There's money to be made by investing in online real estate

by Markus - Date: 2007-02-27 - Word Count: 564 Share This!

The mayor of Chicago is a 31-year-old microbiologist who lives in Canada and probably could not tell a political machine from a soda machine. He does collect taxes, however, and would flip the Second City for the right price. So who does this guy think he is, Richard M. Daley? "I guess he's someone in Chicago?" said Andy Jonson, who holds the deed to the City That Works within new online social networking site . "I'm just learning about this stuff."

Launched last October by an Internet gaming entrepreneur and funded to the tune of $2.6 million, Montreal-based Weblo is part MySpace, part Second Life and perhaps part tulip craze. The company makes money by selling virtual plots of land -- including municipalities, landmarks and ordinary addresses -- to willing buyers who purchase the intellectual property for reasons both speculative and nostalgic. Andy Jonson paid nearly $150 for Chicago, but has since earned a few pennies a day while collecting taxes from the property owners who acquired virtual rights to the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and other local institutions. He also gets a cut of any ad revenue circulated through his cities, which include San Francisco, London and Paris.

"I'm sort of playing it like any other investment," he said. "I've managed to resell some properties, and so far this is doing better than my mutual funds."

According to sales data supplied by the company, Weblo property owners are making tangible profits from their virtual assets. The state of California sold for $53,000 after it was initially purchased from Weblo for approximately $37,000 only months earlier. Illinois is listed for more than $17,000. As of Jan. 31, more than 5,200 cities have been purchased worldwide.

Weblo founder and CEO Rocky Mizra said that nearly a decade ago he conceived the idea of assigning real ownership to virtual properties that are based on actual addresses. Until recently, however, Mizra focused on Web site consulting, buying and selling domain names, and running a gambling business at As sites like MySpace and Facebook started turning heads, Mizra contemplated how social networks with exorbitant traffic could more efficiently make money from and for their members.

"I'm used to having a revenue model right from the onset," said Mizra, 34. "Until now, the only thing you can accumulate on social networking is fame. Where Weblo comes in is the commerce part of it."

Weblo's investors include former MySpace Chairman Richard Rosenblatt and Fred Harmon, a managing partner with Silicon Valley venture firm Oak Investment Partners.

Mizra said the company employs approximately 120 developers in India and Pakistan to codify his bizarro reality as well as other ventures. In addition to loading up on real estate, Weblo members can purchase rights to celebrities ranging from Brian Urlacher to Jennifer Lopez. They can also create their own profiles.

While sites such as Weblo and Second Life, which now has more than 3.6 million members, are not my cup of tea, the economies that develop within them warrant attention. Over one 24-hour period last week, more than $1 million was generated through Second Life. On Weblo, in addition to resale opportunities, members are financially motivated through advertising commissions to their expand networks and presence on the site.

"If you have 10,000 friends [on your profiles], then money is being made, and you take a cut of it," Mizra said.

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Related Tags: real estates, sell property, buying property, property for sale, investment property, buy property, property development, property sale, famous property, property business, state property, real estates property, property land for sale, virtual properties, property marketing

Brad Spirrison is a local technology reporter and president of Your Article Search Directory : Find in Articles

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