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Innovators Awards 2012: People's Choice winner, SmallWorlds

Innovators Awards 2012: People's Choice winner, SmallWorlds
smallworlds 2012 innovators awards people's choice

As Kiwi tech success stories go, it's hard to go past the likes of SmallWorlds. The in-browser game is inherently social with tinges of Second Life and Farmville, and a rabid fan base that mobilised to propel SmallWorlds to the top of the People's Choice category in the Innovators Awards.

SmallWorlds boasts a base of millions of users – members are mainly teenagers, although they run the gamut right up to 30- and 40-somethings. It's based on the freemium model, so it's free to play but hardcore users fork out real cash to have access to virtual goods within the game. This year it launched into Brazil and a Spanish version is next on the cards.

SmallWorlds caught the attention of the government soon after its inception in 2008, and since then it has received two rounds of funding, including a grant of $1.8 million in 2011. TradeMe founder Sam Morgan is also an investor.

But perhaps the most fascinating – and surprising – part of the whole SmallWorlds story is that Olson and Green turned down an approach from MTV even before the platform had launched. Read more about that and the evolution of SmallWorlds in Simon Pound's feature.