Genies brings lifelike avatars to other apps with $10M from celebrities

Genies is emerging as the top competitor to Snapchat’s wildly popular Bitmoji as Facebook, Apple, and Google have been slow to get serious about personalized avatars. Over one million people have customized dozens of traits to build a realistic digital lookalike of themselves from over a million possible permutations. When Genies launched a year ago […]

Genies is emerging as the top competitor to Snapchat’s wildly popular Bitmoji as Facebook, Apple, and Google have been slow to get serious about personalized avatars. Over one million people have customized dozens of traits to build a realistic digital lookalike of themselves from over a million possible permutations.

When Genies launched a year ago after raising $15 million in stealth, it misstepped by trying to show people’s Genies interpreting a few weekly news stories and seasonal moments. Now the startup has figured out users want more control, so it’s shifting its iOS and Android apps to let you chat through your avatar, who acts out keywords and sentiments in reaction to what you type, which you can then share elsewhere. And Genies is launching a software developer kit that charges other apps apps to let you create avatars and use them for chat, stickers, games, animations, and augmented reality.

Genies’ SDK puts its avatars in other apps

To power these new strategies and usher in what CEO Akash Nigam calls “the next wave of communication through avatars where people feel comfortable expressing themselves”, Genies has raised $10 million more. The party round comes from a wide range of investors from institutional firms like NEA and Tull Co; angels like Tinder’s Sean Rad, Raya’s Jared Morgenstern, and speaker Tony Robbins, athletes like Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, and Richard Sherman; and musicians including A$AP Rocky, Offset from Migos, The Chainsmokers, and 50 Cent. Some like Offset have even used their Genie to stand in for them brand sponsorships so their avatar poses for photos instead of them.

“We’ve transitioned from being an app to an avatar services company” Nigam tells me. The son of WebMD’s co-founder, Nigam build a string of failed apps before meeting his Genies co-founders through University Of Michigan hackathons. Watching Snapchat-owned Bitmoji stay glued atop the app download charts inspired them to see more opportunity in the avatar space.

Genies in-app chat

The revamped Genies app lets you chat with up to six friends through your avatar. As you type, Genies detects actions, places, things, and emotions, and offers you corresponding animations your avatar acts out with a tap. Given people already have plenty of place to chat, it might be tough to get people to move real conversations inside Genies for more than a quick hit of novelty. But that functionality is also coming to Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and iMessage’s keyboards where the expressive animations could naturally augment your threads.

With the Genies SDK, the startup is ready to challenge Snapchat’s new Snap Kit that lets apps build Bitmoji into their keyboards. But for $100,000 to $1 million in licensing fees, Genies allows apps to develop much deeper avatar features. Beyond creating keyboard stickers, games can plaster your Genies’ face over your character’s head, and utilities apps can have your Genie act out the weather or celebrate transactions. And since Genies is still taking off, partners can create experiences that feel fresh rather than just a repurposing of Bitmoji’s already-established cartoony avatars. Genies has also launched its first official brand deal, where Gucci has created a wheel in the Genies creator so you can deck out your mini-you with luxury clothing.

The Avatar Wars (from left): Facebook Avatars, Google Gboard Mini Stickers, Apple Memoji

Despite Bitmoji’s years of success, it’s yet to have a scaled competitor. TechCrunch broke the news that Facebook is working on a “Facebook Avatars” feature but seven months later it’s still not publicly testing and the prototype looks childish. Google’s Gboard just added the ability to create avatars based on a selfie, but they’re bland, low on detail, and far from fun looking. And Apple’s latest mobile operating system lets you create a Memoji, though they too look generic like actual emoji rather than something instantly identifiable as you. By designing avatars that not only look like you but like a cooler version of you, Genies could capture the hearts and faces of millions of teens and the influencers they follow.

Snapchat launches Bitmoji merch and comic strips starring your avatar

Snapchat is doubling down on its biggest differentiator by turning its personalized avatar Bitmoji into a revenue stream and a new source of content. Snapchat is launching a Bitmoji merchandise store you can customize with you and your friends’ cartoonified faces, Bitmoji Stories comic strips featuring you and friends’ avatars in fun scenes, and a […]

Snapchat is doubling down on its biggest differentiator by turning its personalized avatar Bitmoji into a revenue stream and a new source of content. Snapchat is launching a Bitmoji merchandise store you can customize with you and your friends’ cartoonified faces, Bitmoji Stories comic strips featuring you and friends’ avatars in fun scenes, and a new Friendship profile that collect all the content you and a friend have saved from your Snap message thread.

The new features could help earn Snapchat money to reduce its still-massive quarterly losses, get Snap’s brand out in public, and give people new ways to spend more time on Snapchat when it’s otherwise been losing users.

Snapchat, The Ecommerce Company

The Bitmoji merchandise store opens Thursday in the US on iOS only with $2 stickers, $15 coffee mugs, $16 standard t-shirts and notebooks, $22 triblend t-shirts $27 sweatshirts and more that you can personalize by adding their Bitmoji, one of their friends’, them and a friends’ playing together, or any two of their friends. Phone cases, towels, and pillows are also available. You can access the Bitmoji store from Snap Store in the Settings menu of Snapchat’s app. Snapchat first launched its Snap Store in Ghostface Chillah logo merchandise back in February to sell Dancing Hot Dog dolls, ghost pool floats, and puppy selfie filter shirts.

The new merch could help Snap show off its name and brand, reminding people to use the app since they can’t get the true Bitmoji anywhere else. Snap could also use the revenue given it lost $325 million last quarter and might have to take outside investment or be acquired as it may not break even before running out of cash.

Snap Comics

Back before it settled on the idea of turning personalized emoji into stickers you could use in chat, Bitmoji parent company Bitstrips started as a comic strip creator. You could make an avatar and then create little scenes for them to star in. The idea was inspired by co-founder Jacob ‘BA’ Blackstock’s school days when he and friends would draw comic strips when they were bored. Now Snap is getting back to Bitmoji’s roots.

Bitmoji Stories launch tomorrow in the US. A Snapchat spokesperson tells me “Bitmoji Stories will tell lighthearted stories in the form of short comic strips. Bitmoji Stories are created by Snap (from the Bitmoji content team), and will star the Snapchatter solo or with a friend.” They’ll be constantly updated with new advantures, and they’re quite reminiscent of lifelike avatar startup Genies’ scenes. By creating a new form of Discover content in-house, Snapchat could draw more time and therefore more ad views out of its audience. And since there’s no outside publisher to pay, Snapchat can keep all the ad revenue.

Snap’s big competitors have largely failed to field a viable Bitmoji competitor. A year ago I wrote that “Facebook seriously needs its own Bitmoji”, and in May, we broke the news that Facebook Avatars were in the works — though the prototypes were pretty ugly.. Each day Facebook delays, Bitmoji becomes more entrenched as the avatar standard. Two weeks ago, Google launched its own Gboard Mini avatars that you can automatically create with a selife, rather than having to configure them manually like on Snapchat. But when it comes to an illustrated version of you, even tiny missteps can make you look monstrous. Plus, people love wasting time customizing avatars. Snap’s version still regins supreme.

Besties Are Snap’s Best Shot

And lastly, today Snapchat begins globally rolling out its Friendship profiles. Accessible by clicking on a friend’s Bitmoji (or blank avatar if they haven’t made one) from Chat, Stories, Discover, or search, Snapchat says they “make it easy to find your favorite memories and the important information you’ve saved over time.” That includes, photos, videos, messages, and links saved from your otherwise ephemeral chats, plus a quick way to see that bestie on the Snap Map.

None of these features is so seismic as to change the overall momentum of Snapchat, which has been struggling lately with shrinking user counts, a battered share price, and non-stop executive departures. Its VP of Content Nick Bell left yesterday. Having talked with him, he’s one of the smartest minds in modern mobile content, and Snap’s hopes to get rid of the clickbait and messy design of Discover may be more difficult without him.

The strategy of focusing on best friends is smart, though. The one thing Facebook and Instagram can’t copy is Snapchat’s tight social graph of just your closest pals. Those competitors allowed their networks to bloat with acquaintances, family, and colleagues that can make people less comfortable openly sharing. Now that they’ve copied Snapchat’s Stories broadcasting to a wider audience, Snap must refocus on best friends if it wants to stay unique and turn its smaller size and graph into an asset instead of a liability.

What Is Bitmoji and How Can You Make Your Own?

Have you ever wished you could use a personalized cartoon image as your profile picture on social media? It’s easier than you think. You just need to understand everything there is to know about Bitmoji. And this article explains what Bitmoji are and how you can create your own. What Is Bitmoji? Bitmoji is owned by Snap Inc., the same company that’s behind Snapchat. Snap bought Bitmoji for more than $100 million in 2016. At its core, Bitmoji lets you create a cartoon avatar of yourself. You can then use your avatar as a consistent profile picture across all your…

Read the full article: What Is Bitmoji and How Can You Make Your Own?

Have you ever wished you could use a personalized cartoon image as your profile picture on social media? It’s easier than you think.

You just need to understand everything there is to know about Bitmoji. And this article explains what Bitmoji are and how you can create your own.

What Is Bitmoji?

Bitmoji is owned by Snap Inc., the same company that’s behind Snapchat. Snap bought Bitmoji for more than $100 million in 2016.

At its core, Bitmoji lets you create a cartoon avatar of yourself. You can then use your avatar as a consistent profile picture across all your favorite apps.

Bitmoji is available in the Chrome Web Store, and there’s a Bitmoji app available for Android and iOS. You can also access your Bitmoji account via a web app.

Many other apps and services have special integrations with Bitmoji creations. These include Snapchat, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Gmail, Gboard, Slack, and iMessage. But even if your most-used apps aren’t directly integrated, your avatar is never more than a copy and paste away.

Download: Bitmoji for Android | iOS | Chrome (Free)

How to Make a Bitmoji Account

To begin, you need to make a free Bitmoji account. You can either create an entirely fresh account or use your Snapchat credentials.

You can only make a new Bitmoji account through the smartphone apps or the Chrome extension. It is not possible to create a new account on the web.

You’ll need to enter the various personal details, choose a password, and select your gender. Now you’re ready to customize your avatar.

What Customization Features Are Available?

You can either upload a selfie or design your avatar manually.

You can customize your skin tone, facial structure, hair color, outfit, headwear, body type, and more. There are also three different broad themes to choose from—Deluxe, Bitstrips, and Classic.

Some outfits will only appear for a limited time around sporting events, annual holidays, and other events. Sadly, you won’t be able to rock that Santa outfit year-round.

Once you’ve finished with the design process, you can also start using the vast repository of stickers. There’s one for just about every occasion, emotion, and action imaginable.

What Is the Bitmoji Keyboard?

The Bitmoji keyboard is what allows you to use your avatar in other apps on your device.

Depending on which platform you’re using, the instructions for setting up and using the feature will differ.

For example, on Android, the process is as simple as opening the keyboard, tapping on the Stickers icon, choosing the Bitmoji tab, and selecting the avatar you want to use.

On iOS, you’ll need to go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard. Tap on Bitmoji and slide the toggle next to Allow Full Access into the On position. To access the keyboard while writing a message, tap on the globe icon and select the desired avatar.

How to Use Bitmoji in Snapchat

One of the places where you can have the most fun with your newly created avatar is in Snapchat. Snapchat has lots of emojis, filters, and trophies—they are the perfect complement to the vibe that your Bitmoji gives off.

Given the fact that the two apps are owned by the same company, you’d expect the integration to be easy to set up. It doesn’t disappoint.

To get started, open your Snapchat app and tap on the Profile link in the upper left-hand corner of the camera screen. Next, tap on the Gear icon to enter Snapchat’s Settings menu. From the Settings menu, go to Bitmoji > Link Bitmoji.

To finish the connection process, agree to the confirmation screen when prompted.

(Note: Even if you used your Snapchat credentials to create your Bitmoji account, you will still need to complete the above steps to use your creations on the Snapchat network.)

Does Bitmoji Compromise Your Privacy?

It’s fair to say that Bitmoji doesn’t win any prizes when it comes to your privacy.

Obviously, the fact Snap owns both Snapchat and Bitmoji isn’t ideal for people who are concerned about a single company amassing too much data about them.

A few other privacy concerns include a request for full keyboard access and permissions to access your call history and contacts. The developer claims keyboard access is needed to “download your custom Bitmoji images from our server” and adds that the company is not “reading, transmitting or storing anything you type” at any time.

We explored all these issues in more detail when we discussed whether Bitmoji is a threat to your privacy.

(Note: Android and iOS users can both disable full keyboard access and instead copy and paste Bitmoji avatars directly from the Bitmoji app as needed).

Two More Bitmoji Tips

We’ll leave you with two more Bitmoji tips that you’ll probably find useful.

Firstly, if you suddenly can’t access your Bitmoji avatars from your device’s main keyboard, the issue is almost always linked to full keyboard access. Simply toggling the feature on and off should remedy the problem.

To toggle the permission on iOS, head back to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards and select Bitmoji. On Android, head to System > Languages and input > Keyboard and input methods > Virtual keyboard > Manage keyboards.

Secondly, there’s a sneaky workaround to share your Bitmoji creations with other apps even if Bitmoji does not appear in the other app’s Share menu. Just open the Bitmoji app, tap on an icon, and save it to your photos. Then, when you want to share an avatar, use the newly saved picture instead.

Customize Your Social Media Presence

With the big social media networks boasting hundreds of millions of users apiece, it’s increasingly hard to stand out from the crowd. Using Bitmoji is one way you can give your online presence a dash of extra pizazz.

There are alternatives though. Google can now turn your selfies into stickers, and there are a host of other apps designed to change messaging for the better.

Read the full article: What Is Bitmoji and How Can You Make Your Own?