By Catherine Hsu
Media and technology investor Sam Englebardt (ΦΒΚ, University of Colorado) was recently added to the Board of Directors of iHeartMedia, Inc., the leading audio company announced in March.
In mid-January, iHeartMedia released a statement introducing the public to their plans to expand into the Metaverse. Having already launched iHeartRadio Music Festival NFTs in September 2021, iHeartMedia wanted to build out a larger presence in web3, a new internet service structured using decentralized blockchains, similar to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency systems.
“We see this as a unique opportunity to serve our listeners’ needs, provide an important new layer of growth for the company, and help develop the advertising and consumer potential for the metaverse,” said Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc.
Starting with the creation of immersive events and experiences on Roblox, iHeartMedia plans to engage listeners and launch communities where creators can gain unique access to offerings across multiple platforms.
According to Pittman, Englebardt will play an important role as iHeartMedia pursues these initiatives.
“Sam’s expertise and deep understanding of web3, exponential technologies and the potential of emerging consumer tech platforms like NFTs, tokens and shared virtual experiences, combined with his background in media and entertainment, will be uniquely valuable to us as we extend iHeart’s presence into web3 and the metaverse,” Pittman said, when the company announced that Englebardt would be coming on board.
Englebardt is a co-founder and partner at Galaxy Digital and a content producer. Over the years, he has created and invested in many traditional and digital businesses that are associated with different media, such as video games, films, and television shows.
According to a video overview of Galaxy Interactive, a division of Galaxy Digital, Englebardt sees the Metaverse and similar software as revolutionary technology that is not only already here but is also evolving every day and becoming an increasingly large presence in our lives.
“Your entire digital life will begin to become prominent in your physical existence,” Englebardt explained in the video. “You’ll have the possibility of reading reviews of restaurants as you walk down the street, seeing how clothes in a store look on you without trying them on, and getting drink recommendations from people in your social network when you walk into a local bar. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
To Englebardt, the colliding of the physical and digital worlds is going to completely change how brands interact with each other and with regular people.
Englebardt also has past experience with other technological investments, such as Eyefluence, an eye-tracking technology company, and The Void, a start-up in the mixed-reality space.
Through all his work at tech companies, he has explored an interest in the intersection between content, consciousness, and exponential technologies — all of which culminate, in one way, as an interest in emerging technology like virtual reality.
“We’re actually realizing that now is an amazing time to get back into software, obviously, but even hardware in a little more aggressive way,” Englebardt said in an interview with CREATV Media’s Peter Csathy. “For the first time, a VR headset outsold one of the major game consoles this past year . . . We’re at a pretty powerful inflection point. I’m really excited about VR.”
In the technology and media space, Englebardt has also served as executive vice president at Artfire Films, which provides business and financial planning for 7ate9 Entertainment, a marketing firm whose clients include major studios such as The Disney Channel, Warner Bros., TNT, CNN, and more. In addition, Englebardt has worked as a managing director at Lambert Media Group, where he oversaw investments in Rave Cinemas, Gold Class Cinemas, and Demarest Films.
Now a well-known technological investor, Englebardt’s background actually originated in politics and law.
In 1998, Englebardt graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in politics, philosophy, and economics (PPE); he went on to the University of Colorado Boulder where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Afterward, Englebardt attended Harvard Law School, where he received a J.D. in 2004. He went on to become a licensed attorney.
Since 2015, Englebardt volunteered on the Council of Advisors for The International Crisis Group, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to preventing war through policy and advocacy.
Catherine Hsu is a recent graduate of the University of California,Berkeley where she majored in political science and art practice. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa there in May 2021. UC Berkeley is home to the Alpha of California chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.