Social entertainment firm IMVU is launching a big expansion in Europe today as it unveils new versions in seven languages. With IMVU, users create their own 3D character, or avatar, and can then meet people, chat, create virtual goods and share them, and play games.

The company is one of the few surviving virtual world startups that have grown a big audience and generated a lot of revenue. Keeping the growth going isn’t easy. But the European expansion should help. IMVU will now have localized versions in Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

The launch will start with a Swedish version, and the other six languages will roll out in the coming weeks. The company plans to continue its international expansion into 2011, said IMVU chief executive Cary Rosenzweig.

Already, 11 million of IMVU’s 50 million registered users are in Europe. The good thing about IMVU is that while other companies have cut back and gone under, it has kept growing by trying out new things. As management teams go, this company’s leaders are proactive. They aren’t sitting still waiting for the recession to take its toll. The company recently added the Mac to its platform and launched its first iPhone app, IMVU2Go.

IMVU announced in September that it intended to pivot from its status as a virtual world to a social gaming company, since virtual worlds are on the wane. Linden Labs’ Second Life has long been the stand-out virtual world, but it lost its founder, CEO, and a lot of its employees this year. Other virtual worlds, from Vivaty to Metaplace, have shut down.

IMVU was founded in 2004, has more than 10 million unique visitors a month, and, based on interviews earlier this year, is generating revenue on a $40 million-per-year run rate. In 2009, the company hit $25 million in revenue. Its virtual goods catalog has more than 4 million items, most of them created by its own members. The number of virtual items grows by 5,000 every day. In the last 30 days, 30,000 users sold something to other members. About 85 percent of revenue comes directly from consumers, who pay for virtual currency.

IMVU’s backers include Menlo Ventures, Allegis Capital, Bridgescale Partners and Best Buy Capital. Rivals range from Second Life in the virtual world business to Zynga and hi5 in social games. The company has 101 employees.