A MAN AND
Moshi Monsters want to grab
more U.S. kids—and they’re
armed with toys and music.
BY CURT NICKISCH
It’s a Monday night, and Michael Acton
Smith is hosting a party at his three-story home in London’s Soho district.
Far below the flat’s high ceilings, techies
and artists navigate mismatched furniture and strewn-about gadgets, talking
over one another and partaking in spirits. Unnoticed amid the revelry is a slender woman in a Vivienne Westwood
cape. She steps into the living room, lifts
a ukulele, and thumbs a couple chords.
A few people gasp. “Funny how the
noises that I’m making,” she sings over
the hushing room, “can’t drown the
sound of my heart breaking.” Acton
Smith gets goose bumps as the party-goers recognize popular British musician Martina Topley Bird.
“I tweeted at her earlier,” he says later,
“and asked, ‘Would you come perform for
us?’ ” Later, Acton Smith introduces a pair
of buskers he discovered delighting a
crowd in front of a Soho sex shop the day
before. That is as Michael Acton Smith
does. He observes. He absorbs. And he
brings things he thinks people will like
to the people he thinks will like them.
Bill Gates once said he wanted to put a
computer in every home. Michael Acton
Smith wants to put a monster in every
computer. His East London company,
Mind Candy, runs Moshimonsters.com,
a world where children adopt, name, and
color an animated creature selected from
a cast painstakingly assembled by Acton
Smith and his team. They take it for
walks, tickle it with the mouse to boost
its happiness, and play games to earn
“rox” they can spend on food for it at the
This concept may sound familiar.
Smith walks with
one of his Moshi
reason to jump
“It’s an updated Tamagotchi, really,”
acknowledges Acton Smith. It’s also a
fresh take on Disney’s Club Penguin, the
global leader in virtual worlds for kids
with more than 150 million users. “I felt
like we could create something better,”
he says. “It’s not about who gets there first
or who spends the most on marketing.
It’s about who creates the best stories,
characters, and experience for kids.”
Acton Smith doesn’t look like the type
of person you’d expect to run a site used
by one out of every two U.K. children. He
doesn’t even look like someone parents
would want around their kids. With his
leather pants, tangle of bracelets, tousled
hair, and snakeskin boots, the 37-year-old
is more rocker than Mr. Rogers. “I’m very
immature, as many of my ex-girlfriends
might tell you,” he says.