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MIT Technology Review

Celia Francis, SM '94

Inventing a WeeWorld of avatars with attitude.

Some CEOs might forget to thank the little people, but Celia Francis, the CEO of WeeWorld, is not one of them. After all, little people–three-inch digital avatars that represent 20 million real users–have been at the creative center of her career.

WeeWorld is a virtual universe where users create online versions of themselves known as WeeMees. Users may display their WeeMees–complete with accessories, stylish clothing, and more–in hundreds of digital and mobile forums and use them to express emotions. For example, WeeMees weep when sad and smile when happy. Users can even build homes for their WeeMees, and they can post quotes, poems, and blog entries to create original works of creative self-expression.

“They are a form of digital identity,” says Francis, who earned both SM and MBA degrees in management. Since she joined WeeWorld in 2004, when it was a seven-person operation, it has grown into a digital universe. Francis says WeeWorld is the seventh­-largest teen site in the United States and now has more than 50 employees. The site is free for users but makes money through licensing, advertising, and virtual goods.

“It is an almost entirely new type of media,” says Francis. Charmed by the concept of a digital identity with infinite possibilities, she knew exactly why WeeWorld would appeal to teens. “Self-expression and playing with one’s identity is core to that age group,” she says. And WeeWorld is a safe environment: “On WeeWorld, no one can identify other people. It is friendly and protected.”

For Francis, who lives in London with her husband and two young children, being part of WeeWorld has been an amazing opportunity. “It is probably as close to ideal as I can imagine for myself,” she says.

Francis sees a bright future for WeeWorld. “Anyone from MIT who is looking for a cool job should write,” she says. “The teaching in the area of product development at MIT was fantastically inspirational. It has been a great joy to find that practicing product development in the real world has lived up to those expectations.”