dot.LA Summit: Bringing Pixar-Level Storytelling to Social Media

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
dot.LA Summit: Bringing Pixar-Level Storytelling to Social Media

In just a few weeks, social media users can meet Jennifer Aniston's brand new 3D animated character—and though the avatar is mostly under wraps, word on the street is that it's "very cute." That character comes thanks to a partnership with Invisible Universe, an entertainment technology company partnering with celebrities to capitalize on their unique IP.

In a conversation with Rachel Horning (CEO of RippleFX Events), Invisible Universe CEO Tricia Biggio described the company as the "Pixar of the internet." The company creates beloved, celebrity-sponsored animated characters who live on social media and interact with fans. Its backers include Alexis Ohanian's company Seven Seven Six, Jennifer Aniston, Will Smith's Dreamers VC, and dot.LA founder Spencer Rascoff.

Biggio, who started in television, is passionate about bringing Hollywood quality storytelling and worldbuilding to social media characters:

"We really think about being platform agnostic and story and character obsessed," she said. Pandemic isolation and scrolling was a boon for the company, with ten times the rate of growth on TikTok versus YouTube, Instagram and others.

Some of their popular and celebrity-inspired characters include Qai Qai (Serena Williams), Squeaky & Roy (Charli & Dixie D'Amelio) and Kayda & Kai (Karlie Kloss).

Qai Qai is an Instagram star inspired by Olympia, Serena Williams' daughter, and her real baby doll. When Serena and family started posting Qai Qai on Instagram, fans fell in love with her.

"Serena would joke that after a tennis match, people wouldn't even ask about the match -- they'd be like, 'Did Qai Qai come to Wimbledon?'"

Invisible Universe brought Qai Qai to life as a 3D animated character with her own world, storyline and fans, building an impressive following of 3.7 million across all social platforms. And yes -- you can buy a Qai Qai doll on Amazon.

Biggio noted that creating original IP normally costs a significant investment of time and money. Partnering with celebrities and leveraging their pre-existing brand and audience can be a "rocket booster" for introducing original characters like Kayda & Kai, a partnership with model Karlie Kloss.

Biggio relies on an "egoless" process of building character and story based on fan engagement. For example, after Squeaky and Roy (characters inspired by the D'Amelio sisters) did the flexibility challenge on TikTok, users "went nuts" wanting to see more of the 3D bedroom Invisible Universe had created just for this challenge.

They built out the room so Squeaky and Roy could do a room tour, a piece of content that performed better than anything in the previous month.

"The audience is helping us to drive and we're responding," said Biggio.

Invisible is counting on this process of co-creation to build fan loyalty and drive future content and products, like movies, children's books, and yes, NFTs.

Although all of the characters are created in partnership with celebrities, Biggio stressed Invisible's commitment to appealing to diverse audiences. "We hope that our IP could birth the next 100 Year entertainment franchise," she said. "And because we have that incredibly lofty and ambitious goal, we also have an obligation to make sure that we are telling stories that represent those audiences."

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified Olympia as Olivia. It also clarifies that characters are created in partnership with celebrties.

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Los Angeles’ Wage Growth Outpaced Inflation. Here’s What That Means for Tech Jobs

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Los Angeles’ Wage Growth Outpaced Inflation. Here’s What That Means for Tech Jobs

Inflation hit cities with tech-heavy workforces hard last year. Tech workers fortunate enough to avoid layoffs still found themselves confronting rising costs with little change in their pay.

Those national trends certainly touched down in Los Angeles, but new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that the city of angels was the only major metro area that saw its wage growth grow by nearly 6% while also outpacing the consumer price index, which was around 5%. Basically, LA was the only area where adjusted pay actually came out on a net positive.

So, what does this mean for tech workers in LA County?

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Energy Shares Wants to Offer You a Chance to Invest in Green Energy Startups

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

Energy Shares Wants to Offer You a Chance to Invest in Green Energy Startups
Photo by Red Zeppelin on Unsplash

The Inflation Reduction Act contains almost $400 billion in funding for clean energy initiatives. There’s $250 billion for energy projects. $23 billion for transportation and EVs. $46 billion for environment. $21 billion for agriculture, and so on. With so much cash flowing into the sector, the possibilities for investment and growth are gigantic.

These investment opportunities, however, have typically been inaccessible for everyday retail investors until much later in a company’s development–after an IPO, usually. Meaning that the best returns are likely to be captured by banks and other institutions who have the capital and financing to invest large sums of money earlier in the process.

That’s where Pasadena-based Energy Shares comes in. The company wants to help democratize access to these investment opportunities and simultaneously give early-stage utility-scale energy projects another revenue stream.

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Why These Ukrainian Entrepreneurs Are Making LA Their Home

Aisha Counts
Aisha Counts is a business reporter covering the technology industry. She has written extensively about tech giants, emerging technologies, startups and venture capital. Before becoming a journalist she spent several years as a management consultant at Ernst & Young.
Why These Ukrainian Entrepreneurs Are Making LA Their Home
Joey Mota

Fleeing war and chasing new opportunities, more than a dozen Ukrainian entrepreneurs have landed in Los Angeles, finding an unexpected community in the city of dreams. These entrepreneurs have started companies that are collectively worth more than $300 million, in industries ranging from electric vehicle charging stations to audience monetization platforms to social networks.

Dot.LA spent an evening with this group of Ukrainian citizens, learning what it was like to build startups in Ukraine, to cope with the unimaginable fear of fleeing war, and to garner the resilience to rebuild.

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