Eco-site pulls a million 'little monkeys'

MATT STEWART
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2012
TAKING ON BRITAIN: MiniMonos chief executive Melissa Clark-Reynolds.
ANDREW GORRIE/Fairfax NZ

TAKING ON BRITAIN: MiniMonos chief executive Melissa Clark-Reynolds.

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It has a million users already - and soon a children's social-networking site invented by a Wellington entrepreneur will launch in New Zealand.

Melissa Clark-Reynolds is the chief executive of MiniMonos, a website billed as "a virtual world for children who love to play and love the planet".

The British-based firm was founded on a vision of "weightless, carbon-free exports from New Zealand" and has just been selected with five other emerging British digital startups as part of the BBC Worldwide business-mentoring programme dubbed BBC Labs.

When the incubator scheme begins in September, it is hoped the commercial alliance will help the startups gain market leverage.

"By partnering with the BBC we can take New Zealand brain-power and intellectual property and export it on a much bigger scale," Ms Clark-Reynolds said.

The commercial headquarters of MiniMonos - which means "little monkey" in Spanish - are in London, but the creative engine-room runs from Wellington's Blair St, where operations moved to from Christchurch after last year's earthquake.

The eco-themed site lets members create monkey avatars and explore a virtual island where they can meet and chat with other players.

About 90 per cent of the company's revenue from premium subscriptions and sales of in-world virtual items comes from Britain, with the bulk of the rest from the United States and Canada.

New Zealand has about 20,000 users but the company hopes to increase uptake when the brand is launched here and in Australia on October 15, with recyclable, compostable prepaid cardboard gift cards going on sale.

Prepaid single-use gift cards such as iTunes music vouchers were typically made of non-biodegradable styrene plastic, which usually ended up at landfills, Ms Clark-Reynolds said.

She said the cards would cost about half as much to produce compared with plastic ones.

The company had been hesitant to launch in New Zealand because of poor-quality broadband, which was an "ongoing issue".

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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