Genies' New Head of Talent Will Borrow Lessons Learned at Snap to Grow the Avatar Startup

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Genies' New Head of Talent Will Borrow Lessons Learned at Snap to Grow the Avatar Startup

Matt Skiba helped to build Snap Inc.'s executive team in 2018 and 2019, a period that proved to be the beginning of the Santa Monica-based company's remarkable ascendancy in the public markets. He is now charged with a similar task at L.A.-based digital avatar platform Genies.

The company began primarily as a designer and manager of digital avatars for celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna and Shawn Mendes to use across social media, but lately is expanding into the consumer market.


"The opportunity to be a part of Genies was a seat on a rocket ship that I couldn't refuse," said Skiba, who most recently was a partner at executive search firm True Search and now becomes Genies' VP of Talent.

Genies launched in 2017 and has since raised over $50 million, according to Crunchbase. Late last year, the company's newly improved graphics were flaunted in New York's Times Square via Justin Bieber's avatar.

"Avatars are a prerequisite to the metaverse," CEO Akash Nigam previously told dot.LA, when Genies announced its new software development kit that is meant to help spread its avatars through users across the web and social media.

Skiba previously spent three and a half years at Snap, where he worked alongside chief executive Evan Spiegel, hiring a handful of executives at a time when Snap's post-IPO prospects looked dim as its stock price languished in single digits. He said the most important lesson he took away from his time at Snap was to be pragmatic but unafraid of being contrarian.

"You see those characteristics come through with the company, especially with Evan," Skiba said. "Akash resembles a lot of those similar characteristics."

Skiba now plans to build out Genies' C-suite and firm up the HR operations at the 50-person company as it embarks on its next chapter.

"Executive recruiting is kind of like dating. You've got to kiss some frogs in order to find your prince or princess," he said.

Skiba views Genies as a vehicle to give people, especially millennials and Gen Z, the power to express themselves on the internet. He sees parallels to Snap's own innovations of centering the camera into how its users communicate.

"Genies has all the same characteristics of being something that is truly impactful for consumers and for society, especially when you start thinking about self-expression and identity," Skiba said.

In addition to looking back toward Snap for lessons, his new company will also be viewing it as a competitor, as Snap has had its own avatar operation since it acquired Bitmoji in 2016.

Skiba thinks there's plenty of room for both, however, particularly in L.A.

"We've got the people, we've got the curiosity, we've got the creativity and we've got the ingenuity," he said. "That's my excitement for where I see L.A. going, and positioning itself as one of the hotbeds for technology and innovation."

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Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Venture Firm BackStage Capital Reduces Staff to 3 Employees
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

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MaC Venture Capital Raises $203M for Its Second Fund
Courtesy of MaC Venture Capital

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