Jeffrey Katzenberg Defends Quibi Failings, Talks NFT Investments

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.

​Jeffrey Katzenberg defends Quibi failings at Upfront Summit.
Courtesy of the Upfront Summit

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Jeffrey Katzenberg didn’t mince words when addressing the elephant in the room during his appearance at the Upfront Summit on Wednesday—saying he learned valuable lessons from the rapid demise of his short-form TV app Quibi.

“I'm humbled by [Quibi’s] failure; I’m glad we got out when we did and we were able to return money to investors,” Katzenberg said onstage at the venture capital conference in Downtown Los Angeles. He argued that while Quibi’s content was solid, the startup “didn’t have product-market fit”—alluding to its April 2020 launch amid the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

The app’s thesis was to give Hollywood stars like Liam Hemsworth, Idris Elba and Queen Latifah a platform to produce content segmented into 10-minute episodes and made specifically to be viewed on mobile phones. But the pandemic, which kept people confined to their homes, destroyed Quibi’s market for on-the-go content to be consumed during viewers’ commutes. Some six months after launching with $1.75 billion in funding to its name, Quibi folded; Katzenberg returned roughly $600 million to investors and sold the app’s library to Roku.

“The content that was made, I have to say, actually delivered on the promise of that in an incredible way, and it’s worked brilliantly for Roku,” Katzenberg said. “We didn't have product-market fit… I’m not looking for an excuse. I got my shot, people backed us, gave us an incredible amount of enthusiasm, support, access, money—everything we wanted and needed to get a shot at this, and it didn’t work. And we moved very quickly to shut it down when it didn't work.”

With Quibi in the rearview, Katzenberg has turned his focus to WndrCo, his Beverly Hills-based venture capital firm that is mostly investing in non-media ventures. The former Disney chariman and DreamWorks co-founder noted that he’s particularly optimistic on NFTs; WndrCo has invested in at least six NFT-related companies since last year, according to PitchBook data, including crypto exchange Gemini, sports NFT exchange SportsIcon and OnChain Studios, which sells digital collectible toys as NFTs.

Katzenberg also shouted out WndrCo’s investments in OpenSea, one of the most popular NFT marketplaces, and Dapper Labs, the company behind NFT platform NBA Top Shot as well as Dapper Collective, the virtual influencer startup formerly known as Brud. WndrCo founding partner Sujay Jaswa, who joined Katzenberg onstage, said the VC firm’s investment approach is centered around the founders it chooses to back.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, almost nothing we’ve invested in at the beginning is what it became—but the person [leading the venture] is who drove the outcome,” Jaswa said. “That’s really what we bet on with almost all of these earlier stage things, and that’s what worked for us in NFT's.”

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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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Behind Her Empire: AAVRANI Co-Founder Rooshy Roy On Redefining Success and Embracing Identity

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

AAVRANI Co-Founder Rooshy Roy
Photo courtesy of AAVRANI

Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, Rooshy Roy said, as the only Indian girl in school, she spent a lot of time feeling like an outsider and like she wasn’t meeting others’ expectations of “how an Indian girl should behave.”

Flash forward 20 years, and the differences Roy was once ashamed of are now the inspiration for her skincare company.

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