Jadu Is Using Augment Reality to Bring Gaming To Real World Landscapes

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.

Jadu Is Using Augment Reality to Bring Gaming To Real World Landscapes
Photo courtesy of Jadu

Jadu, a Los Angeles-based augmented reality (AR) startup, has raised $36 million to build a gaming platform that lets players roam the real world with their NFT avatars.

Bain Capital led the Series A round and was joined by existing investor General Catalyst Partners. Other investors include LG Tech Ventures and Alumni Ventures. The new raise brings Jadu’s total funding to more than $45 million.


Launched in 2020, Jadu is developing an AR mobile app that connects to players’ Ethereum wallets, letting them turn their 3D animated NFTs into playable avatars. The app, which is expected to emerge from beta testing this summer, can integrate avatars from NFT collections like Deadfellaz, CyberKongz and FLUFs, as well as some from “The Sandbox” video game, according to Jadu.

Unlike other AR experiences where users navigate from a first-person point of view (think “Pokemon Go”), Jadu players can stay put and move their avatar characters around bedrooms or backyards. It has the effect of playing a third-person video game—with the real world as the landscape.

“Adding an avatar in the middle of [a player’s] view is a novel concept for AR, and it's kind of counterintuitive,” Jadu founder and CEO Asad J. Malik told dot.LA. “However, when you do it, suddenly it becomes really effective because your AR becomes super visual. You can actually see a representation of a character going around the room doing things.”

The roughly 50-person company—which has much of its leadership team, including Malik, based in Los Angeles—started with an AR mobile app that let users dance next to life-like holograms of music artists like Lil Nas X and Pussy Riot. The idea was that users could record clips and post them on social media, showcasing complex AR experiences that weren’t available on other platforms, according to Malik. Some videos went viral on TikTok, and the initial iteration of Jadu was briefly among the 30 most downloaded entertainment apps in Apple’s App Store, Malik said.

But the goal was always to build a more expansive AR platform, and the Jadu team saw a chance to do that with the emergence of NFTs and the larger phenomenon of Web3, a vision for a decentralized version of the internet based on blockchain technology. Jadu quickly pivoted to building AR gameplay for Web3 avatars, selling accessories like jetpacks and hoverboards as NFTs. The startup earned more than $5 million from initial NFT sales, Malik said, and collects a 5% commission on the roughly $25 million in secondary sales those NFTs have done to date on platforms like OpenSea.

“We had always been looking for the right business model for AR and nothing had ever clicked,” Malik said, adding that in-app purchases or ads didn’t make sense. So when NFTs came along “that opportunity became so glaringly obvious to us that we immediately hard-pivoted,” he added.

Jadu plans to spend the new funds to grow its team and build out the gaming platform. Malik said the company is focused on releasing its first collection of in-house avatar NFTs, which is expected to be its primary revenue source this year. As the platform matures, Malk could foresee Jadu eventually charging commissions for third-parties to develop game items or experiences on its platform, he said.

The Jadu founder contends the near-term future of the metaverse—the loosely-defined term for the immersive and extensive online worlds—is with AR and not virtual reality, where users are completely immersed in 3D digital environments. He noted consumers have been slow to adopt VR headsets like Meta’s Quest or Sony’s Playstation VR; by contrast, more than a billion mobile devices can support the AR experiences Jadu is developing, Malik said.

“People are building out the metaverse as this interoperable virtual world,” Malik said. “We are building out what we call the ‘Mirrorverse’ as the AR reflection of that, and the ‘Mirrorverse’ exists on the physical planet—it exists on top of the world as we know it, and we think that's super compelling.”

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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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Inflation Reduction Act Officially Passes the Senate, Revamping Electric Vehicle Pricing

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

The Capitol at Sunset
Courtesy of Mike Stoll via Unsplash

Over the weekend Senate Democrats officially passed the Inflation Reduction Act in what amounts to President Biden’s biggest legislative win so far. The bill includes a host of broad-spectrum economic policy changes and completely reworks the subsidies for electric vehicle purchases. The law still has to get through the House, but this should be a much smaller hurdle.

dot.LA covered the bill in depth as it neared the goal line at the end of July, and the final iteration doesn’t change much. To recap:

1. The rebate total stays $7,500 but is broken into two $3,750 chunks tied to how much of the car and its battery are made in the US.

2. The manufacturer caps are eliminated, meaning even EV companies that have sold more than 20,000 vehicles are once again eligible.

3. Rebates will now only apply to cars priced below $55,000 and trucks/SUVs below $80,000

With the new system placing a renewed emphasis on American manufacturing and assembly, the calculus of which vehicles cost how much is still being worked out. The most comprehensive (but unofficial!) list I’ve seen has come from Reddit user u/Mad691.

In addition to the EV rebate program, the bill also includes a number of economic incentives aimed at curbing emissions and accelerating the country’s transition to electric vehicles.

There’s $20 billion earmarked for the construction of new clean vehicle manufacturing facilities and $3 billion will go help electrify the USPS delivery fleet. Another $3 billion will go to electrifying the nation’s ports. Then there’s $1 billion for zero-emission trucks and buses.

Now that the bill is about to be codified into law, VC investment in the sector might heat up in response to the new money flowing in.

“I do anticipate more climate funds standing up to invest in EV infrastructure,” says Taj Ahmad Eldridge, a partner at Include Ventures and the director at CREST an ARES Foundation initiative with JFF/WRI that aims to provide training for people in the new green economy. “However, we do see funds being a little more thoughtful on diligence and taking their time to fund the right investment.”

The sentiment seems to be shared across Southern California. ChargeNet CEO and Co-Founder Tosh Dutt says the Inflation Reduction Act “super charges” the company’s effort to build infrastructure across the country.

“This investment accelerates the transition to renewable energy and gives companies like ChargeNet Stations the confidence to expand more rapidly, especially in underserved communities,” says Dutt.

For Rivian, the bill’s passage has left would-be customers in a sort of limbo. Because many of their models will exceed the $80,000 cap for trucks and SUVs after options, customers who’ve preordered are scrambling to sign buyers’ agreements to take advantage of the current EV rebate scheme which doesn’t include price caps. As I noted in the previous article, if you buy an EV before the bill is signed, you’re eligible for the current rebate system even if the vehicle isn’t delivered until 2023. Any existing contracts under the current system will remain valid.

With the legislation seemingly on the fast track to become law, it’s unclear whether or not Rivian will expedite the purchasing process to allow customers to sign the buyers’ agreement before the new rebate program becomes the law of the land. Tick tock!

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