Proving that virtual currency can be worth a good amount of real-life cash, social stock market Empire Avenue has landed $1.2 million in funding.
Empire Avenue serves a unique and somewhat controversial purpose: It\’s a stock market that puts a price on people instead of companies. Members of the site use virtual currency to buy and sell shares in other people and websites, and the worth of each “stock” is determined in part by the user’s engagement on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (s LNKD). Most recently, Empire Avenue has incorporated scoring for activity on Foursquare and Instagram.
Empire Avenue strikes some people as distasteful for ascribing monetary values to individuals. As people, aren\’t we all supposed to be priceless? In an interview earlier this year, Empire Avenue\’s CEO Duleepa Wijayawardhana told me what the site does is actually meant to be empowering. He said,
\”I like to say we’re freeing people from digital slavery. A slave is someone who doesn’t know their value. If you are participating in social networking sites, those companies are making money off of you. You just don’t realize what those values actually are.”
The Edmonton, Alberta-based startup plans to use the money to grow its team and expand its platform. Empire Avenue claims it\’s already \”generating strong revenue\” derived from selling virtual goods and currency and its brand-placement deals with products such as Xbox(s MSFT).
Going forward, the site could add features that allow its users to make real money by leveraging their Empire Avenue scores, perhaps by adding advertisements to their pages, Wijayawardhana told me in our earlier interview. But for now, the company itself is the only one bringing in real cash from the Empire Avenue social set-up.
Empire Avenue\’s new investment round was led by San Francisco-based Crosslink Capital, and also features iNovia Capital, BioWare co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk, TriplePoint Capital, Jeff Lapin, Kevin Swan and Dr. Boris Wertz.