We'll have an open public beta in the fall.

Finally, what's the big goal for your firm in the next few months?

Brian McKelvey: We've got a lot on our plate. Development is progressing rapidly, and we're hoping to get people into the platform, participating, and getting feedback very quickly. We want to see lots of users excited about it, and for it to grow.

Good luck!


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