There were many really cool startups at this year’s LeWeb conference, but not many that blew me away. I already mentioned Yatedo; this is the other one.
Mimesis Republic builds casual social games that live both inside Facebook and on the web, with rich 3D environments. You can create a pretty 3D avatar, and that avatar will represent you across games, and points and goodies you win in one game will accrue to your other games. This is another company entering the red-hot social games space but with several things that set it apart.
Mimesis Republic is interesting, first and foremost, because they’ve existed for over two years, have almost 50 employees, have raised 5 million euros from angels — and were in stealth up until today. It’s not every day that a startup manages to raise 5 million and hire 50 people and stay under the radar (not completely because they paid some bills by building branded games and sites for big companies).
Mimesis was started by Nicolas Gaume, previously the founder at 19 of Kalisto, a legendary French games developer that rode the dotcom roller-coaster to the public markets and later bankruptcy. I met Gaume at LeWeb and talked him into showing me the product and giving me an exclusive to show it here.
Mimesis is interesting, second of all, because they’ve built a very impressive technology for showing a full 3D environment inside the browser, without having to download anything. It’s works through java, which shocked me at first since it’s usually so slow, but it worked very smoothly on LeWeb’s wifi.
And Mimesis is interesting, finally, because of the concept. Mimesis will build casual social games a la Zynga, but those games are interconnected and are rendered in gorgeous 3D. Like Second Life (Gaume doesn’t like his service to be compared to Second Life), you can build an avatar that represents you, and you will play that avatar in every Mimesis game. Unlike Zynga, where the graphics are basic and there’s no relationship between how you play in Mafia Wars and FarmVille, the points and items you earn in one game will accrue to the other games you play on Mimesis. Unlike services like IMVU or Oddcast that are just about chatting or displaying your avatar, the social and gaming elements are intertwined. Mimesis has both short and casual games like fighting games and more persistent environments to meet and chat.
Mimesis will make money by charging for virtual goods and in-game upgrades, and by building branded games for companies.
Mimesis has a unique outlook on online socializing and gaming. Each player can build several avatars to represent his various interests. I asked Gaume if he doesn’t feel that this goes against the main trend of the social web: a few years ago, we would have several MySpace or LiveJournal profiles to express different parts of our identities, but now those various facets are merging. On Facebook and on Twitter, there’s no difference between the digital me and the real me. As I said to Gaume, if a couple years ago my mother had friended me on Facebook, I would have freaked out. Now she’s my Facebook friend, she even follows me on Twitter, and I’m fine with it.
Gaume said that Mimesis’s games are intended first and foremost for teenagers, who really enjoy having multifaceted online identities. Mimesis is thus putting its impressive technology behind a contrarian take on social gaming, encouraging players to multiply identities, and unabashedly targetting overcourted teenagers while Zynga games are mostly played by bored housewives.
Successful founder, impressive technology, different vision and a very hot market: Mimesis is a company to watch.
Here is a video preview of one of their games, “Black Mamba Nation.” Keep in mind this is all inside the browser, with no plugin to download. (They have disabled embedding, so you need to click through to YouTube.)
More Le Web coverage here.