Gadgets

Mimoco CEO discusses designer USB drives and licensing the Star Wars and DC Comics universes (interview)

Black Milk Leggings aren’t the only awesome designer gifts for geeks this holiday season. Mimoco’s line of Mimobot licensed USB Flash drives and readers have won designer toy awards and partnered up with some of the biggest names in pop culture: Star Wars, Star Trek, DC Comics, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Adventure Time, and more. Mimobot USB flash drives average roughly $20 for 8GB models, with another $10 for each additional 8GB if you want your Batman or Bruce Lee unit to have a higher capacity.

VentureBeat spoke with Mimoco CEO Evan Blaustein about the origins of the company, the motivation for pushing designer USB flash drives, and winning over licensing rights from the world’s largest entertainment properties.

VentureBeat: How did Mimoco as a company come about?

Evan Blaustein: In 2004, I was studying for my MBA and was collecting a lot of designer toys at the time. One day I asked my now wife/then girlfriend to borrow her Flash drive, and she reached into her purse to pull out a TRON Be@rbrick toy instead. I grabbed it and thought, “This is the size and weight of a Flash drive — there are even painted circuits on it!–but is so much cooler than a generic looking plastic flash drive.” That was the genesis of MIMOBOT and Mimoco [the Memory Robot Company].

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VentureBeat: What was it about USB drives that seemed like a good thing to base an entire company around?

Blaustein: As a collector of things — toys, cards, comics — and a lover of consumer electronics, it was a natural fit to merge the two to start a tech design studio. In 2004, Flash drives were a relatively new storage medium with low capacities like 64MB and 128MB, vs. today’s 64GB and 128GB!. No one had really played around with the form factor besides the novelty USB Thumb and superexpensive Sushi Drives from Japan. We were the first company to merge contemporary and licensed characters, designer toy aesthetics, and collectability into Flash drives, not to mention preloading the drives with fun digital extras. We turned the plain old Flash drive into an expressive platform for content distribution and portable data storage. Adding personality and character to a USB drive that stores one’s personal data makes a lot of sense. And leveraging the hundreds and thousands of characters that pervade pop-culture provides a ton of opportunity to diffuse our brand on a grand scale.

VentureBeat: What was it like getting the Star Wars and DC Comics licenses?

Blaustein: The first couple years, we only produced low-run limited edition Mimobot characters created by illustrators and toy artists. After proving our concept and exhibiting at trade shows, we got the attention of those in the licensing industry. With a platform toy-like exterior, we designed the product to be reskinned like Lego people but more deformed like a Dunny toy. The cobranded concept really resonated with the team at Lucasfilm. Star Wars was actually and quite fortunately our very first license. It’s been an awesome partnership and we owe a lot of Mimobot loyalists to Mr. Lucas’ galaxy far, far away. We’ve produced at least 30 Star Wars Mimobots in our eight series to date, from all-time best-sellers Darth Vader and R2-D2 to Comic-Con exclusives like the more obscure Lando Calrissian’s right-hand man, Lobot.

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And working with Warner Bros. on the DC Comics collaboration has also kept us very busy with at least three different Batman versions produced so far, Superman, Wonder Woman, multiple villains, and the penultimate self-referential The Flash Mimobot Flash drive. It’s great because both properties have active film programs and provide access to mine deep into their respective character universes to offer a wide assortment of iconic characters and more selective cult fan faves.

VentureBeat: How often do you release new USBs?

Blaustein: We release an average of about 30 new styles per year broken into about eight series. But in 2013, we are trying something different by releasing one new limited edition design every other week exclusively on our website along with 20 other styles spread across four or five larger series for wider distribution. Since we produce original and artist characters alongside our licensed franchises, with design challenges and corporate designs mixed in, and now a new take with our Legends of Mimobot where we feature iconic humans like Einstein and Bruce Lee, we have a ton of directions we could go at any one time.

Our goal is to always have a new Mimobot on the horizon and to delight our customers along the way towards a massive collection of characters that have shaped pop-culture during our lifetime.

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VentureBeat: What kind of community does Mimoco have? Do you get a lot of repeat customers?

Blaustein: We have the best community. Seriously. We call our customers the #mimocult, and they are made up of collectors, nerds, fashionistas, rockers, trendsetters, media sponges, influencers, creators, pop-culturists, and many who encompass all of those descriptors and of all ages. We love to meet up at trade shows and events every year like Comic-Con and SXSW [South by Southwest], and we try our best to stay on top of all things social media.

You can visit Mimoco’s official site to peruse its catalogue or check out Mimobots in the wild, as shared by the so-called #mimocult on the official Mimobot Facebook.

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