Axios Pro: Media Deals

November 10, 2022

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1 big thing: Genies wants to stay independent

Photo Illustration of Akash Nigam and a piece of avatar fashion from Genies.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: courtesy of Genies

Avatar technology company Genies has a "war chest" that will not only help it stay independent but also could fuel acquisitions over the next year, CEO Akash Nigam told Kerry.

Why it matters: As more attention goes to the metaverse, big-tech companies are building their own systems and buying startups — Alphabet recently acquired digital avatar startup Alter. But Genies is betting it could be an acquirer rather than an acquisition.

What he's saying: Web3 is "nascent, and it's booming, but there's not a lot of people," Nigam said during an Axios Pro live event yesterday. "Right now, I think people are playing Hungry Hippo with talent, but they're also playing Hungry Hippo with the actual companies."

  • "If we sell to a centralized company, how are we going to be able to continue down a decentralized path?" said Nigam.

Details: He said Genies recently hired someone to focus on M&A but declined to share the name since they hadn't started yet.

  • "Have we made any acquisitions? No. Do I see us doing anything over the next six months? No. But over the next year, I can see us making one or two," he said.

Catch up quick: Genies launched in 2017. Early efforts included personalized digital avatars reenacting news. Later, Genies built digital avatars for celebrities like Justin Bieber. But the goal is much larger.

  • "Genies wants to be able to empower humans to be able to create and own their own avatar ecosystems," Nigam said. "We believe avatar ecosystems are going to be the mobile apps of web3."
  • In April, Genies announced a $150 million Series C at a $1 billion valuation. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger, who Nigam said he speaks with every day, is an investor and board member.

How it works: "I hate it when people call us an NFT company or a web3 company," Nigam said. "We view ourselves as a communications company."

  • Genies makes money by taking a 5% cut of primary and secondary transactions in its ecosystem, including avatar fashion.
  • Based in Venice, California, Genies has about 150 employees.
  • "Our overhead is actually virtually nothing," Nigam said. "I think Genies can be a company that's worth $20 billion with 350 people full-time on staff just because we're an avatar tools company at the end of the day."

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