Unlock Venture Partners Puts Its Portfolio in the Metaverse

Harri Weber

Harri is dot.LA's senior finance reporter. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Fast Company, VentureBeat and Flipboard. Find her on Twitter and send tips on L.A. startups and venture capital to harrison@dot.la.

Unlock Venture Partners Puts Its Portfolio in the Metaverse
Image courtesy of Unlock Venture Partners

A Los Angeles- and Seattle-based investment firm may be the first to put its own portfolio page in the metaverse.

“As far as we know it’s never been done,” Unlock Venture Partners co-founder Sanjay Reddy told dot.LA.

Created by Pixelcanvas, an L.A. startup backed by the investment firm, the “Unlockverse” runs inside a simple web browser and drops you directly into a shiny, virtual showroom.

While most VC portfolio sites usually take the form of a bland web page with hyperlinked logos, the Unlockverse is a virtual space the size of an airplane hangar with all the trappings of a high-end mall. Inside, 3D storefronts are themed to match the companies that occupy each space.

For example, DressX’s room in the Unlockverse looks like a futuristic boutique, as it operates a fashion-focused NFT marketplace. Unlock’s own room, in contrast, is relatively straight-forward, featuring a blue sky ceiling and framed photo slideshows of its team on the walls.

“We don’t want it looking like Roblox,” Sanjay said, referring to the cartoony online game. “This is photo-realistic because we’re focused on the enterprise.”

The Unlockverse is a little glitchy, though. As I approached an escalator, my avatar got stuck and swung erratically until I clicked myself free. Inside the stores, if you click a “learn more” button, you’re plopped in front of a two-dimensional screen where you’ll find some ordinary links, images and videos.

Unlockverse Trailer

But the experience is also a bit more detailed than expected. There are mini-games, like a dunk tank. You can even wander into a bathroom stall, although all you can do is stand in there. It begs the question: Why put it there at all?

Sanjay, for his part, downplayed Unlockverse as “a test,” but also teased that Pixelcanvas has already built multiple environments and has a bigger launch in the works.

“It’s really about, in a sense, the dogs eating the dog food, so to speak” he said—as in, he wants the firm to practice what it preaches about the metaverse and Web3. In January, Unlock unveiled a $62 million seed-stage fund focused on L.A.-based startups, with an emphasis on metaverse and Web3 ventures.

So, is this the metaverse we keep hearing about? The concept itself is loosely defined, but typically it refers to large, immersive, social 3D worlds. Depending on your outlook, the metaverse either totally doesn’t exist, is in the works or has already arrived. Either way, the good news is there’s no line for the bathroom.

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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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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.