‘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 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.
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.
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."
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."