Ubivent Enters The Virtual Events Platform Market

December 2, 2009

Based in Mannheim, Germany, ubivent has entered the virtual events platform market with a recently launched platform.  According to Michael Geisser, Managing Director Market Development, the ubivent co-founders “met at university, working together in an IT research program and pursuing our PhD”.  The co-founders then spent several years working at multinational corporations, where they held numerous roles in IT and IT management.

In fact, Geisser and co-founder Thomas Butter (Managing Director Research and Development) were recently with SAP, where they worked on some of SAP’s first virtual events.  Ubivent is off to a fast start – they received 12 months of funding from EXIST, “a program of the European Union and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology” designed to support innovation.  In addition, in late November, ubivent was selected as the most promising young company in Mannheim.

Target market

Ubivent’s initial target market is to serve large and distributed corporations – large companies have already adopted the basic technologies required for virtual events (including sufficient bandwidth capacity) and distributed companies can immediately leverage the convenience and cost savings of virtual collaboration (versus in-person).

“However, this does not mean that we do not offer our services for small, non-IT organizations”, noted Geisser. “We’ve also done projects with local authorities. Obviously, the entire project size has been not that extensive as for a global event with multiple thousands of participants.”

Since the European market for virtual events has not developed as quickly as the U.S. market, Geisser sees plenty of opportunity in Europe.  Geisser sees opportunity in all sorts of event types, but notes that “the type of the event is not as important as the content and the participants. We see the advantages of virtual events especially for knowledge-intense content (e.g. software, finance, etc.) with globally distributed participants”.

In comparing the U.S. and European markets, Geisser believes that while “US based customers put more emphasis on the look and feel, the European customers are very keen on getting a technically scalable and secure platform. Fortunately we’re combining both.”

Technology platform

Ubivent is a member of Microsoft BizSpark, a program that provides “software, support and visibility” to software start-ups.  While most virtual event platforms are built on top of Adobe Flash, ubivent’s platform is based on JavaFX, a platform for building rich internet applications that runs on top of JRE (Java Runtime Environment).

According to Geisser, the use of JavaFX serves as a competitive advantage for ubivent over competing Flash-based platforms – “JavaFX is one key advantage of our platform. This opens the door for completely new functionalities which are not possible with other technologies (e.g. Flash)”.

Ubivent developed an accessibility framework to assist visually impaired people in using their virtual events platform via a screen reader.  The source code for the accessibility framework has been published as open source.  The framework is built on top of JavaFX, which means that other platforms seeking to incorporate it would need to run JavaFX as well.

Virtual events vs. immersive virtual worlds

Geisser has taken a look at 3D immersive virtual worlds, such as Second Life and Twinity.  He believes, however, that the immersive virtual world is currently more suited to B2C or C2C use cases, whereas his B2B market is more focused on quick and convenient access to selected content.  Notes Geisser, “In a B2B context, the desire for avatars and the ability to walk through a virtual world is less distinct. Here, the focus is more the ability to quickly access information and other participants. The need to ‘walk’ through the virtual world to access this information or participant is considered adverse with regard to this goal.”

In closing

It will be interesting to watch the European market for virtual events in 2010.  Ubivent and IMASTE are two of the leading European-based providers – while they may encounter each other in common client accounts, I’m sure the providers from the U.S. market will be looking towards Europe (and Asia) as well.

Related links

  1. Follow ubivent on Twitter
  2. Ubivent’s Facebook page
  3. Ubivent-developed accessibility framework, fxaccessible
  4. Ubivent’s executive management team
  5. Audio interview – ubivent speaks about their JavaFX-based virtual events platform

Virtual Berlin Relocates To Downtown San Francisco

April 6, 2009

Source: Twinity

Source: Twinity

At Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last week, one of the exhibitors who caught my attention was Twinity – the virtual world from Berlin-based Metaversum.  On occasion of their appearance at Web 2.0, the company issued a press release with the entertaining title, “Metaversum Takes 16 Square Miles of the German Capital to San Francisco with Twinty.”  I stopped by the Twinity booth (which, interestingly, was part of a larger presence from the city of Berlin) and received a demo of Virtual Berlin from Twinity’s CMO, Mirko Caspar.

Twinity is not unlike other virtual worlds businesses – but their unique angle is in the creation of real-life representations of cities, with each block, each building, each sidewalk recreated down to a pixel by pixel level of detail.  In fact, the Twinity motto is “powered by real life”.  I find their approach to virtual worlds interesting:

  1. Real world cities – with generic virtual worlds, any given resident has only a certain likelihood of visiting the land or island you create.  What Twinity does is start with world famous cities (e.g. Berlin, London [coming soon]) – places that everyone on Earth has heard of and might want to visit (virtually).  Whether I’ve visited Berlin or not, I might like to visit its virtual represetation – to explore a new city (if I’ve never been there) or to recall spots from my past visit – and, see how the current city has changed from the last time I visited.
  2. Land scarcity – unlike a generic virtual world, where land development is only limited by the dollars invested in new land sales, Twinity’s approach is a methodical launch schedule of selected cities.  This creates a certain level of demand and pricing power (in the cities that do exist) compared to a virtual land grab where hundreds of islands are developed over the course of a few months.  I compare it to a baseball park that consistently sells out its 30,000 seats (at a premium) vs. a McStadium of 70,000 seats that may never sell out a game.

The Twinity business model is based on four pillars:

  1. Dynamic in-world advertising (via partnership with JOGO Media)
  2. Product placement and sponsorship – with sponsorship, one can host events, in-world, for instance
  3. V-commerce and E-commerce – generate sales in-world – or, generate an e-commerce transaction that occurs outside of Twinity
  4. Virtual real estate market

In addition, Twinity has a freemium model, where basic membership is free, with premium membershp benefits available at additional cost.

I asked Caspar about the potential for cybersquatting of land assets in Virtual Berlin – for instance, what if I purchased the virtual office of a Fortune 500 company, but they come in later to claim the rights to it?  Caspar responded that certain real estate is reserved by Twinity (e.g. a national musuem, a government facility, etc.).  For business-related land, however, it’s all fair game and “first come, first served” with regard to virtual land purchase.

Twinity, however, enforces certain rules in its user agreement – if Adidas purchased the virtual land of Niketown, then Adidas would not be permitted to use their logo on virtual land associated with Nike (as an example).

Twinity is currently in public beta with Virtual Berlin the first available city.  Virtual London is on tap – and, Twinity was awarded a grant from the Singapore government to build a Virtual Singapore.  Given Twinity’s recent visit to the Bay Area, one has to wonder whether San Francisco is up next.

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