How To Improve Accessibility And Socialization In the Metaverse
The metaverse is a digital society that is still new but growing quickly. In the past, virtual reality has been limited to games and simulations. Recently, with the development of more sophisticated technology, these platforms have opened up to allow users to interact with one another in a large variety of ways. This episode will discuss how to improve accessibility and socialization in the metaverse. The future of virtual reality depends on both of these things, so let's take a look at them together!
Meagan Loyst founded Gen Z VCs, a global community centered around empowering the next generation of leaders in venture capital, growing it to more than 11,000 members since November 2020. The youngest investor at Lerer Hippeau, she's sourced and helped lead three investments, working with 12 portfolio companies. Loyst's Gen Z VCs Summit included 3,000-plus attendees from 71 countries.
Know More About Gen Z VC https://www.genzvcs.com/
How To Improve Accessibility And Socialization In the Metaverse
You can see if it is close to a road or another iconic landmark. In the other case, we talked about Snoop Dogg’s mansion. However, nothing beats visiting in person. When you buy real estate, there are a lot of people that buy real estate remotely. I was one of those people. I was in the brush to deploy my money and I started buying buildings and apartments.
Often, because of the pandemic, I could not visit, so I highly encourage you to visit. It does not take very long. You can go to Decentraland, click, and go there. When you go there, I have to say it was quite dismaying. I know you have spent a lot of time on platforms like Decentraland, but I walked around, I saw these avatars, and many of them were not moving.
They are wandering around, and then you go to places, and you are like, “This looks very pixelated.” My avatar is now stuck because of the physics. Inside of a building, you are going up and down and you are stuck inside this building. You then go there and you are like, “I now have to click on this image.” I then click on this image, and I have to open the link in my web browser. It feels very nascent. Is this what the platform is or is it going to develop? What advice do you have for those who go in and do not get it? In the beginning, I did not get it either. I was like, “How do people buy this?” It is a bunch of potentially kids walking around, and there is no real utility yet.
That is a fair point. The way that platforms think about UI and accessibility is also key. For me, navigating around Decentraland with my computer was harder than on other platforms. Figuring out when do I have to use my mouse or my keyboards? This is an actual problem. You need things to be as simple as possible. If you look at my live stream, navigating the gather platform, for example, is super easy and very intuitive, even designing my avatar. There are lots of options, and I was very happy. Navigating around the Decentraland and even finding the right world to jump to was actually quite hard. We are still in such early innings. It is the crazy part.
They are starting to raise hundreds of millions in funding to go and develop these platforms. You look at the funding of Roblox, for example. They have been around for many years developing this. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done in that sense but this comes back to the gaming piece. Within Decentraland, the worlds are not aiming focused. When I walked around Decentraland, I was there by myself.
I was walking around and there were some cool properties that I was exploring, but you need the social aspect. You need other people to be there to have that magical moment or you need to have some type of events, experiences or games that keep people engaged. When I went to Spatial, which is another metaverse platform, you do not buy land per se but they have a combination of virtual reality, so people walking around in the spaces that have headsets and people that are coming in from online.
Spatial has a community that actually took me for a tour. The experience was amazing. Because I had that social interaction, I was having fun. Even though I was alone in my apartment and he was alone in his apartment, and you were doing it together. It made it a much more fun experience. Companies really need to think about how they create those magic moments for their users. Oftentimes, it is through those two things which I keep coming back. It is social elements or gaming. You need to have one or the other.
That sense of curiosity where this is way more superior than having a Zoom meeting or texting on Whatsapp. This is another method of interacting with a human being. One thing I appreciate about you to view on the future of the metaverse is that it needs to be interoperable where it is not accessed through a web browser, a mobile phone, or a VR headset.
By the way, I get very dizzy when I try to play with my quest to navigate different VR experiences. There is a long way to go, but it is that interoperability. To me, that does not mean the device that you access it with. It means the ability for you to go from one metaverse to another. What are your thoughts on that notion of traversing from one metaverse to another metaverse, and what role do the NFTs play in that as well?
That is Genius’ whole business model. Genius has one of our portfolio companies. They are, I would argue, the top avatar happening in the metaverse. They have great partnerships with huge music labels. They have worked with Justin Bieber and a ton of other people. The idea or the thinking around that is if you are Justin Bieber and you were going to eventually play concerts at a bunch of different metaverses, you want people to recognize who you are that this is the real Justin Bieber. When I was running around in Paris World in Roblox, Paris Hilton had an avatar, and she is sometimes in the game, but when she is in Paris World, there are a bunch of people that changed their name to Paris and ran around pretending they are Paris Hilton.
That is a real issue. When you take a selfie in the metaverse, you basically take a screenshot of your avatar next to someone else’s. I had a friend that was with me in Paris World and he sent me a screenshot. He was like, “I found Paris.” I’m like, “That is not Paris. What are you talking about?” He was like, “Is there a poser?” I’m like, “Yes. There are always posers.” She has a little star above her head and whatever. This is what companies like Genius where this interoperable nature becomes so important. I know what Justin Bieber’s Genius avatar looks like. Genius then can think about how they integrate accessories and NFTs into that because the hope is that you can use your Genius avatar across all of these metaverses.
That is the big visit. It is this interoperable open metaverse concept, and the same is true for NFTs themselves. If you look at a company like Jadu, which I also mentioned in my article. They partnered with NFT projects like Meebits, so that those Meebits can have hoverboards to transfer between worlds. They are building their own metaverse. There are so many analogs between in-person and digital reality.
I never really thought about transportation in the metaverse and how you get between worlds, but hoverboards make sense. The way that companies are thinking about that is very clever. The whole hope is, with Genius, in particular, a lot of these companies that are building for an open metaverse is eliminating confusion for the end-user and helping to create some standardization, so it saves people time as well.
The analogy that comes to mind is I do not like the mobile app experience of ordering groceries. It is quite cumbersome. I can’t find what I want. I know my local store very well. I know exactly where to go and which not to go. I have literally gone to the store and I have seen people on Facetime showing that their friend link, “Where should I go? Left or right? Is this the one you want? Let’s take a picture of this. Is this the gluten-free bagel you were talking about?” Walmart released an amazing prototype of how a shopping experience would be in the metaverse. The beauty of it is that it somewhat mimics our awareness of the special environment and location, being able to go through aisle-by-aisle, take your item, put it in a cart, and order it.
When it comes to the metaverse, it doesn’t mean you should just because you can. You need to think of it in the context of how you are adding to people’s lives in a beneficial way.
I will challenge you on that. When you think of grocery shopping, I do not think a lot of people think like, “I would love to grocery shop in the metaverse.” I spend 30 minutes in the grocery store finding all the things that I want. It has been 30 minutes online in a really fun way to find my groceries. I haven’t been to a grocery store in probably three months, which says a lot about who I am as a consumer. I order everything through JOKR. It is delivered to me in fifteen minutes. I type in my stuff and I get it. It is actually frustrating for me to go to the grocery store now because I’m so used to this user experience. I would not want to go grocery shopping in the metaverse because that is time-consuming.
If I hate spending time looking for things in the store in real life, why would I want to do that in the metaverse? Just because you can, does not mean you should. When it comes to the metaverse, you need to think of it in the context of how you were eyeing people’s lives in a beneficial way. For me, grocery shopping is a chore. I do not enjoy grocery shopping. Some people might, but the reason a lot of these fifteen-minute grocery delivery players are doing so well is that they are saving people so much time and changing their behaviors along the way.
When it comes to grocery shopping in the metaverse, at least for me, that is not a value profit that I would get behind. My stance as a consumer, I would never go grocery shopping in the metaverse unless there was a unique reward at the end like some type of access or you get an NFT, which gives you access to some coupon. You have to be thinking about it creatively in that way, but I would never spend 30 minutes grocery shopping online because it is fun. I get passionate about these things.
There is so much to unpack here. I do not even know where to take this, but let me challenge you back for a second. Are you the voice of Gen Z? I’m not someone who likes to go into the story either but you have got a lot of people who are not Gen Z or not as technology experts as you are, and they need a way to appreciate how to navigate the metaverse. They are not the folks you find on Discord, a Cignal, or these other emerging platforms.
They appreciate an easy analogy and simplicity. Do you think that the metaverse is the exclusive domain of the next generation and that the older folks are going to be stubborn, resist it, and it will be a generational change before everyone is suddenly living, working, and playing in the metaverse or do you think we should try to make the metaverse something for everyone? Sometimes, when you do that, then it stands for nothing for nobody or a little bit of everyone, rather than having a really clear audience.
It has to start with Gen Z. Look who has the success of TikTok. Sixty percent of their users are Gen Z, but now the app is not just Gen Z. Who drove the success and adoption of TikTok in the early days? We did. When do you think about the metaverse? Roblox. The names that you think of as the biggest successful metaverse companies are Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft. Roblox average age is 9 to 12. Minecraft average age 24. Fortnite average age is 18 to 24. That is all Gen Z.
Hundreds of millions of Gen Z-ers young people are driving adoption to this metaverse, which is bringing the brands, creating excitement, and bringing other demographics into that ecosystem. It has to start with the next generation. When you think of the way that these platforms have developed so far that has been the playbook, it does not mean that this is how it is going to be forever.
In a few years, it is going to be Gen Alpha. How are you thinking about building this adoption in classrooms, for example. How are you integrating this in schools? Hopefully, COVID ends at some point. This has been a huge problem for a lot of in-person institutions, figuring out how to navigate this new world. The reality is our generation has lived online digitally our entire life. It is easy to navigate and be brought into these ecosystems. I have been playing Webkinz and Club Penguin since I was eight years old. I grew up doing this. It is not something new to me. This is how we interact and engage with one another. It is digitally.
This is why my article did so well. I really approached it from the perspective of someone who is Gen Z and highlighting Gen Z adoption because you can’t have the metaverse without Gen Z, at least now, things stand. This may be a hot take, but I certainly am speaking. I am the voice of my generation in a lot of ways, especially in the venture and tech world, but if you can look at the data, it speaks for itself.
I love the strong opinion.
If I’m anything in this world, I am someone who has strong opinions about a lot of things.
I can’t disagree with you because if you tried to make the platform and offer utility to every single person, it is not going to offer anything at all. That is why there are so many people in Roblox. It is very clear what you will see and how that works. I do give criticism to the current major platforms like Decentraland especially, and others that are trying to be a little bit more all-purpose. It is not quite there yet.
There was no single use case that this is amazing, and this is what it is good for. Right now, a lot of speculators are coming in and buying land to flip it. Brands are coming because they are trying to figure out where Gen Z is and where the future is going to be. It is still very nice and evolving. That is the feeling I had.
The last question I want to ask you is we are both venture capitalists and looking to invest in the ecosystem. I do not know whether you agree, but I would say Web3 is one paradigm shift. Real estate is going to be massively impacted by that. What we are trying to understand is real estate is going to be impacted by the metaverse. It is out there. I’m still trying to build that thesis myself, but I do know Web3 and the blockchain is going to revolutionize every aspect of real estate. What major trends are you seeing as a venture capitalist in either the metaverse and Web3 that you think are going to be really critical in the next few years?
Our generation has lived digitally our entire life. It’s easy to navigate and be brought into these ecosystems.
Everyone has been talking about the creator economy for a very long time. It is an area that I spend a lot of time and I sit on our creator economy boards, the companies that we work with here at LH. I’m a creator myself. Everyone wants to be a creator in the future. People are desperately trying to gain a presence on TikTok.
It has never been easier to create or find your audience because of the way they have engineered the app. When you think about the creator economy, so much about it is how can you help yourself build wealth? It overlaps so much with Web3 because it is all about empowered ownership. When you think about the future of the creator economy, it is intimately intertwined with Web3. I’m very excited and constantly looking for interesting innovations on that front.
On the flip side, when you think about the next generation, the generation that is coming up and how people engage online, the next generation of consumers are going to be gamers. They are going to be one and the same. You might not consider yourself a native gamer. I never really did, but I am. I have been. I was the ultimate nerd growing up. All I wanted to do was spend time on the computer playing like a secret agent Barbie on my CP back when I had a desktop computer. It was Club Penguin, Webkinz, and The Sims. Now it is that narrative. People spend time playing with one another online and that is gaming. Play-to-earn gaming is going to be really interesting.
What is the next Axie Infinity or ZEd Run look like? How are they thinking about accessibility to multiple people versus those that can afford NFTs? That is certainly an interesting area. A lot of these themes coincide. How are you empowering people to create their own NFC projects that can perpetuate more utility in the metaverse? Those are a few, but it is so difficult to unpack the metaverse holistically in any given period of time. I could talk about this for hours. Unpacking Web3 as a whole is an entirely different beast because the two are intertwined, but they are also separate. That is how I would think about it. Those are some areas that I’m tackling personally.
It has been fun having you on the show. I appreciate the voice of Gen Z. For people who want to follow you or reach out to you, could you spell out the best way to do that?
Twitter is best, @MeaganLoyst. That is the best way to reach me. I tweeted a lot about the metaverse. My Metaverse 101 article is pinned on my profile. Also, if you are starting a business or you are a founder, my email is great, too. It is Meagan@LererHippeau.com, which I also have somewhere in my profile. That is the best way to reach me, but Twitter is where I do the most. I do post some TikToks every now and then about metaverse stuff but we are still in the very early innings of that.
Thank you so much.
Thanks so much for having me.
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The Metaverse—What It Is and How It Can Present Real Solutions https://youtu.be/al3Nyitg71U
How the Metaverse Could Offer Marked Changes in Workflows and Utilization https://youtu.be/uol2i8S-CgE
Real Estate in the Metaverse https://youtu.be/NeuouWh6Xgs
About Zain Jaffer:
Zain Jaffer is an accomplished executive, investor, and entrepreneur. He started his first company at the age of 14 and later moved to the US as an immigrant to found Vungle, after securing $25M from tech giants including Google & AOL in 2011. Vungle recently sold for $780M.
His achievements have garnered international recognition and acclaim; he is the recipient of prestigious awards such as "Forbes 30 Under 30," "Inc. Magazine's 35 Under 35," and the" SF Business Times Tech & Innovation Award." He is regularly featured in major business & tech publications such as The Wall Street Journal, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch.
- Gen Z
- The Sims
- Axie Infinity
- ZEd Run
- @MeaganLoyst – Twitter
- Metaverse 101