‘If It Pops in a Game, It'll Be Manufactured in Reality’: Aglet’s Virtual Sneaker Game Could Soon Make Sneakers from Players’ Designs

Breanna De Vera

Breanna de Vera is dot.LA's editorial intern. She is currently a senior at the University of Southern California, studying journalism and English literature. She previously reported for the campus publications The Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media.

‘If It Pops in a Game, It'll Be Manufactured in Reality’: Aglet’s Virtual Sneaker Game Could Soon Make Sneakers from Players’ Designs

The virtual video game app for sneakerheads is about to get real.

The Los Angeles-based iPhone app Aglet, which has players search for virtual shoes and gain in-game currency called Aglets by walking, is about to cross over into the real world with the release next year of a sneaker.

Since its founding late last year, Aglet users have walked 8.4 billion steps, or over four million miles. They can use the Aglets they earn to buy virtual shoes in the game.

"Our best selling sneaker in the game is our own," said Ryan Mullins, the CEO and founder of Onlife, the company that produced Aglet.

Aglet app

The Aglet One is a classic sneaker similar to Adidas' iconic Stan Smiths tennis shoe. Mullins said he's secured a deal with an undisclosed manufacturer to produce it and expects to have it on the market next year.

"It sounds cheesy to say this, but [Aglet] is sort of like my life's work," said Mullins, a longtime sneakerhead and former director of future trends at Adidas. "All my interests coming together — whether it's gaming, fashion — in particular, sneakers and streetwear — and software development."

Mullins is the founder of two other companies, readfy, a subscription-based virtual library, and oolipo, a multimedia publishing platform.

Next year, the app will also roll out more narrative additions to game play, including a storyline for players to follow and a data-location feature that reads weather in a players' locations and gamifies it by affecting wear on their virtual shoes. But Mullin's end goal is to enable players to eventually become sneaker designers. He eventually wants to manufacture player-designed shoes.

"We think that the next Nike, the next Adidas, the next Virgil Abloh or Coco Chanel is probably going to be a 15-year-old, 16-year-old kid who's designing virtually a bunch of their own brands" said Mullins. "And if it pops in a game, then it'll be manufactured in reality."

Aglet app

In November, Aglet hosted a "creator month," and opened a design contest to the community. According to Mullins, there were over 1,000 submissions, and the 10 original designs chosen to appear in the game were a hit, some selling out in its virtual store. The app doesn't yet have a design function for players, but Mullins hopes that players will be able to create their own virtual kicks and eventually see them manufactured in real life.

The pandemic has made it harder for location-based apps to thrive. Games like Pokémon Go rely on users being able to get out of their homes and explore. Several states in the U.S. were under lockdown or stay-at-home orders when the app launched in late April, but Aglet's user base is incredibly dedicated and continuously growing, according to Mullins. The game provides players an opportunity to make whatever outdoor walking time they had a little more fun.

Onlife announced the close of a $4.5 million seed round led by Sapphire Sport last week. Other investors include Lakestar Ventures and Forecast Ventures, Miami Heat forward Andre Iguodala, 6D.ai chief executive Matt Miesnieks, Oculus VR co-founder Nate Mitchell and angel investor Charlie Songhurst.

"There's very few investors that I've talked to that immediately got what we were doing, and did not view this as silly, like just a mobile game or something like that. And that is what it currently is, right?" said Mullins. "But to then be able to extrapolate outward, and really be with me on where that vision is going... That it's a new form of consumption, it's a new form of commerce that mixes virtual and physical goods."

Mullins said his vision was difficult to explain to some investors, who didn't get why he wanted to move users from a virtual to a physical experience. He said he was drawn to sport-tech fund Sapphire Sport, Lakestar Ventures and the round's angel investors because they quickly understood his idea.

"This is where consumption is increasingly moving, and most importantly where culture is being created and monetized," said Sapphire Sport co-founder and Managing Director Michael Spirito in a statement. "And Aglet's is a vision we are excited to back and help build."

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.