Star-studded digital avatar startup Genies launches NFT fashion marketplace – TechCrunch | Jewelry Dukan

Digital avatar startup Genies, known for high-profile partnerships with celebrities like Justin Bieber, Migos, and Cardi B, has just released its long-awaited NFT storefront, The Warehouse. Genies was last valued at $1 billion from strong tech investors, including Silver Lake and Mary Meeker’s Bond Capital, during its recent capital raise, a $150 million Series C round announced in April.

The Los Angeles-based company partnered with Dapper Labs, creators of NBA Top Shot NFT, to develop the storefront on the Dapper’s Flow blockchain and introduced it to a group of invite-only beta users last December , TechCrunch reported at the time. Now The Warehouse is available to the general public, which means users can download the Genies Studio app to create their own avatars and buy digital fashion items to dress them up, Genies CEO and founder Akash Nigam told TechCrunch in an interview.

Genies is working with a handpicked group of developers to design the first set of collections available on the platform, Nigam said. One of the first collections will come from fashion photographer and influencer Tati Bruening, known on Instagram as @illumitati, where she went viral for her Make Instagram Great Again petition.

Genie’s CEO and Founder Akash Nigam. Photo credit: geniuses

Users can also use in-app tools to change the clothes they buy, allowing them to personalize items they buy from those collections, he added.

“Creators will be selling their own avatar fashions and those that have been customizing them over the last few months. And when they’re sold out – let’s say someone sells like 100 items, and let’s say if a fan or follower or someone in the community decides to buy it for their own avatar, they now have the rights to edit it too or DIY within the studio platform so they can use the tools and create a derivative collection and then sell the derivative clothing line in The Warehouse,” explained Nigam.

Because each item is an NFT, each time that item is resold, the original creator receives a portion of the revenue and owns the intellectual property behind the design, he added. Genies charges a 5% fee on every sale, which allows developers to keep the bulk of the revenue they earn on each transaction, Nigam said, in contrast to the NFTs’ meta fees of over 50% in his Horizon Worlds Metaverse. (Meta is also moving forward with its NFT plans, announcing earlier this week that it would allow users to post their NFTs to both Facebook and Instagram after launching its own digital apparel offering in June.)

Meta isn’t the only tech company looking to carve out its own identity by helping people create theirs with digital avatars. Reddit launched its own NFT avatar marketplace in July, and earlier this month, Estonian startup Ready Player Me raised $56 million, led by a16z, for a similar vision. Genies certainly holds its own in the industry through its celebrity partnerships and dedicated team — the startup counts ex-Disney CEO Bob Iger as an investor and board member.

Only approved sellers on the platform can launch collections on Genie, although the company says it eventually wants to empower all of its users to create unique 1-of-1 fashion items. Genies has made forays into fashion before – the startup partnered with Gucci back in 2020 to give the retailer’s customers access to try on new virtual designs and buy curated digital goods.

An image from the Genies platform showing a collection designed by creator Ian Charms

An image of the Genies platform showcasing a fashion collection designed by creator Ian Charms. Photo credit: geniuses

NFT sales volumes are declining and crypto prices remain low, but Nigam expressed confidence in the long-term demand for digital avatars, comparing them to mobile apps in terms of their importance to the web.

“The reason I think avatar ecosystems will be web3’s mobile apps is because you’re seeing two massive consumer trends ongoing right now. There’s a trend, and it’s the virtual trend that’s… I mean, it’s obvious. Everyone wants to exist in a 3D spatial world,” said Nigam.

Second, he added, avatars allow people to be empowered and individualized in the digital world.

“I think a lot of creators understand that they contribute so much to all these different platforms, but they don’t reap nearly enough of the benefits,” Nigam said.

Still, he expressed hesitation to characterize and market the startup as an NFT company, even though NFTs are at the core of its business model. Describing Genie’s demographic as the internet’s Gen Z cool kids, rather than crypto-native users who view NFTs as financial assets, he noted that 85% of users on The Warehouse’s waitlist are female.

“The mentality is so different that people just obsess over the actual digital fashion itself and create their dream closet,” said Nigam.

Eventually, Nigam sees the company expanding into a full-fledged social network that he said Gen Z is “hungering for.” He views Facebook and Snapchat primarily as messaging apps and said Instagram is having an “identity crisis.” In the meantime, he hopes Genies will evolve into a place where people can randomly meet like-minded friends online – a vision the company has taken a step closer to achieving with the launch of the app and storefront.

“I don’t think people even think about it, oh, if I buy this as an asset, can I unlock X, Y, and Z, and does it increase in value, and can I sell it one day?” Nigam said. “They’re just like, I just want to do some awesome shit, and then I kind of want to trade it and work with my friends and do it too.”

Leave a Comment