a16z Podcast

Digital Humans and the Story Behind Lil Miquela

Steph Smith, Trevor McFedries, and Isaac Bratzel

Posted March 30, 2023

You’ve probably heard of ‘Lil Miquela. The 19 year-old Brazilian-American influencer has millions of followers and has partnered with the likes of Samsung and Prada. But despite capturing the hearts of many, she’s not real.

But you probably haven’t heard her origin story. In this episode we take a trip back to 2016, to a world that looked much different to today, together with two of Miquela’s creators – Trevor McFedries and Isaac Bratzel – cofounder and Chief Design and Innovation Officer of Brud at the time.

We learn what inspired the experiment and what early signs indicated that Miquela was not just a novel idea. In a world where spinning up an influencer, we learn what it took to capture mindshare, the pushback they’ve received, what a “scalable influencer” means, and what they think is to come.

Show Notes

00:00 – Introduction

02:18 – The key insight

04:05 – A new breed of influencers

06:25 – Miquela’s aesthetic

09:30 – Early signs of success

13:01 – Narrative and fan engagement

16:45 – The technology

18:14 – Expanding past Miquela

22:34 – Traction and generative AI

26:45 – A new reality

31:55 – Early pushback

33:38 – Misunderstanding reality

36:23 – Fear of new technologies

37:47 – New technological unlocks

41:13 – Scalable influencers