Avatar developer Genies raised $65 million in funding for its nonfungible token (NFT) platform, VentureBeat reported. The financing was led by investment firm Bond, founded by Mary Meeker, and had participation from NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs. The avatar platform uses the Flow Blockchain developed by Dapper Labs.
Genies was launched in 2017 and initially developed avatars for messaging platforms. The concept was for Genies app users to develop an avatar of themselves where the expressions could be modified by the owner and sent to people through text messages, similar to an emoji. The company expanded in 2019 and has pursued a pop-culture strategy. It partnered with a series of sports leagues, including the NFL and MLB to develop player avatars and began focusing more on developing virtual celebrity identities. Additionally, Genies partnered with Giphy and Gucci, enabling all Genie owners to use their avatars across various social media platforms and dress them in Gucci’s brand apparel.
Recently, Genies signed a partnership with Warner Music Group to develop avatars and digital wearable NFTs for the music label’s artists. The partnership follows the Genies launch of the 3D avatar and digital wearables NFT SDK platform, enabling celebrities to sell limited edition content to be used in avatars. The content (a tattoo, an accessory, a piece of clothing) is meant to represent a memorable moment in an artist’s career, such as the release of a song or an album. Before the recent launch of the NFT SDK, the 3D avatars have provided an outlet for artists to remain connected with fans and create another source of revenue during the pandemic. Among others, singers and songwriters Justin Bieber has a 3D avatar and Shawn Mendes took it a step further with NFTs. More are likely to follow with the Warner partnership.
The NFT wearables for Genies avatars are sold on the Genie Marketplace and uses Dapper Lab’s Flow Blockchain. The money from this funding round will be partially used to develop the platform further so that avatar owners can more smoothly trade avatar wearable NFTs. Additionally, users will be able to create, release, and sell their very own collections on the marketplace.
Genies is looking to expand the reach of the business and target new markets. Genies’ CEO Akash Nigam implied that the platform will be easy to understand and use, which might attract a younger market entertained with the idea of a digital self.
Mr. Nigam has highlighted how one’s Genie is a form of self expression. The company’s goal is to become a virtual portable identity. While it is not a game, the digital avatar can be compared to alternative digital life like The Sims where people can reinvent themselves as they wish. The NFT component and paying real money for the avatar’s wearable enhances this comparison and further blurs the line between the digital world and reality.
Meanwhile, Gucci is working with Neuno, another NFT marketplace for 3D clothing. While the consumer’s priority with the Genies partnership is still on the Avatar, Neuno’s offering puts more emphasis on the digital clothing itself.
Dapper Labs has deep enough pockets to invest in plenty of NFT startups following its own $305 million recent funding round.