Memes have become a part of our daily internet life, evoking emotions of joy, inspiration and connection, but for some, they have turned into a business. Youtooz, a collectibles company based in Canada, has helped meme creators and influential personalities create vinyl figurines and plushies to indirectly profit off of their memes. Making money off of memes or online personas has been a challenge to do on a larger scale, as many have tried and failed. However, Austin Long, a co-founder of Youtooz, sought out to solve this problem by giving creators an easy way to profit from their online success in 2019.
“I had a talent management background, working with gamers to help them build businesses on YouTube, so that was the experience that led us to launching figurines and Youtooz,” said Long in a phone call. At first, these figures were went for just the internal team and people they thought might enjoy them. “Youtubers, memes, and licensed IP are the three main categories that we look at. We think of Youtooz as a way of capturing the joy of the internet,” Long explained.
Jackson Weimer: When did you first utter the name ‘Youtooz’?
Austin Long: In early 2019, it was kind of a play on words off of Youtube and also like ‘you too’, like made for me and you. It evolved into one of our slogans, ‘the joy of the internet made for me and you’.
Weimer: What was the first ever Youtooz?
Long: Our first figure was released in April 2019 and was called ‘Dead Meme’. It was based off the VR Chat meme of Knuckles from Sonic the Hedgehog. We mostly made it to understand logistics because I didn’t have any formal background in manufacturing.
Weimer: What are sales like?
Long: In 2020, we passed 500,000 figures sold. We’ve scaled up quite a bit. Our team in Vancouver is 45 employees. We achieved this by scaling our socials, and we’re about to pass Funko on Reddit, which has been a huge platform for us. For each custom release, we usually do 3-10k units depending on what the creator, meme, or interest from the community is. Once we sell out, we don’t make more. Just like memes on the internet, they come and go.
Weimer: Speaking of Funko, do you view them as a direct competitor, or do you think you both operate in different markets?
Long: Early on, we were scared they would be a competitor and would squash us. We’ve now seen that we each operate in very different realms. The people who love and collect Youtooz are different that the people who collect Funko. They have almost everything to choose from but, their average collector is 35+. Our average collector is around 14-25 years old, so there’s a big difference there. We also sell 99% of our sales DTC and Funko dominates the retail channels.
Weimer: For creators with their own Youtooz, what percentage of the profit do they take?
Long: About 30% of the profit. And for memes and trends, we always track down the original creator of those and make sure they get paid as well. For licensed IPs, like Disney and Viacom, those contracts are a bit different.
Weimer: What’s the resale market like for Youtooz? Have you noticed any Youtooz that have surged in price after they sold out?
Long: Anything that sells out quickly is gonna be good on the resell market. eBay and StockX is where we see the most resells. Some of the higher selling ones are the early ones we did in 2019. We sell our figures for $30 and some of them will sell for $90-150 on the resell market. We did make one 2-foot-figure of Pepe that cost $600 at retail and has gone up to $2,000 on StockX.
Weimer: If a creator gets ‘cancelled’ or does something really unforgivable, would you pull down their Youtooz down from your site?
Long: We take it in a case by case basis, and it’s happened before, but we haven’t pulled anything down from the shop. In cases where someone did something that goes against our values, we just let them know we can’t work with them in the future. We are also willing to work with customers who ordered a figure to exchange or refund them if they don’t want it anymore because of something that happened.
Weimer: Does Youtooz have any plans to enter the NFT space?
Long: We have looked into it, but our community doesn’t seem that thrilled about NFTs. But, we do have a collab with a notable NFT artist that’s coming up that we haven’t announced just yet, but stay tuned.
Weimer: Last question, what does Youtooz think about the jokes about putting your figurines in jars? If you know what I mean…
Long: It’s a huge joke in the community. It’s the internet. People love having fun. As long as nobody is getting hurt by it, it’s all in good fun. We think it’s funny.
This conversation has been edited and reduced for clarity.