IMVU does a Q&A with me. Part 2 about the sale of FurAffinity.
by Patch O'Furr
A series of three articles:
- About the FurAffinity sale, and the issue of trade-offs.
- IMVU does a Q&A with me.
- Community > Commodity, and the Value of WTF. Long live furries.
The conclusion brings it all back to commercialization. I’ve reported this for a while: Measuring the Furry Economy. – Mainstream advertising: “More and more, Furries are being hinted at in marketing media!” – And the recent $11,575 record fursuit sale and $17,500 top price. Also try: Furry, not an obscure little fandom any more. I often say that the thriving growth of this subculture is built on WTF weirdness that can’t be digested by the mainstream. Will that stay true?
2) Speaking with IMVU.
FurAffinity just posted a Q&A with IMVU’s CEO Brett Durrett. A furry responded: Ashamed for the fandom; an apology to CEO Brett Durrett.
While seeking graphics, I just noticed they tweeted me from Fur Con in January! (Not endorsement, just spreading furriness.) Yay! Can you spot me among the eye-blasting pink, sparkles and rainbows? I was in camo.
My Q&A started:
This is for both IMVU and Dragoneer (Mr. Piche). I assume that some details may be kept private. I’ll build a news article from the answers, aiming for positive information not gossip. I’m curious to know: 1) The story of how IMVU and FurAffinity came together. 2) Terms of ownership now. 3) The future and your roles in leading users.
They responded to my long list:
Attached is the interview completed by Sean Piche, Fur Affinity Community Leader, IMVU; Kevin Henshaw, SVP Business Development, IMVU; and Varsha Pande, Director, Community Experience and User Safety. You’ll note a few of your questions were left unanswered as a matter of company disclosure policy. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the Fur Affinity acquisition.
How IMVU and Fur Affinity came together.
Who put the opportunity out? Did Mr. Piche approach IMVU? Or did you approach him?
IMVU had been advertising its services on the FurAffinity.net site for months… Both communities have a significant overlap in terms of members as both facilitate expression and showcasing of artistic skills, as well as interest in furry lifestyle. IMVU community includes a large furry segment along with many others.
Recent DDoS attack on multiple furry community sites including FA, started some discussions here at IMVU regarding how such communities are thriving but often face resource challenges. Having had our own DDoS attacks last year, we know what it takes to defend against them. That led us to consider making FA part of our community and we reached out to Dragoneer with that intent. Of course as a business, we also needed to make sure that this was a sound move on our part. Our research showed how FA site ranks high in terms of traffic and fosters a niche community which is a great target for third-party advertisers that we already work with. It was clear that the site would provide a reasonable source of ad revenue for us while allowing us to support a community that our users already engage with.
How much negotiation was there? Mr. Piche made comments about sorting offers, and picking the one that would support the existing community. Was it a tough bargain for either side?
It was not a tough bargain but an involved discussion. Sean wanted to ensure he accepted an offer that was best for his community while allowing him the independence to run the site as he has been with added bonus of resources so he could make improvements that he has been wanting to make.
Any comment about price of the sale?
We do not divulge details of a business agreement.
Were there concerns about adult content on the site, and how to run a business around it? How were those settled?
IMVU’s intent is to let FA be independent and follow its own established policies regarding content. There are no plans to apply IMVU’s TOS and content policies to content shared/sold on FA.
What details needed to be ironed out while it took months to announce?
Sean wanted to make the announcement in conjunction with improvements to the site that have been in the works. Unfortunately, that work was delayed causing the delay in us making the joint announcement which was actually about 2 months after the deal was finalized. Also, it is business as usual for both communities and as such no changes were to be announced.
IMVU contacted me about appearing at Fur Con in January, and I did an article. I assume the sale was in process then, but nobody knew. Was that testing the waters? What did the results tell you about working with this community?
IMVU’s appearance at FurCon was planned before our involvement with FA. Again, this was more a result of our desire to grow niche segments of our communities such as furries and showcasing them being part of IMVU to the FurCon audience. IMVU has had furries in our communities for the past 10 years – since our beginning – so we are already familiar and in touch with that community.
Terms of ownership now.
Mr. Piche is now an employee of IMVU. He’s saying the site is still it’s own entity, meant to run hands-off. FurAffinity gets stable funds and support to operate. What else does it get? What does IMVU get?
Yes, Sean is now Fur Affinity Community Leader at IMVU and has been given complete authority to run the FA site and manage his community on his own. Of course he now has our support – in terms of IT as well as anything else he may need – to do so. FA gets funds and support – and an opportunity to become part of the IMVU community if they are not already. IMVU gets revenue from third-party ads shown to FA members on their site.
Specifically, how will the site be treated as an asset? Will FurAffinity users generate profits from ads, user data, payments for services, creative content they make, or something else?
There are no changes to the way FA community members share and sell their artwork in their marketplace. Other than the appearance of 3rd party ads – served via Google – FA community members should only notice a more responsive and more resilient site – and no other changes.
Mr. Piche made comments that users shouldn’t worry about their content being misused. Will there be changes to user’s rights to their works? How will IMVU use their work? Will there be a line IMVU can’t cross in regards to using it? Will there be a line that users can’t cross in making it?
There are no changes to the way FA site works in terms of its policies and content sharing/selling. As is the standard process, we will not be posting the contents of our business agreement publicly. FA’s policies (which remain unchanged) are of course available on the FA site.
What improvements are planned? Will they be careful to keep a spirit of a “furry community” rather than a corporate entity? Have you made any concessions to favor that?
Again, no changes are planned by IMVU to the way FA community members participate and share their furry-themed art and love for everything furry with each other. The only changes will be the ones planned by Dragoneer to make improvements to the site’s experience and mobile layouts. The community spirit will remain unchanged. The improvements are related to server upgrades, website design etc.
The future and roles in leading users.
How does growth of the furry fan community make you feel about the business opportunity? Were there metrics that helped make the sale?
Yes, the site visitor volume were the metric that convinced us that this was the right business decision. Knowing that the communities share a common interest was the driving force.
Do you feel that FurAffinity is only adding a small boost to what IMVU already does? How much? (Can you compare the size of FurAffinity’s user base to yours?) Or will IMVU incorporate more of what furry fans do?
Any growth in IMVU’s furry community will be a natural result of exposure of IMVU to FA users. There are no specific plans in place to make that happen. Apart from advertising revenue, we are not expecting any other boost. We will not share the actual numbers of that expected revenue.
FA community consists of 1.2 million registered accounts while IMVU has over 120 million.
Do you think IMVU will influence the furry fan community more now? For what goals?
We do expect more furry community members to discover and explore IMVU and possibly create 3D content for our Shop. Increased awareness is anticipated and is our goal.
I hear that IMVU has many young users and adult content is restricted – but some art hosted on FurAffinity has a super naughty reputation. Do you expect to catch any flak, and did you do anything to prepare? Or is it no big deal? (For the record, I’m as libertarian as it gets about art.)
FA and IMVU will continue to have their own policies regarding content. We do not anticipate any issues.
Furry fans have had stigma attached to them in the past. Do you feel this partnership may set you apart from other companies? Is it taking a chance that other companies haven’t? Some companies have made bold statements about things like gay rights – do you think supporting furry fan activities may make a statement about acceptance? Or is it just a negligible concern because it’s a niche community and users are good at positively directing themselves?
IMVU is a place where users choose to be who they want to be and form a social network with like-minded people from around the globe. IMVU has always proudly supported every member of its community. We do not think bringing FA community into our family makes any political statement but simply reinforces what IMVU always has been all about.
Will we see you at more conventions?
We are always looking for opportunities to represent IMVU at conventions of all themes. FA of course will be placed prominently at the Biggest Little Furry Con (BLFC). FA of course also has its own convention – FA United – coming up in September. Our fast work pace, availability of people to attend these conventions, and logistics of when and where they take place are the driving factors.
Do you forsee changes for the fan community in general? Perhaps about working with companies, dealing with sensitive adult content, or shifting roles among fan-sites who may compete for your users?
We do not foresee any changes to the fan community – on IMVU or on FA except for increased awareness and exploration for both.
Regarding future opportunities, we again do not anticipate any major shift in the current scenario.
These questions went unanswered due to disclosure policy:
- Any comment about other contenders to buy the site, and what they wanted?
- Were there concerns about claim of rights/ownership by contributors to the site, besides Mr. Piche? How were those settled?
It was just as interesting to see what they didn’t say, like being careful with the adult content and politics answers. I was hoping to hear more. Obviously it’s not reasonable to expect them to drop PR concerns and be as candid as a friend at the bar. That’s why it’s good to be independent, and bring you more than the Q&A posted at their own site.