At The Metaverse Insider, we had the pleasure of interviewing the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Upland – Idan Zuckerman. He is responsible for the overall strategic direction and day-to-day operations of the company, alongside his fellow Co-CEO Dirk Lueth. Prior to his current role, Idan held various leadership positions in the technology industry and has extensive experience in product development, user experience design, and strategy.
Upland is a virtual property trading game that allows players to buy, sell, and trade virtual properties that are based on real-world addresses. The game is built on blockchain technology, which ensures transparency and security in property ownership, thus, allowing players to earn real-world income by participating in the game. Upland has generated a lot of interest in recent times, and in this interview, we address Upland’s trajectory and goals in the Metaverse space.
The rise of Upland
Idan explained that the idea for the platform came about four years ago when they were inspired by the game Monopoly. The team, coming from backgrounds in consumer internet, gaming, and decentralized technologies, saw the potential in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and true ownership of digital assets.
The mission of Upland is to bring true ownership of digital assets to as many consumers as possible through a Metaverse that is mapped to the real world and powered by an economy where everything is truly owned. Every asset in Upland is born as either a fungible or a non-fungible token that the player owns. The in-game currency, UPX, is a cryptocurrency that is not tradable on exchanges, keeping the economy protected from outside speculation and maintaining regulatory compliance in the US and other highly protected markets:
“We wanted to make it really easy for the players to come on board and start interacting with the game, but then very easily be able to sell each other digital assets that they own directly for fiat currency.”
This compliance allowed Upland to be available on app stores, making it easy for players to get started, interact with the economy, and sell digital assets directly for fiat currency. The platform is designed to appeal to ordinary consumers who may not be familiar with blockchain technology but value true ownership and the freedom to trade without restrictions.
Today, Upland is one of the largest web metaverses with close to 50,000 daily active users and over 300,000 unique landowners. Players participate in local neighborhoods, racing games, treasure hunts, and other community engagement opportunities.
Idan further explains the importance of regulatory compliance and how it allows players worldwide, including the US, to safely and legally participate in Upland’s economy. When selling an item in Upland for US dollars, a licensed third party is required to hold the proceeds, similar to a bank. In the US, obtaining a money transmitter license for this purpose is necessary and challenging, as it requires licensing in each of the 50 states:
“Somebody needs to keep those funds, right, almost like a bank. And for that, you need what is called in the US a money transmitter license.”
Upland relies on third-party partners, such as Tilia (a subsidiary of Linden Labs), to manage player accounts and handle transactions legally. As a consumer, players see their USD balance in the game, which they can withdraw via PayPal or use to buy other in-game items.
Does location targeting matter for incentivizing consumers?
Having recently achieved the impressive milestone of converting 10 million NFT to US dollars, Upland is poised for exponential growth with the upcoming release of more geographical locations. However, as Upland has adopted a staggered approach to unveiling real-life locations, it raises questions about their reasoning behind this strategy. We were eager to gain insight into their approach.
Idan discussed the expansion strategy of Upland, which is based on two main factors. Firstly, as the in-game economy grows, there is a need to sustain the demand for land in Upland by managing the balance between supply and demand for properties. Expanding to new locations helps achieve this balance and maintain the health of the economy:
“One of our missions in Upland is basically curating the economy, which also means managing the balance between supply and demand for properties.”
Secondly, Upland also looks for strong brand partners or strategic collaborations in new locations, such as the partnership with FC Porto in Portugal or the Mandira Summer School in Rio de Janeiro. These collaborations help attract local audiences and onboard new players to Upland:
“These are also reasons for us to expand to new locations. And this also helps us to try to get these local audiences in, onboarding them as new players to Upland.”
Upland is continuing to expand to new cities, such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – however, they also plan to open more international locations as the platform grows:
“We have a lot of cool plans and a lot of good things to happen with expansions…we’re putting in place the infrastructure so the community can have more and more say about these types of decisions.”
Beyond virtual property: What else does upland offer?
Upland has opened its ecosystem for third-party developers to integrate their offerings, allowing both Web 2 and Web 3 platforms to connect with Upland’s identity system and economy. This creates opportunities for various experiences to be built around Upland, expanding its reach and driving wider metaverse adoption:
“Upland is slowly becoming a Super App for the immersive web. And this is kind of like your launching point in your lobby from the palm of your hands for your mobile device.”
One example of integration is the World of Football game, which allows users to play soccer in the Metaverse using their Upland identity and assets. Upland also has an ongoing partnership with FIFA, offering gamified experiences and minting unique NFTs of memorable goals.
“There are so many depths, and so many offerings that can tie into Upland, whether it’s native experiences that we create, but also other experiences that third-party developers connect into Upland.”
With access to the whole world, Upland can partner with various sporting events or brands, creating numerous opportunities for unique experiences, NFTs, and collaborations in the metaverse.
Upland’s upward and promising trajectory is undeniable, thanks to the leadership of Idan Zuckerman and Dirk Lueth. Their team is driving the adoption of the metaverse by providing users with a wide array of experiences and opportunities, continuously expanding the digital ecosystem, and pushing the limits of our virtual and digital lives. With exciting developments in the pipeline, it’s worth keeping a close watch on Upland.