Inside the metaverse, jobs and infrastructure projects are for real

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen fencing in the “Metaverse” with an Olympic gold medal fencer during a live-streamed virtual and augmented reality conference to announce the rebrand of Facebook as Meta, in this screen grab taken from a video released October 28, 2021.

Facebook | via Reuters

If 2021’s word of the year was “NFT,” Avery Akkineni says 2022’s will be “Web 3.0.”

As president of VaynerNFT, Akkineni spends much of her time consulting with brands looking to get a piece of the metaverse action. The notion of a “corporate metaverse strategy” is new — VaynerNFT itself was founded less than 6 months ago — but it’s building momentum. The company’s first client was Budweiser, and Akkineni foresees plenty of other major brands following its lead. 

In fact, the baseline, widely agreed-upon prediction for 2022: more major brands will get involved in Web3 projects. 

“2022 will be the year major brands embrace NFTs in a big way,” says Lin Dai, CEO of music NFT platform OneOf. The Quincy Jones-backed start-up is behind the near $1 million auction for an NFT of a never-before-heard Whitney Houston song, and has collaborated with The Recording Academy for an exclusive Grammy Awards partnership. 

But this year, digital assets built on the blockchain will likely continue to expand well beyond the music and art industries.

Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has already teamed up with Fortnite to deliver to users designer “skins” to wear inside the game. Gucci has done the same with Roblox, and Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren have launched their own Roblox experiences. Brian Trunzo, metaverse Lead at Polygon Studios, which focuses on gaming, NFTs and Web3 efforts linked to the polygon digital currency and ethereum blockchain network, says nimble, smart streetwear brands are already in the space as well. “The players have finally taken the field, and the game is about to truly start,” Trunzo said. 

Akkineni says that the focus for brands, at least at this point, isn’t to win but simply to get involved. So far, brand engagement with blockchain projects has been about building community and staying relevant. The Nike and Adidas NFT drops, for example, generated more buzz than cash, but they lent legitimacy to a still-nascent space. 

More direct commercialization strategies could be coming. Cathy Hackl, CEO and chief metaverse officer for the Futures Intelligence Group, a metaverse consultant, points out that for luxury brands in particular, the metaverse could be an access point for a secondary market. “When someone sells their Birkin bag on The RealReal, Hermes does not see a cut of that. But through blockchain and NFTs, they are eventually going to get a cut of the secondary market,” Hackl said. 

There will be more jobs in the metaverse

As more companies seek a foothold in the digital universe, hiring opportunities for candidates comfortable with Web3 will grow. Hackl says her title may become more common.

“Even if you look at job boards, you’re increasingly seeing demand for Solidity developers and Discord managers,” Akkineni said.

Solidity is a computer language used in conjunction with the ethereum blockchain to build and deploy smart contracts. Discord is a social media platform favored by many gamers and the crypto community.

Big brands will naturally help drive Web3 job creation, but a new kind of employment might take center stage. The play-to-earn gaming model gained popularity in the Philippines with Axie Infinity four years ago, and now the game has over 1.8 million daily active users, some reporting an income of about $10 a day, and up to $1,000-$2,000 a month from solely playing the game.

“It’s kind of like a universal basic income experiment mixed with an e-sport,” says Vance Spencer, a DeFi venture capitalist and co-founder of Framework Ventures.  

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