- Cathy Hackl is known as the “Godmother of the Metaverse” and has over seven years of experience in the space.
- She’s now the dean of a new metaverse academy to help individuals skill up for this new world.
- Hackl shares her outlook for the metaverse and how investors can gain exposure to it.
When Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s rebrand to Meta as part of its plans to expand into the virtual world, Google searches surged as individuals rushed to ask, “What is the metaverse?”
Suddenly the term “metaverse” was catapulted into the mainstream.
One individual perfectly positioned to answer their questions is Cathy Hackl, known as the “Godmother of the Metaverse”.
Hackl has spent over seven years working with augmented and virtual reality technologies, examining how they could provide an entry point into the metaverse and exploring how brands, such as MagicLeap and HTC Vive, can capitalize on this new digital realm, which aims to parallel the real world through computer generation.
She is currently CEO of the Futures Intelligence Group, a metaverse consultancy, and most recently became the dean of Republic Realm Academy, a new online school that is helping individuals upskill in the world of NFTs and the metaverse.
The academy was in the works long before Zuckerberg’s most recent announcement. But his vision for the metaverse with the hiring of 10,000 individuals to help build it out, provides some validation for the industry and the work many individuals have been doing for years in setting up its foundations, Hackl said.
“We already saw that there was something coming, that there was going to be a need,” Hackl said. “It’s only validated now by this acceleration and people trying to understand what the metaverse is.”
The new academy, which costs between $600 to $1,200 for six classes, is token-gated and tuition is sold as a non-fungible token (NFT).
NFTs exist on the blockchain and uniquely represent either digital or real-life assets such as art, real estate, or game artifacts.
The token acts as a user’s access point to the learning platform, which is taught by faculty from leading universities, such as Tommaso di Bartolo from UC Berkeley and Elizabeth Strickler from Georgia State University. It also helps give attendees real-world experience in navigating crypto wallets and the management of NFTs.
The online course is not going to focus on technical training, Hackl said. Individuals shouldn’t expect to be blockchain developers by the end, she said. It’s more about going back to an organization with an informed view of what’s happening within the metaverse and how businesses need to prepare, she said.
Is the metaverse here to stay?
Alongside Facebook, other big companies are making big moves into the metaverse. Nike has filed a number of patents in recent years related to the metaverse and a number of employees now have metaverse in their job titles.
“I think that something like what Nike is doing sends a big message to the market that this is not speculation, this is really where we’re going,” Hackl said. “And eventually, you’re gonna have to hire these leaders that can have the vision and that can lead the company in an informed way.”
Hackl is also seeing significant steps by Microsoft, Robolox and Electronic Arts into the metaverse. But it’s actually fashion and beauty brands that appear to be leading the way currently, she said.
“We’re probably gonna see some of the bigger companies, some of the bigger Fortune 50 make really interesting announcements in the next couple of months,” Hackl said.
The course aims to help individuals prepare for when these opportunities arise, whether it’s within their organization or outside it. Hackl expects an alumni network will arise from the program, which will become increasingly useful as companies branch into the virtual world.
“We definitely see an opportunity to fill that gap and help people upskill in what’s going to be a big need,” Hackl said. “Companies are eventually going to have metaverse strategies and potentially metaverse teams.”
Hackl finds it difficult to pinpoint where the metaverse could be in 10 years because the decade we’re currently in is still critical. This is because its still building mode and the vision of the metaverse will be dependent on a number of factors from whether we have 6G to EDGE computing.
“In the metaverse, we’re all world-builders,” Hackl said. “And now is the time to start building. Whether you’re a creator, whether you’re a brand or a business, now is the time to start figuring out, how do I start building for this? What are the building blocks?”
Investing in metaverse
There’s more than one way to get involved in the metaverse, including through investment.
How people invest is based on their risk appetite, Hackl said. But she urges a diversified strategy, highlighting four areas of opportunity:
1) Virtual real estate
Hackl expects that virtual land, such as plots in Decentraland and Sandbox, will be around for a long time.
2) Exchange-traded funds
Exchange traded-funds, such as the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF, offer a more traditional and diversified way to gain exposure to the metaverse.
3) Digital items
Digital fashion items, such as virtual Nike sneakers or Burberry coats, could present investment opportunities. Hackl expects a rise in the discussion around direct-to-avatar in coming years.
4) Profile-picture projects, for example CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties
“I sometimes buy a PFP as an investment, it unlocks the opportunity for me to be part of a club or a community,” Hackl said. “But I also see it as a potential investment for the IP or whatever it eventually produces.
“If anyone has the ability to do that, they have the income to diversify, and look at many different opportunities. I think they should go that route.”