Bob Iger’s Act 2: Into the Metaverse with Avatar Firm Genies

Los Angeles-based avatar technology firm Genies Inc. has secured Bob Iger as an investor and board member, a coup for the five-year-old startup, which crafts celebrity avatars and also allows people to create their own avatars, fashion, worlds and experiences. The move into the metaverse is Iger’s first entertainment play since exiting Disney in December after 15 years as CEO. Genies says Iger will help “navigate its mission to empower humans to create their own avatar ecosystems” in Web3 — including avatars, fashion lines, immersive experiences and virtual worlds. 

As part of his Genies induction, Iger garnered a fashionable avatar of his own, a hip metaverse debut for the 71-year-old executive. “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 the company’s announcement.

In the past two years, Genies has partnered with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, becoming their “official avatar and digital goods NFT provider,” the company says, claiming those pacts have propelled it to a “99 percent celebrity avatar market share” that includes clones of “thousands” of notable individuals such as Cardi B and Justin Bieber.

In January, Genies CEO and founder Akash Nigam wrote on the company blog that he was allowing the people behind the avatars to retain ownership and was rolling out creator tools, now in beta, to let anyone make their own Genies avatar.

The Wall Street Journal says Genies was launched in 2017 by Nigam, “a 29-year-old entrepreneur. The company, which has raised $100 million in funding and employs more than 100 people, offers tools for making virtual characters, clothing and accessories backed by non-fungible tokens.” Explaining that NFTs will be an integral part of Web3, WSJ reports “Genies also operates an NFT marketplace where its users can sell their creations for a 5 percent fee on primary and secondary sales.”

“We believe that avatar ecosystems are going to impact Web3, the same way that mobile apps impacted Web2,” Nigam explained.

“Iger said he was attracted to Genies because he believes the ability for anyone to easily create and sell virtual goods will change the entertainment industry and be a key component of the metaverse,” notes WSJ.

CNBC writes that in a January interview with Kara Swisher on The New York Times “Sway” podcast, “Iger said the next iteration of the web ‘will definitely be more compelling in experience, certainly more immersive, more dimensional.’ He added that there won’t just be one metaverse, but numerous digital worlds ready to be explored, and that users’ avatars will play an important role as they hop from one metaverse to another.”

“I talk about democratization. It’ll be dispersed,” he said. “You may have an avatar, but you’ll go all over the place. And I think that it’s likely to be developed into something real as an experience.”

In September, Iger joined the board of vegan food firm Perfect Day and made an investment in the company.