Business executive Bob Iger is going from managing Mickey Mouse to overseeing New Age djinns.
On March 14, Genies, a leading avatar technology company, announced that Iger, former Disney Chairman and CEO, joined its board of directors. This includes a personal investment in the 2017 startup. For Iger this is a further step into animation, following a new direction away from traditional global powerhouses to enabling consumers to create their own worlds.
“I’ve always been drawn to the intersection between technology and art, and Genies provides unique and compelling opportunities to harness the power of that combination to enable new forms of creativity, expression, and communication,” Iger said in a press release.
In return, CEO and co-founder Akash Nigam said Genies is happy to bring Iger on board to continue its aspiration to elevate users who will carve the personality of Web3.
“We believe that avatar ecosystems are going to be the mobile apps of Web3,” Nigam said. “An ambitious vision calls for rare mindshare and I can’t think of a better creative and product thinker than Bob to collaborate with, in bringing this all to reality.”
Nigam founded Genies with Evan Rosenbaum from the framework of their first startup, Blend, a mobile app for college students that gifted freebies in exchange for photo shares. All it took was him dropping out of college.
Nigam, a Palo Alto native, connected with Rosenbaum and co-founder Matt Geiger (who left Genies in 2018) at Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of business when he was studying computer science and economics at the University of Michigan. According to Forbes, Nigam’s parents presented him with an ultimatum: raise $3 million for Blend or stay in school.
He raised the money, and the trio eventually bailed on group messaging to use the proprietary platform to build upon a new vision: Personal avatars that would populate the new blockchain-based, decentralized web3. You could say that this insight has been a success.
A 2019 Genies beta launch landed a million users with another two million in the queue. Following that, founders released a full version of the app with Gucci as its first advertiser, providing designer threads for Genie avatars. This first release coincided with $25 million in funding from venture capital investors like NEA, Foundation Capital, and noted Southern Californian names like Russell Westbrook and Cameron Dallas.
Since then, Genies has raised $100 million in subsequent seeding rounds, and secured deals with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group (with Genies now its “official avatar and digital goods NFT provider”). In that time, Genie has created thousands of avatars for iconic tastemakers “to inaugurate the biggest moments of their lives.” This includes avatars for megastars like Justin Bieber, Rihanna, and Shawn Mendes. Genies claims it has now secured 99% celebrity avatar market share.
In January, Genies also committed to the Web3 spirit “to empower humans to create their own digital identity ecosystems” by immediately granting every avatar maker complete ownership rights of its Genie avatar and respective creations.
This went hand in hand with a rollout of “The Warehouse,” a wearable NFT marketplace that allows users to encompass and reflect their every interest in their avatar. This includes “avatar tools” (now in beta), which will allow anyone to self-build an avatar, a fashion line, even avatar worlds and interactive experiences using the company’s tools and purchased NFT accessories. Even Iger now has his own avatar, sporting a sharp black jacket (collar up) for his digital persona.
An industry titan and an experienced global leader, Iger will help Genies navigate its mission to endow people with the power to create metaverse ecosystems in the user-driven Web3 universe.
“After spending the last few months getting to know Akash and learning more about Genies, I am very excited about his vision and how it will be fulfilled,” Iger said.
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