Former Disney CEO Robert Iger is making the leap into the metaverse.
Three months after Iger stepped down as the Walt Disney Company’s executive chairman, the 71-year-old is joining the board of Genies, a Los Angeles-based startup that celebrities and others are using to create NFT avatars in the metaverse. Iger has also invested in the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“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 statement.
Iger spent nearly 50 years at Disney, and 15 as CEO before stepping down in 2020. He also served for 10 years as Disney’s chairman or executive chairman, until he was replaced by Susan Arnold, the first woman to be appointed as board chair in the company’s 98-year history. During his tenure at Disney, Iger oversaw the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm as well as the launch of the company’s web streaming platform Disney+.
Genies, which has raised $100 million to date from investors such as Mary Meeker’s Bond, NEA, and Breyer Capital is part of the growing Web3 sector that includes companies focused on the metaverse, NFTs, and cryptocurrencies.
Genies CEO Akash Nigam said Iger will be an asset to the company.
“Our vision is ambitious and grand. And it will consistently require the sharpest, brightest mindshare in the world to help bring it to life,” Nigam said in a statement. “His insatiable curiosity overlaps directly with our fierce passion to bring avatars to all.”
The company is the “official avatar and digital goods NFT provider” for Universal Music Group and Warner Music, and said it has created avatars for musicians such as Justin Bieber, Migos, Cardi B, and J Balvin. The company also runs an NFT marketplace, The Warehouse.
NFTs are among the building block technologies for the metaverse, which refers to virtual worlds where people can play games, socialize, and buy and sell items like virtual land. NFTs, which can be used to record ownership of items within metaverse platforms, can be bought and sold on third-party marketplaces, with each transaction recorded on a transparent ledger called the blockchain.
The nascent NFT market exploded in 2021, especially following the digital artist Beeple’s sale of an NFT artwork at Christie’s for $69 million last March. The NFT sector recorded $17.6 billion of total sales last year, according to a report by NonFungible.com and L’Atelier BNP Paribas—a more than 200-fold increase over 2020.
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