Memes have become a part of our daily Internet lives, evoking feelings of joy, inspiration and connection, but for some they have become a movement. Canadian collectibles company Youtooz has helped meme creators and influential people create vinyl characters and softies to indirectly exploit memes. Making money from memes or online individuals has been a challenge to do on a larger scale, as many have tried and failed. However, Youtooz founder Austin Long tried to solve this problem by giving authors an easy way to benefit from their online success in 2019.
“I had a skills management background, I worked with players to help them build businesses on YouTube, so that experience led us to launch characters and Youtooz,” Long said on the phone. Initially, these numbers only went to the internal team and people who thought they could enjoy them. “Youtubers, memes, and licensed IP are the three main categories we look at. We think of Youtooz as a way to capture the joy of the Internet,” Long explained.
Jackson Weimer: When did you first say the name Youtooz?
Austin Long: In early 2019, it was a kind of play on words from Youtube and also “you,” as made for me and you. It evolved into one of our slogans, “The joy of the Internet did for me and for you.”
Weimer: What was the first ever Youtooz?
Long: Our first character was released in April 2019 and played ‘Dead meme“. It was based on Sonic the Hedgehog’s Knuckles VR Chat. We mostly got to understand logistics because I didn’t have a formal background in manufacturing.
Weimer: What kind of sales is it?
Long: In 2020, we transmitted 500,000 sold figures. We have expanded quite a bit. Our team in Vancouver has 45 employees. We achieved this by scaling our sociality and conveying Funk in Reddit, which has been a huge forum for us. For each custom publication, we typically make 3 to 10,000 units, depending on what the author, meme, or community interest is. When we sell out, we don’t do anything more. Just like memes on the internet, they come and go.
Weimer: Speaking of funk, do you see them as a direct competitor or do you think they both operate in different markets?
Long: At an early stage, we feared they would be a competitor and squeeze us. We have now seen that we each operate in very different dimensions. People who love and collect Youtooz are different than those who collect Funk. They have almost everything to choose from, but their average collector is 35+. Our average collector is about 14-25 years old, so there’s a big difference. We also sell 99% of our sales to DTC and Funko controls the retail channels.
Weimer: What percentage of the profit is for creators who have their own Youtooz?
Long: About 30% of the profit. And when it comes to memes and trends, we always find their original creator and make sure they get paid as well. For licensed IP addresses like Disney and Viacom, these agreements are slightly different.
Weimer: What is the resale market for Youtooz? Have you noticed Youtooz, whose price has gone up after the sale?
Long: Anything that sells fast is going to be good in the retail market. eBay and StockX sell the most resellers. Some of the best sellers are early, which we did in 2019. We sell the figures for $ 30 and some of them sell on the resale market for $ 90-150. We made one 2-foot Pepe picture that cost $ 600 at retail and has risen to $ 2,000 on StockX.
Weimer: If a content provider is revoked or something unforgivable is done, will they pull their Youtooz down from your site?
Long: We take it on a case-by-case basis, and it has happened in the past, but we haven’t pulled anything out of the deal. In cases where someone did something that is against our values, we will only let them know that we cannot work with them in the future. We are also willing to work with customers who ordered a character to change or refund them if they no longer want it because of what happened.
Weimer: Does Youtooz have any plans to get into NFT mode?
Long: We’ve researched it, but our community doesn’t seem to be so excited about the NFT. But we have a collaboration with a major NFT artist who is coming that we haven’t announced yet, but stay tuned.
Weimer: Last question, what does Youtooz think of jokes about putting your characters in jars? If you know what I mean…
Long: It’s a huge joke in the community. It’s the Internet. People love to have fun. As long as no one is hurt by it, everything is fun. We think it’s fun.
This discussion has been modified and limited for clarity.