Cathy Hackl is arguably the world’s most well-known metaverse influencer. Known as the godmother of the metaverse, she is a world-renowned metaverse strategist, business leader, speaker, and author.
Having worked at companies such as HTC VIVE and Magic Leap, Cathy is now the chief metaverse officer and co-founder at Journey: a consultancy business aimed at onboarding businesses into the metaverse.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Cathy about the metaverse and its nuances, such as its potential impact on workforce migration and lawmaking.
Scholars, influencers, and pundits are all debating on what they think the metaverse means. Presently, the jury is out on a standardized definition of the metaverse. Curious about what Cathy’s description of the contested term was, I asked Cathy how she defines the metaverse to start our conversation:
“I see it as a further convergence of our physical and digital lives. To me, it is about virtual shared experiences that happen both in virtual spaces and in the physical world,” said Cathy.
“It is enabled by many different technologies like AR, VR, edge computing, Blockchain, cloud computing, AI, and others. So it is not just one single technology, and it is not one single company. Many different companies are constructing it.”
“In essence, the metaverse is looking at the world as layers. There’s a physical layer-layer zero, a digital layer, and then there are these virtual layers on top of that.”
Of course, contestation can also lead to hype, something that metaverse and its encompassing technologies have also been party too. Hype can slow industry growth, something Cathy agrees with and wants to get away from, especially when discussing strategy with her clients:
“So what I do when I talk to a client or work with a company is to try to get away from the hype and focus on the now. We can all agree that the metaverse is the successor state of today’s mobile internet”.
“Let’s get away from the hype. And let’s think about how the internet has evolved and how the internet has changed your business, company, and personal life. And how does a further evolution or convergence impact your line of business, what do you and your employees want, etc.”
Cathy also believes that the definitions of the metaverse and web3 are being used interchangeably, something she disagrees with.
“A lot of people tend to use web3 and metaverse interchangeably. And they are not interchangeable to me. They’re intrinsically linked, but they’re not interchangeable in the sense that web3, to me, is how people, places, and things in the future of the internet are connected.”
“In contrast, the metaverse is how we will experience that successor state. So one has to do with how things are connected, and the other has to do more with how we experience it.”
One company that is trying to help develop this successor state is Meta. Often seen as the only company that matters in the Metaverse, Cathy explained that although there is far more than Meta in the metaverse, they still need to be held accountable for what they build:
“So, how do we hold them accountable? I think part of it has to do with having uncomfortable conversations and educating, which starts with making sure our lawmakers are knowledgeable.”
“It starts with us ourselves feeling knowledgeable of what our data is being used for. And having very uncomfortable conversations with companies. I think challenging some of the status quo will be important.”
Stressing the need for a far greater level of education, Cathy continued:
“One of the things I try to do is to talk to different lawmakers and organizations here in DC. I try to educate. Educate lawmakers on what the metaverse and these technologies are, and try to have those conversations now, before it’s too late.”
Workforce migration is another important issue associated with the metaverse. We currently see professionals leaving their traditional jobs to build in the web3 space, something Cathy is not only seeing with her own eyes but has done herself:
“You’re going to start seeing more professionals leave traditional tech or media for web3 and the metaverse. Because it’s exciting, it’s new. It’s a trend to build. So I see a lot of that great migration.” said Cathy.
“I mean, myself, I left. You know, I wasn’t an executive by any means. But I left Amazon Web Services, probably one of the safest places you can be in a pandemic, to launch my Metaverse consultancy. I sold my Metaverse consultancy in 10 months, and I got acquired”.
To round off, I asked Cathy what she has learnt from being one of the leading minds in the metaverse space and what she wants to achieve over the next decade:
“I guess I’ve learned that being successful in this space starts with education. And starts with having a clear strategy that is flexible and can adapt to the changes in the system and the ecosystem.”
“Similarly, one of the things that I’ve done differently over the last year and a half is I’ve started to put capital behind my words, investing in women, etc. I’m a partner at outlier ventures. So I’m starting to put capital behind what I believe is the next iteration of the internet-putting on the hat of an investor has been interesting.”
“I would love to launch a fund to invest in the future of fashion, luxury, and beauty, which is a space that I love and that I’ve spent a lot of time working in.”
“I think that’d be fun. And I think from a personal perspective, continuing to be someone that women and minority folks look up to, so they see a different face, not the usual suspects they’ve seen before.”
We want to thank Cathy for taking the time to interview with us. You can find out more about her and the projects she is working on via her website.