The avatar biz is on the ups
The Hustle

The avatar biz is on the ups

Today, OZY Fest makes a mess, and rare wine makers are under duress, but first…
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Genies gives celebrities a chance to cash in on their clones

Genies, a company that bills itself as the creator of “the world’s first digital human race,” recently launched an avatar agency to manage the digital alter egos of celebrities, Fast Company reports.

The rise of the avatar economy

In theory, celebrities who earn big bucks from sponsorships could earn 2x as much by being in 2 places at once — and Genies claims to give them that opportunity by offering fully managed second selves.

“Whether your top priority is on the court, in the studio, or on tour, your Genie can represent your identity when you can’t,” Genies explains on its site

Right now, Genies manages celebrities such as DJ Khaled, Russell Westbrook, and Steve Aoki… err, scratch that, Genies manages their digital clones.

This ‘avatar agency’ started out as a news app

Genies originally used personalized avatars to reenact the day’s news — because who wouldn’t want their big-headed emoji-self in a rocket with Elon Musk?! 

But the company quickly realized it could make bigger bucks by helping celebrities and large companies build their brands.

Think about it this way: If kids see their emoji selves look great with Gucci bags, they’re more likely to think their real selves need them, too (yes, Gucci is a real client of Genie’s).

Genies’ brand page sums it up this way: “Build brand familiarity with the next generation of consumers. Introduce your product to this newly coveted audience, irrespective if they can afford or access it in the real world.”

But who will own the avatars?

“As the lines become blurred between our physical and digital worlds, every human will need an avatar to represent themselves,” Genies says on its website.

Right now, there’s no law governing avatar rights, which Genies insists is a problem because it allows the use of a person’s likeness without their permission.

But not everyone agrees about how avatars should work. Genies thinks celebrities should have just 1 avatar to ensure it matches their human “brand.” Others believe people should make different avatars to represent all their different selves.

Can I speak with your avatar?

At $34k per bottle, the world’s most expensive wine features an aroma of controversy

Liber Pater, one of the world’s most (in)famous wineries, announced that its 2015 vintage will hit the shelves with a price tag of $34k per bottle. 

No, that wasn’t a drunken typo — a 6 pack of the world’s most expensive adult grape juice costs more than a new Lamborghini.

A new vintage from the world’s wackiest winemaker

Loïc Pasquet, the winemaking wizard behind Liber Pater, is known for using ancient techniques such as cultivating ancient grape varietals and ditching oak barrels to age his wine in amphorae (which look like they could have been excavated from Pompeii).

But Pasquet’s also known as a convicted fraudster: Several years ago, he was found guilty of falsifying receipts to obtain more than $600k worth of grants from the EU.

A complex Bordeaux with notes of sabotage

The world of high-end wine is filled with intrigue: Pasquet has been sued several times for violating winemaking rules (and appealed most of these lawsuits, sometimes successfully) and wine-y enemies destroyed 500 of his vines in 2016.

Liber Pater will produce only 550 bottles of this 2015 vintage. There will be no 2016 vintage (due to vine vandals) and no 2017 vintage (due to frost damage). 

But the vineyard’s 2018 vintage is expected to sell for an even higher price than the current wine.

» Wine not?
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New York’s ‘backyard’ is selling out: Central Park’s Great Lawn gets a pricey music festival

OZY Fest, a weekend-long pop-culture romp with multiple stages for music, comedy, politics, and cooking, starts on the Great Lawn in Central Park next week.

For years, the jewel of the public parks system has held some of the most iconic outdoor performances in New York City, from Dylan to Diana Ross to Pope John Paul II — and most of them have been completely free.

But, with tickets topping out at $400, OZY Fest is pricing out music lovers and taping off portions of the Great Lawn for 9 days in the dog days of solstice — and people are peeved.

Oh the lawns they are a changin’

Officials from the Central Park Conservancy (a close partner of the parks department) and The Trust for Public Land have echoed that denying taxpayers a jaunt on the Great Lawn is certainly out of character. 

But, according to the NYT, the festival organizers paid the parks department $1.5m to put on a show featuring the voice of John Legend and the comedy of Trevor Noah. 

And, as Wu Tang says, “Cash rules everything around me, get the money.” 

The organizers are on the defense

According to an OZY spokesperson, about 40k attendees are expected each day of the festival, half of whom will have received tickets for free.

But, when it comes to for-profit concerts, New Yorkers are most sensitive and territorial over the Great Lawn. 

And, more often than not, the parks department listens.

» Everyone’s a critic

Blackstone acquires ad-tech startup Vungle for $750m

Private equity giant Blackstone acquired the video advertising startup Vungle in a deal The Wall Street Journal reported to be around $750m.

“Blackstone’s backing should allow [Vungle] to grow faster,” Vungle co-founder Jack Smith told The Hustle via email. “To date the company only raised $25.5m.”

It was a big buyout at the end of a bumpy road 

Founded in 2011, Vungle now serves more than 4B video ads per month for 60k clients like Microsoft, Pandora, and Zynga.

But despite its successes, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Vungle. Former CEO Zain Jaffer was arrested in 2017 and subsequently fired from his position at the company.

Although the charges were later dropped, the incident led to an ugly legal fight between the company and its ex-CEO. But, as a part of its acquisition announcement, Vungle also announced it had finally reached a settlement in the case.

Jack Smith, co-founder of Vungle, has spoken at The Hustle’s conference, Hustle Con (see it here). This afternoon, he will do an AMA for subscribers to The Hustle’s Trends. Sign up for a Trends trial for $1.

» From bungle to Vungle

This wine-matching algorithm raised $5m (and your vino standards)

When it comes to finding a vino that tickles your fancy, things can get overwhelming. Tannins! Texture! Terroir! It’s an awful lot to digest. 

But good news: two MIT grads have created a company (and algorithm) that does the finding for you — they’re called Bright Cellars.

7 easy questions, 1 happy camper

7 simple questions stand between you and your new favorite glass of red (or white, we don’t judge). And when we say simple, we mean simple… like “what kind of chocolate do you like?” simple.

Once you finish, Bright Cellars offers you a selection of wines that pair perfectly with your palate — and if like what you see, they’ll send 6 bottles to your doorstep.

Kick up your feet, take the quiz, and get $45 off your first order of primo vino today.

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