Jennifer Hotai is using her tech talents for the greater good
Entrepreneur Jennifer Hotai has hit the 3D ground running since her move to Myrtle Beach from California. In that time, she has founded an ad agency and two startups in the metaverse realm, and pioneered the immersive tech community here on the East Coast.
In our recent Google Meet, you can’t help but feel the passion she has for what she does in team building, creativity, and empowering others radiate through the computer screen as she walks me through a visual deck she created.
“I think [Myrtle Beach] has the most potential for growth because it’s pretty much a blank slate when it comes to technology,” says Hotai. “It’s pretty much a technology desert, and so I think that having my type of company and then creating a community for people of like-minded people who want to see that technology has the most room to create something out of nothing is more appealing to me than to be competing in an area that has more technology and fully embraced the technology already.”
Her passion for art and films dates back to when she was 13 years old. After going to California State University, Long Beach, Hotai made use of her 20 years of experience in graphic design software, holding a string of jobs in the indie film, animated series, and video game industries.
Fast-forward to 2015, when she created MintPrint LLC, an advertising agency, based on what she calls a “bootstrap budget” and her wealth of experience working on art and entertainment projects. Hotai even started an internship program at MintPrint to help mentor students and recent graduates who needed experience in the field.
In 2021, she first stepped foot into the metaverse as founder and CEO of Plover Animation. To translate, a metaverse can be any 3D virtual space powered by different types of technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), or the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain for people to interact with each other.
“I was first interested in Web 3 and metaverse technologies a couple years ago when I was creating Plover Animation, and I started getting involved with the community, talking about the different aspects of Web 3, such as blockchains, cryptocurrencies and NFTs, and using AR,” says Hotai. “I was really interested because that was a good shift or pivot from my background using creative skills to design for games and films. And it allows a lot of room for services that creators can provide for, like building those worlds or building the assets to be used for different projects within different Web 3 layers on there. I saw it as an opportunity.”
It was at this pivotal point that Hotai began laying the groundwork to build her network in Myrtle Beach, speaking at and attending Web 3 conferences, and educating others about the potential of this up to $100 trillion industry. Plover Animation currently consists of a core animation team of more than 20 artists, writers, and producers.
“I wanted to make it common knowledge for the Myrtle Beach area because there was no curriculum about it,” she says. “Early this time last year is when we started approaching CCU [Coastal Carolina University] and HGTC [Horry Georgetown Technical College] and said, ‘Hey, you guys need to have a curriculum and we can help you with that.’ There was no monetary exchange, it was just given out of a need for our community to have some progress and to build our population.”
Hotai met the co-founder of her latest startup, CauseVerse, at a tech conference in February 2023. Tim Morris caught her presentation on using metaverse technologies for the greater good and he saw the potential.
“We decided to join forces, since he also has some tech background creating and working on different tech projects and also has the objective and purpose to want to do good with technology,” says Hotai. “So we formed the company in April and officially launched in summer 2023.”
CauseVerse, essentially, is committed to helping cause-based organizations, or nonprofits, transition into the Web 3 era through 30 different Web spaces to increase their positive impact on the world. Nonprofits, says Hotai, are the most neglected sector in technology globally, so moving from the “flatweb” era to the age of 3D connection is vital for causes in religion, education, politics, government, and more. As a 3D Web host, CauseVerse provides Web spaces, or virtual rooms, for people to experience increased interaction and engagement with others in the same group.
“You basically open up your browser, log in with your name, and you pick an avatar,” says Hotai. “You can go in and explore. And you don’t have to go in by yourself. You can go in with a whole bunch of other people because this was not meant to be just a solo experience. You build communities off of this. You can meet with your whole church group, you can meet with your whole organization, your company with new clients within these spaces, and you can also do video chat. So a lot of the things that we do is pretty unique to the metaverse industry – the term immersive tech is the more accurate term because people tend to confuse the terminology.
“Metaverse is more specific towards meta or Facebook,” she continues. “With our Web spaces, you do not need to use a heavy headset for that, so it prevents marginalizing people who don’t have the funds to get that. You just need a phone, computer, laptop, or tablet. … What we’re doing is very disruptive and very unique in this industry.”
CauseVerse launched at such a rapid-fire pace, but Hotai is already seeing an increase in transactions and donations through their interactive virtual spaces for clients.
In addition to her impressive workload, Hotai is also co-founder of the Grand Strand Web 3 Guild, hosting events that promote education on this advanced technology to the Myrtle Beach area, and, as a victim of domestic violence, she is involved in the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Hotai was also featured in the book, Women of the Future, twice, a listing of the top 100 women leaders in the Web 3 space.
“Like a lot of startups, we’d like [CauseVerse] to go public eventually,” says Hotai. “We want to be able to transition as many people as possible and have a mass adoption for our Web spaces. We’d like to be able to partner with big e-commerce credit card processing companies to have this as a household name. … We’re open to all age groups, from people in their twenties to people in retirement age. So far, I think we have something that is built that is simple enough to use, that everyone has access to, and are able to use it for empowering their nonprofit with very little knowledge in tech.”