Hold internet creators and memes in your hand
Memes have become a part of our daily internet life, evoking emotions of joy, inspiration, and connection, but for some they have become a business. Youtooz, a Canada-based collectibles company, has helped memes makers and influencers create vinyl figurines and plush toys to indirectly profit from their memes. Making money with memes or personas online has been a challenge on a larger scale, as many have tried and failed. However, Austin Long, co-founder of Youtooz, sought to solve this problem by providing an easy way for creators to profit from their online success in 2019.
“I had a background in talent management, working with players to help them build businesses on YouTube, so this was the experience that led us to launch miniatures and Youtooz,” Long said during a phonecall. At first, these numbers were meant only for the internal team and people they thought might appreciate them. “YouTubers, Memes, and Licensed IPs are the top three 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 say the name “Youtooz” for the first time?
Austin Long: At the beginning of 2019, it was kind of a pun on Youtube and also like “you too”, like done for me and you. It has become one of our slogans, “the joy of the Internet made for me and for you”.
Weimer: What was the very first Youtooz?
Long: Our first action figure was released in April 2019 and was called ‘Dead meme‘. It was based on Knuckles’ VR Chat meme from Sonic the Hedgehog. We mainly did it to understand logistics because I had no formal manufacturing experience.
Weimer: How are the sales going?
Long: In 2020, we exceeded 500,000 figurines sold. We have increased quite a bit. Our team in Vancouver has 45 employees. We’ve achieved this by evolving our social media, and we’re about to take Funko to Reddit, which has been a huge platform for us. For each custom build, we usually make 3 to 10,000 units depending on the creator, meme, or community interest. Once we sell, we don’t do it anymore. Much like memes on the Internet, they come and go.
Weimer: Speaking of Funko, do you see them as a direct competitor or do you think you both operate in different markets?
Long: At the beginning, we were afraid that they would be a competitor and that they would crush us. We have now seen that we each operate in very different areas. People who love and collect Youtooz are different from those who collect Funko. They have almost everything to choose from, but their average collector is over 35. Our average collector is around 14-25 years old, so there is a big difference. We also sell 99% of our DTC sales and Funko dominates the retail channels.
Weimer: For creators with their own Youtooz, what percentage of profit do they take?
Long: About 30% of the profits. And for memes and trending, we always look for the original creator of those and make sure they get paid as well. For licensed IPs, like Disney and Viacom, these contracts are a bit different.
Weimer: What is the resale market for Youtooz? Have you noticed any Youtooz that have gone up in price after they’ve sold out?
Long: Anything that sells quickly will be good in the resale market. eBay and StockX is where we see the most resales. Some of the top sellers are the first ones we made in 2019. We are selling our numbers for $ 30 and some of them will sell for $ 90-150 in the resale market. We made a 2ft Pepe that retailed for $ 600 and went down to $ 2,000 on StockX.
Weimer: If a creator is “canceled” or does something really unforgivable, would you remove their Youtooz from your site?
Long: We take this on a case-by-case basis, and it’s happened before, but we haven’t taken anything out of the store. In cases where someone has done something that goes against our values, we just let them know that we cannot work with them in the future. We are also ready to work with customers who have ordered a figure to exchange them or refund them if they no longer want them because of something that has happened.
Weimer: Is Youtooz considering entering the NFT space?
Long: We have looked into the matter, but our community does not seem happy with NFTs. But, we have a collaboration with a notable NFT artist coming up that we haven’t announced yet, but stay tuned.
Weimer: Last question, what does Youtooz think of the jokes about the jar of his figurines? 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 injured, it is for the greatest pleasure. We think it’s funny.
This conversation has been edited and collapsed for clarity.