dot.LA Summit: Dapper's Lil' Miquela Virtual Influencer Will Soon Be Controlled by Her Community

Ivan Fernandez
Ivan Fernandez (a.k.a. Afroxander) is a L.A.-based freelancer whose work has appeared in GRAMMYs, FLAUNT, KCET (Artbound, Lost L.A. & Southland Sessions), L.A. Taco, LA Weekly, Coachella CAMP magazine, Remezcla, Gamecrate, Panamerika, MTV Iggy, among other publications.
dot.LA Summit: Dapper's Lil' Miquela Virtual Influencer Will Soon Be Controlled by Her Community

Dapper Labs, the company that helped bring NFTs into the mainstream, is set on decentralization. And it's turning to its signature virtual social media influencer Lil Miquela to drive home the idea, company executives told a crowd at Friday's Future of Storytelling panel at the dot.LA Summit.


The NFT startup behind NBA Top Shot, Dapper Labs clearly sees the value of virtual influencers. Brands are expected to spend about $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022, according to Business Insider Intelligence. And the company is betting that a rising number of dollars will be spent on virtual influencers who can be fully controlled.

lil miquelaLil Miquela is a new sort of media property.

Dapper acquired Brud, the company that created Miquela, only a few weeks ago. Now, the folks at Dapper want to open Miquela's narrative up to members of the community (she has over three million Instagram followers), rather than writing her story themselves.

"We're turning into a decentralized autonomous organization, which means we go from being a corporation into sort of breaking this open and handing Miquela over to her community," said Dapper COO Kara Weber.

Weber and the creative teams at Dapper have found themselves limited by the constraints of existing platforms such as Facebook (now Meta) and Instagram. Though these social media platforms have provided creative outlets for millions, the creators and consumers who use them remain beholden to the legal whims of these platforms.

"We as consumers have no control and we as creators have no control," said Nicole De Ayora, chief product officer at Dapper. "2020 was this moment where Kara, Trevor [McFedries, co-founder of Brud] and I sort of slammed on the brakes and took a step back and, really, the thing that we were most excited by and inspired by was the community that we were able to create on these platforms...We thought about what a world would look like if we turned things over to the community and really began to develop this vision that would then become Dapper Collectives."

Weber and CPO Nicole De Ayor also spoke more broadly about moving away from a social media model wherein the company owns the user's data to one where customers can have possession of their IP.

"What we learned was that as a creator, when you're dependent on Web 2 platforms, you don't own or control your audience, you don't own or control any information or data," said Weber. "Telling a narrative across Web 2 platforms, you don't really drive anything and that really became very frustrating."

"We want to enable collectives to have more ownership to be able to give and get value for what they're creating," she added. " I think that participation and capturing value is a really key difference in what excites so many of us about decentralization."

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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.

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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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