From Mark Zuckerberg stating that Facebook will become a metaverse company to Satya Nadella saying that one of the goals for Microsoft is the metaverse, you can’t read business news today without coming across the word du jour.
While the metaverse is still being defined and developed, several key figures have become leading voices helping evangelize, educate, advise, develop and create the successor to today’s mobile internet. Here are 30 of the most influential people who can help us all have a better perspective of what the metaverse is and will become.
1. Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson is one of the world’s leading sci-fi writers. Stephenson is recognized as the first author who mentioned the term Metaverse in his post-cyberpunk novel “Snow Crash” in 1992. Stephenson’s work explores Mathematics, Cryptography, Linguistics, Philosophy, Currency, and Science History. He worked at Blue Origin, a company founded by Jeff Bezos as an advisor. Also, he worked at Magic Leap as Chief Futurist from 2014 to 2020.
2. Matthew Ball
Matthew Ball is a well-known strategist, essayist, investor, advisor, and futurist. Ball is the Managing Partner of EpyllionCo, a company that operates a pre-seed and seed venture fund and a venture and corporate advisory arm. Along with Genvid Technologies CEO Jacob Navok and Roundhill Investments, Ball has launched The Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF. The ETF allows people to invest in companies making the metaverse happen now or are situated to do so in the future.
3. Cathy Hackl
Cathy Hackl is a globally recognized tech futurist and business executive with deep experience working in metaverse-related fields with companies like HTC VIVE, Magic Leap, and Amazon Web Services. She’s the founder of the Futures Intelligence Group where she advises Fortune 1000 and top luxury fashion brands on metaverse growth strategies, NFTs, and how to extend their brands into virtual worlds. She’s a sought-after consultant, speaker, and media personality. Hackl was recently featured in 60 Minutes+, Bloomberg and Cheddar’s coverage of the metaverse and is a contributor to Forbes. She’s writing an anticipated book on the business opportunities of the metaverse that will be published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
4. David Baszucki
As the Founder and CEO of Roblox, David Baszucki has been working on bringing the gaming industry into the Metaverse for years. He founded Roblox in 2004 with the vision of connecting the world. Roblox currently has an estimated amount of 20.82 million total subscribed players and around 400k daily players entering the platform. Roblox is now collaborating with known brands such as Gucci to create immersive experiences with gaming. Roblox recently launched a podcast called “Roblox Tech Talks” with its first episode, “Step Into The Metaverse,” a discussion between Baszucki and Roblox’s CTO Dan Sturman.
5. Tim Sweeney
Tim Sweeney is the founder and CEO of Epic Games, the maker of one of the world’s most popular games called Fortnite. Sweeney is also the creator of the gaming platform known as Unreal Engine. He has received various awards recognizing his work in the gaming industry, including “Person of the year” in 2019 by the British video game industry magazine MCV. Also, in 2020 Forbes Media Awards chose Sweeney as “Person of the Year” for building and turning Fortnite into a gaming social network that hosts online events such as Travis Scott’s in-game concert with 28 million viewers. On August 6, 2021, Fortnite collaborated with Ariana Grande to host the “Rift Tour” concert gameplay.
6. Jensen Huang
Jensen Huang is the CEO of NVIDIA Corporation. He founded NVIDIA to solve the problem of 3D graphics for the PC. Then Nvidia jumped to the next era of computing: Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Huang contacted the Metaverse creating NVIDIA’s Omniverse, which is now available in beta version. NVIDIA Omniverse is an open, cloud-native platform that makes it easy to accelerate workflows and collaborate in real-time. Omniverse allows creators, engineers, and researchers to collaborate in virtual worlds that are all connected.
7. Philip Rosedale
Philip Rosedale is a lifelong entrepreneur aiming for an open-ended, Internet-connected virtual world. He pioneered the creation of Second Life, a virtual civilization. In 2013, he co-founded High Fidelity, Inc. with its Spatial Audio API that enables immersive, high-quality voice chat for any application for any group size in a personalized 3D audio stream.
Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, made history in March 2021 where he sold his NFT collage everyday series called “Everydays: the First 5000 Days” for $69,400,00 at Christie’s auction house, making it the fourth-most expensive artwork by a living artist. Christie’s described Beeple as “A visionary digital artist at the forefront of NFTs.”
9. Avery Akkineni
Gary Vaynerchuk is a force in the NFT world, and he’s chosen Avery Akkineni to lead his team as President of VaynerNFT. Akkineni believes that NFTs can simultaneously build brand value while delivering community value. VaynerNFT is a venture created to help the world’s leading intellectual property owners navigate the NFT space. Currently, Budweiser signed as VaynerNFT’s flagship client to generate a PR strategy to grow excitement and connect with consumers through ingenious experiences.
10. Lindsey McInerney
Lindsey McInerney is the Global Head of Technology and Innovation at Anheuser-Busch InBev. She led the collaboration between Stella Artois and the virtual horse racing platform ZED RUN to give users exclusive horse breed NFTs. She has deep working knowledge of the global software industry, with direct experience working in North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific. Her specialties are the Metaverse, crypto, blockchain, NFTs, commercial strategy, and digital marketing.
11. Krista Kim
Krista Kim is a contemporary artist and the founder of Techism. Techism is an art movement that reconciles technological innovation with the creation of art. Kim has exhibited on the iconic square of the Palais of Tokyo Museum and the Museum of Modern Art of Paris. Currently, she is the ambassador of SuperWorld, an augmented reality virtual world that allows users and brands to create, discover, and monetize.
12. Jamie Burke
Jamie Burke is the Founder and CEO Outlier Ventures, one of the top venture funds in Europe and a platform dedicated to blockchain technology and Web 3. Outlier Ventures has developed an award-winning Web 3 accelerator working with 30 pre-seed startups during a year, helping raise over $130 million in growth capital. In February 2021, Outlier Ventures launched The Open Metaverse OS, a shared and open operating system of sorts building upon the success of decentralized protocols, in particular DeFi and NFTs emerging in The Web 3 Stack based on blockchains and crypto-assets.
13. Ryan Gill
Ryan Gill is the co-founder and CEO of Crucible, which seeks to create the Blueprints for the Open Metaverse, a cross-industry consortium for forging the Open Metaverse based on open standards. Crucible’s main product is the Emergence SDK which provides an accessible vehicle for game engine developers to access new Web 3 technologies with portable digital identity and in-world tools to manage their digital lives across the Open Metaverse. His company is the originator of the Direct-to-Avatar (D2A) commerce model. Crucible is creating a market network of empowered gamers, modders, and creators for the new digital renaissance that will come in a few short years by those building the future through game engines.
14. Marjorie Hernandez
Marjorie Hernandez is the co-founder of LUKSO which she co-founded with her partner Fabian Vogelsteller. LUKSO is a blockchain platform specifically curated for the lifestyle industry, providing decentralized innovation and trust infrastructure for fashion brands, startups, and customers.
Hernandez also co-founded THE DEMATERIALISED with educator and connector Karinna Nobbs. THE DEMATERIALISED is a virtual goods marketplace, generating new experiences and revenue streams for the fashion industry.
15. Akash Nigam
Akash Nigam is the founder of Genies, an avatar-building platform where people can speak their minds and find connections. Nigam entered the Metaverse world with a mindset of how creating avatars can help people dealing with their mental health and find a space where they can truly be themselves. In May 2021, Genies raised $65 million led by Mary Meeker’s investment firm Bond, intending to use the funds to develop Genies’ NFT Marketplace, allowing users to produce and trade tokenized avatars, clothing, and accessories.
16. Benoit Pagotto
Benoit Pagotto is the co-founder of RTFKT studios, a studio for next-generation sneakers, fashion and collectibles for the Metaverse. RTKFT merges augmented reality, NFTs, blockchain authentication with gaming and fashion. Pagotto believes that brands need to redirect their marketing to Gen Z. In May 2021, RTFKT studios raised $8 million in seed funding by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz to expand the company’s global team and incubate new digital projects.
17. Sebastien Borget
Sebastien Borget has been working in blockchain technology and within the mobile gaming industries for a while, and is the co-founder and COO of The Sandbox. The Sandbox is a virtual world where players can build, own, and monetize their own voxel gaming experiences on the PoS blockchain platform, which reduces the carbon footprint of NFTs by up to 99%. Currently, Animoca Brands and Skybound Entertainment teamed up to bring The Walking Dead to The Sandbox.
18. Andrew Bosworth
Andrew “Boz” Bosworth is the Vice President of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality at Facebook, Bosworth is an essential piece in Facebook’s new step to the Metaverse because of his role at Facebook Reality Labs.
Bosworth announced the launch of a metaverse product team at Facebook in a post a week after Mark Zuckerberg said publicly that Facebook would become a metaverse company. Boz also has a podcast called Boz To The Future where he interviews leaders within Facebook about the company’s roadmap.
19. Carolina Arguelles
Carolina Arguelles is Snap’s Group Product Marketing Manager where she leads a team for Snap’s augmented reality, visual search, computer vision technologies, augmented reality creator ecosystem, business augmented reality offerings, and camera developers SDKs. Her vision of how 5G will change augmented reality and fashion has brought interesting projects to Snap Inc’s Snapchat by working with renowned fashion brands like Ralph Lauren or Dior.
20. Emma-Jane Mackinnon-Lee
Emma-Jane Mackninnon-Lee is the Founder and CEO of DIGITALAX. This Web 3.0 digital platform builds the first digital fashion operating system that optimizes web architecture to bring fashion, gaming, modding, NFTs, DeFi, DAOs, virtual reality, and other 3D content environments. Digitalax launched Diggyfizzy, a metaverse magazine, to highlight new creators and new voices in the NFT industry. Digitalax’s next project is the Web3 Fashion Week in collaboration with Web3 Fashion.
21. Dirk Lueth
Dirk Lueth, a serial entrepreneur who started companies in Europe and the United States, is the co-founder of Upland. Upland is an NFT Metaverse and property trading game paired with a decentralized economy. It consists of a world-building platform in the Metaverse based on blockchain technology where users can buy, sell, trade, and develop virtual properties to earn money and connect with others.
22. Evelyn Mora
Evelyn Mora is the inventor of the Village Protocol Social Blockchain User Interface (UI). She founded the DIGITAL VILLAGE, a Social Metaverse with its community-led Blockchain technology built to prioritize social and digital sustainability, digital land, and digital assets marketplace.
23. Teddy Pahagbia
Teddy Pahagbia is the founder of BLVCK PiXEL. BLVCK PiXEL is a company that helps brands and businesses to transform through digital innovation like augmented, virtual, and mixed reality, blockchains, artificial intelligence, and advanced data management systems. BLVCK PiXEL’s vision is to achieve business growth on the scope of technology immersed with a human-centered approach for purpose-driven innovation.
24. Jon Radoff
Jon Radoff is the CEO of Beamable, Radoff aims to integrate social networking, content creation, online communities, and games. In May 2021, Beamable had a $5 Million raise intended to continue being a creator-focused platform for building live games, eliminating all barriers to help game makers increase their revenues at a low operation cost.
25. Amber Allen
Amber Allen is the founder of Double A Labs, a company that offers from tech-forward immersive augmented and mixed reality experiences to spatial computing, photogrammetry to holograms, and projection mapping. Double A Labs creates virtual experiences through their Phygital World for brands’ consumers to watch, create, play, and shop, bringing brands’ content into dynamic worlds, living unique and engaging experiences. Double A Labs have done projects for known clients, including AT&T, Twitch, and Dell.
26. DCL Blogger
A few years back, Matty, better known as, DCL Blogger, stumbled upon Decentraland, a virtual world-building platform. He saw the benefits of a community that was actively buying and selling NFTs for money, so he decided to create a full-time thing to earn money. As a result, he decided to create DCL Blogger to keep a log of his thoughts and learnings about Decentraland and NFTs. DCL Blogger is the founder of the Metakey, a token that can be used across multiple platforms to transform into avatars, game items, course material, virtual lands, and much more.
27. Evo Heyning
Evo Heyning is a system designer who focuses on spatial interfaces, engagement strategy, artificial intelligence, and mixed reality in workflows and networks that enable collaboration. She founded Light Lodges, an interactive and immersive media agency and studio producing mixed reality and virtual reality experiences and channels. Also, she is the Executive Producer and CEO of PlayableAgency, a company that creates immersive and interactive experiences with playable cities and venues. Since June 2021, Heyning is the Co-Chair of the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, a Metaverse media network that is open and public for communities in the development of new worlds.
28. Erikan Obotetukudo
Erikan Obotetukudo is a strategic advisor to a portfolio of finance leaders, corporate executives, investors, and tech entrepreneurs. She’s working to connect with multicultural and multigenerational audiences worldwide, redefining it in the next 100 years. In March 2021, she founded Audacity, a crypto Venture Capital fund that invests in Black and African-led crypto startups worldwide.
29. Hrish Lotlikar
Hrish Lotlikar is the co-founder and CEO of SuperWorld, a virtual world in augmented reality (AR) mapped onto the real world, allowing users to create, discover, and monetize content in Augmented Reality. He is also co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Rogue Initiative Studios, an LA-based entertainment company. His interests are Film, TV, virtual reality, gaming, mixed reality (XR), and crypto.
30. Enara Nazarova
Enara Nazarova is the founder of ARMOAR and The Digital Fashion & Art Club. She also co-hosts digital fashion and art on Clubhouse. Nazarova fused all her metaverse knowledge into ARMOAR, a digital fashion platform and identity incubator for avatars.
Her mission at ARMOAR is to blend organic and inorganic worlds to create a sustainable digital ecosystem for artists and their fans to explore the future of virtual identity.
Image Credits: from the author; thank you!
Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending
London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.
According to an Oct. 10 tech.eu report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.
The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:
“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”
The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:
“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”
The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.
The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.
Featured Image Credit: Photo from Kennek.io; Thank you!
Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs
As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.
Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI
In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.
According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.
One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.
To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.
Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!
UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations
As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.
Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation
To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.
The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.
Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!