Empire Avenue – Fun, cool and why it could be big

For the last year I have been hanging around on Empire Avenue (EAv). EAv is a website started in 2009 by a group of people with background from among others the gaming industry (i.e Electronic Arts). On February 23rd 2010 they launched a closed beta for “friends and family” with 250 players. Early in May an invite beta was opened and the number of players increased to 1000 before the service jumped out of closed beta on July 28th 2010, giving everyone the possibility to join. About a week later I jumped on the train and started using Empire Avenue. Here are some reflections after almost a year on the site. Oh, by the way, if you would like to invest in me, I am here: e(LARRE)

What is Empire Avenue? Well, It’s a stock market game where you can buy or sell people that has a social media account such as Twitter, Facebook or an Empire Avenue account.

Here is what the company itself says it is:
“Empire Avenue is the Social Media Exchange, where you can buy and sell shares in any social media profile, meet new people, unlock Achievement badges, and earn boatloads of virtual cash by being active and social online! Buy shares in your friends, your followers, people with similar interests, brands you love, celebrities – anyone! All using a virtual currency and all for free!”

So, Empire Avenue can be as simple as this. You buy and sell shares in people and others buy and sell shares in you.

When you first register you start off with 10.000 shares that people can buy from you. For each share they buy, you get money. At first you will get 50% of the income. When you start selling more shares the income you get will be lower (starts on 50% and goes down to 10%). As you sell more shares, the system will enable more available shares to sell, but you are free to disable share upgrades. Each day you will get investment earnings based on your portfolio (people/brands that your have invested in). The more wealth you generete and invest, the more investment earnings each day you will get. Pretty simple. At first the income you get each day, will mostly be based on how many shares you sell. But over time the investment earnings you get from your portfolio will be bigger than the income from share sales.

At the beginning it was only possible to buy shares in Empire Avenue accounts. But not long ago, they opened up the possibility to invest in anyone with a Twitter account or a Facebook account even if they do not have an EAv account. A clever move, giving the site a much more viral marketing effect, but also making the site more complex to use and understand.

People have all sorts of different strategies. During the first year the company made some huge changes to the site and rules, making it difficult to stick to one strategy from day one. It is not easy to dive into the strategy part but I can say a few words around my own strategy when it comes to building wealth. First and foremost I am more focused on investment earnings than on my share price. The following elements is all part of my strategy: Investment earnings (dividends), Investment in shares with share price potential, Long-term investment in people doing the same in me also if they have low activity or low ROI and contribution to the communities among others. I think that if you are not a social guy in the sense that you are not using Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or other services it will be hard for you to actually sell shares and start building wealth. But everything is possible.

The gaming nature of Empire Avenue is highly addictive. A few weeks ago, I actually deleted my account on Empire Avenue. It was mostly because I felt it took up too much of my time. I did not actually use that much time each day, but my focus on building wealth took up most of the time that was spent om the site. When I deleted my account I had just reached top 15 on the wealth leaderboard worldwide. After a week I regretted and started all over again. But this time my focus is not only on the competitive aspect and be on the leaderboard, but also on finding new connections, and great content from people. Besides the gaming part that is one of the cool things about Empire Avenue. It is easy to discover, connect and share content based on your interrests.

So, why do Empire Avenue have a potential? I think it is because the combination of so many interresting aspects. The social part where the platform not only is based on what you do on other social platforms but also building up a great social place on their own is clever. They seem to have great potential in developing a platform that is ideal for advertisers and brands to get so closely integrated with the consumer as possible, that will lay the foundation for exciting business models.

The last couple of weeks, the site has had some big viral breakthrough in the sense that some “big guys” from the Valley has entered Empire Avenue, started to tweet and blog about it. The number of registered users must have gone through the roof in the last month or so.

Her is some initial reactions from Jeremiah Owyang on how this tool will impact consumers and the opportunities for brands and threats for other vendors.

And here is a pretty funny review of Empire Avenue by Chris Pirillo:

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