The search for the term ‘metaverse’ skyrocketed during the tail end of 2021, with October alone registering over 2.62 million searches of the word.
With the advent of Web 3.0, we are at a crucial juncture of redefining what entirely virtual experiences could look like. The Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality markets are expected to grow to nearly USD 600 Bn by 2025 according to industry research.
In this episode of Zinnov podcast Business Resiliencies Series, Edo Segal, Founder and CEO of Touchcast talks to Atul Srivastava, Engagement Manager, Zinnov about what the Metaverse is all about, and how organizations can make themselves future-ready to successfully leverage Metaverse.
Atul Srivastava: With the tech giant Facebook rebranding itself as Meta and Virtual Reality becoming a disruptor in industry, such as healthcare, education, and entertainment 2022 has been monikered the year of the Metaverse and rightly so.
With the advent of Web 3.0, we are at a crucial juncture of redefining what entirely virtual experiences could look like. The Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality markets are expected to grow to nearly US USD 600 Bn by 2025 according to industry research.
In this episode of Zinnov podcast Business Resiliencies Series, we will talk about what the Metaverse is all about, how can organizations make themselves future-ready to successfully leverage Metaverse.
I am Atul Srivastava, Engagement Manager at Zinnov and I have with me today Edo Segal, founder and CEO of Touchcast. Edo has over 20 years of experience at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence and Communication technology. By fusing state-of-the art advances in both Mixed Reality and Artificial Reality his organization Touchcast is facilitating the next generation of communications and collaboration experiences. Once again, welcome Edo. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Edo Segal: Thank you so much. Pleasure to be here.
Atul Srivastava: Perfect. So let’s begin with a question that is on everybody’s mind. Who is the Metaverse for? Do you think it’s inevitable for companies to move into the Metaverse to say relevant and future-proof themselves? Also, because we are talking about a lot of use cases and the technologies, what are the must-have versus good-to-have technologies and use cases within Metaverse as per your experience?
Edo Segal: Thank you. That’s a great question. I think the answer has to start with the definition of that word when we ask about the necessity. And I think there are multiple definitions and it really depends on who you ask the question. So from a level setting perspective, the way we view it at Touchcast is that the Metaverse is predominantly an extension of an evolution of our communication stack. Meaning, if we’ve all had a firsthand experience over the pandemic of how humanity has shifted many, many behaviors into digital communications over platforms like Zoom, Teams, et cetera, we kind of view the Metaverse as an evolution of that change in behavior that effectively facilitates many more potent use cases of communications, whether that is a customer engagement, a company connecting to the people that constitutes the main driver of revenue or the way the leadership communicates with its team or the way we learn, the way we create empathy in the same way that video conferencing has created an additional layer for humanity to be able to accelerate many business processes, many things that were actually perceived to be not possible before the pandemic.
We kind of see the Metaverse as an extension of that and see many use cases in which companies can embrace this technology as a method of better communication to accomplish their different KPIs. And of course, this does not apply to everyone. If your core activity with your human capital is manufacturing and there is not a necessarily, let’s say, a touchpoint with customer or necessarily training… it actually is hard to find scenarios where it’s totally not relevant, but there’s definitely scenarios where it’s much more relevant. And for those where it’s much more relevant, I think it is fair to say that you kind of ignore the technology at your own peril, similar to an executive that might have ignored e-commerce in 1999 and let basically a competitor eat away at their market. In 1999, it was just starting. Like, it wasn’t that a significant percentage of commerce was generated online, but you have to start investing, building the infrastructure, building the culture within your company that comprehends, understands, and can lead and compete.
And that’s a journey that does need to start now for those companies for which this is something that is a necessity. So it’s not a simple answer to a relatively simple question, but hopefully for the listeners it makes sense.
Atul Srivastava: Right. I think you very much rightly touched upon these points. And as you mentioned, Touchcast sees it as an extension of communication technologies. As you mentioned, rightly from telephony to video conferencing to Metaverse, what are your views on the current Metaverse ecosystem? If you take all different players or all different value chain players into a close room, what are your views on the overall ecosystem?
And also, is there a role for system integrators to play in enterprise Metaverse adoption? Because we also understand that Touchcast as a company works very closely with the company like Accenture too. So is there a role for system integrators in the overall ecosystem as well?
Edo Segal: Yes. At Touchcast we are really focusing on big enterprises and how did they start their migration to what we refer to as MaaS, Metaverse as a Service… how did they start that journey? And many times, if not most times that journey involves one of the world’s top SI and we’ve been working with Accenture for over seven years… Avanade and others to help these organizations pave a path for us to… this Metaverse construct didn’t start when Zuckerberg decided to change his company’s name.
It started years and years before we’ve been building a technology stack for about a decade. There are many new entrants, as happens when there is a hype cycle, because that drives the financing that in turn drives innovation, it’s very important for a healthy tech ecosystem that you have a lot of attempts. That’s the role that Venture Capital and early stage startups play. Most of them, almost all of them end up failing, but even those that fail, contribute to the thinking and ultimately the value creation because some their idea… kind of through synthesis, arrive at other platforms, but the big player in enterprise world, needless to say for us, the most important and biggest player is Microsoft given the reality of Microsoft having a legacy of supporting the world’s biggest companies, starting from the age of Outlook and now in the age of Teams.
We are really working very closely with Microsoft at senior levels across different industries to help support a mass offering on Azure that will let companies that are already on Azure benefit from a very secure solution that is already on the Microsoft graph.
Now, what I just said is kind of a foreign construct for most Metaverse related activities, because most of them spawn from the world of entertainment, social media, or value creation associated with the Crypto space. There are very few serious enterprise software players in the Metaverse space in which we kind of view ourselves as leading, through execution with some of the world’s biggest companies as clients. Some of them direct, most of them through our partnerships with SIs and with Microsoft.
Atul Srivastava: Edo as you mentioned about innovation and the financing part of new entrants, as well as the existing big organizations, how should leaders evolve their organization to successfully traverse towards the Metaverse? Do you think a mindset changes also required from an overall company level way, like from marketing to sales, sales to partnerships and customer success perspective as well?
Edo Segal: I think the best analogy is looking at what happened with e-commerce Web 1.0 and what a monumental shift that was. And it obviously took some time. So some executives are much younger and they didn’t experience that. So they don’t necessarily have that frame of reference.
And some probably in the C-suite did have that experience and understand the metaphor. But I think it again depends on which industry you’re in and the relevance, the overlap, which is the first thing you need to assess. Can this solutions have an impact on my KPIs, whether in sales, or training, or communications?
And if the answer is yes, then the only way to learn is through doing and taking some risk. And that’s the kind of risk-reward equation. And again, it depends on what sector and what sub-sector you’re in. It might be the case that embracing the Metaverse aggressively would have a very material impact on your company’s competitive advantage.
And there will be those companies early on where they can literally build a company on the premise of that and really enhance their underlying economics. And there’ll be others where it’s more of an innovation journey where they should and would use some of their innovation budget to experiment.
And it might fail in the beginning and succeed three years from now or five years from now. But you are establishing cultural openness to technology so that you don’t fossilize and lose an opportunity whereby a competitor more nimble younger entrant into your market can steal away market share because they know how to leverage better technology than you, which is often the case.
And that’s the disruptive nature of technology. So I think you have to be vigilant and you have to not be cynical to be open to the opportunity, to learn, to understand what is possible with an optimistic view before you can afford to be cynical and brush it off as just another kind of hype bubble.
And again for some companies it is exactly that it’s not relevant. Not all companies can benefit from it, but there are ones I believe where it can have a very material impact and will fundamentally change those companies or alternatively change their industry.
Atul Srivastava: I think I totally agree with you Edo, in terms of… you mentioned about how do you want to plan your journey, at the same time where you want to see yourself in the next three to five years.
I also like your idea… earlier you touched on the e-commerce example, how the companies that did not move towards the e-commerce platforms in early 1990, where are they now. We have plenty of examples, I think, in a lot of other industries too, like we have a very good examples from BlackBerries of the world or Kodaks of the world who were at some point in their overall life cycle were the peak. However, they didn’t move to the change and did not adopt the technologies as the time needed. Maybe that’s why they’re not now in the situation where they should be. I think that’s a really good examples, Edo.
We were talking about the automotive industry and you said the Metaverse or the digital tuning of the factories for the automotive factories are there in the market for last 10 years, especially in the… not only more automotive, but other industrial setups as well, probably because the connectivity part, the 5G is already commercialized in the industrial spaces.
However, I just want to understand more on the Blockchain part, because there is an existing firewall in the industrial setups, whether it’s the manufacturing, pure play manufacturing or the automotive setups where we have a factory setups, where these firewalls are existing cyber security norms are already there.
Do you think that Blockchain will have a broader impact into these categories as well, or only in the B2C spaces where we targeting the millions and billions of consumers or the retail space, or maybe in the healthcare space?
So is like inevitable to use Blockchain in all kind of setups or only in the B2C setup?
Edo Segal: I don’t know that I would go as far as to say it’s inevitable, but it definitely would, I think play a material role. And I remember when the iPhone came out and at the time all of us within the enterprise space, we’re using BlackBerry devices that had gone through an evolution and big part of that evolution was the ownership of the IT class of the kind of security of that data and an embrace of it.
And when iPhone came out for a few years there was a very strong line amongst the IT class that there’s no way in hell that you will ever be able to use an iPhone on our corporate network and get your email, et cetera. It was just perceived as something by that class that will never happen. They will never allow it to happen.
They had their reasoning in terms of security and operational model, control. Now we all know how that ended up. And why did it end up that way? It ended up that way because the value that was generated by that technology, the iPhone as a consumer engagement, permeated into the enterprise space and forced the hand of the IT class to embrace.
I think that’s the lens through which you should think about the answer to that question. There is a linkage between the B2C and B2B in this regard when something becomes mainstream and it solves a big problem for you and your consumer life then I think it’s inevitable that it will become a mainstream in those interactions as well.
And there’s also a lot of merits to the technology that is really valuable in certain use cases. But it’s probably a longer conversation for an a whole hour just to talk about how Blockchain is potentially using enterprise, what it means for Metaverse, what does decentralization really mean. It’s probably a long conversation we can have another time, but it’s a fascinating one and there are some incredible things… there are some incredible things that are happening as we speak that really are the kind of, I would say the tectonic shifts of the fundamental infrastructure of the internet by that leverage this technology.
And those are the things that will force the hand of change. Those tectonic shifts of the underlying fabric, the underlying infrastructure of the internet, when it goes into a decentralization mode powered by the marvel of Blockchain.
Atul Srivastava: My last question for you is, what are the key elements an enterprise should think of for a successful Metaverse strategy, because you talked about all the benefits, you talked about the merits of a particular company to be in the Metaverse or to adopt the strategy to be in the overall ecosystem.
Is there an opportunity to create new marketing channels as well for the companies?
Edo Segal: Our lens really sees it as something that is driven by this analysis of viewing it as a communication technology between your human capital and other constituents or internally.
So it’s not that we view it as there’s some Metaverse somewhere that you need to go and build in. That doesn’t exist and like just doing something for the purpose of saying that you build something in some Metaverse is not for our perspective, really, an example of sound business thinking. That could be done for marketing purposes.
If you want to use the word Metaverse in your marketing and you want to say that you’re in the Metaverse and you want to check that box, then by all means you can explore that. And there are a multitude of opportunities you have to do so, but if you are looking to potentially view how this technology can have a material impact on your business, I would start with thinking about the human capital, that connection, the interface between the people that work in your company and the outside world or inwards, and think of how these technologies can complement their efficacy in accomplishing that, whether that’s selling a car or advising a patient or training a dealer or communicating with your employees and team members in a townhall.
All of these occasions where you have this human-to-human interface can be materially enhanced with an evolved technology of communication coupled with AI that will just make you much more efficient in terms of accomplishing those communications to whatever end, whatever goal you have.
Atul Srivastava: Perfect, Edo. So, I think we talked about multiple points in the entire Metaverse ecosystem. We talked how important it is and how future-proof the technologies are, how leaders can traverse themselves towards the Metaverse. What are the roles of different business domains, how industries can have a better role in terms of finalizing their short- and long-term goals. We also talked about how with the service like MaaS, Metaverse can also change the entire phenomena of Metaverse ecosystem. So, thank you so much, Edo, for taking out the time and being here with us today and having this conversation, which I think is very relevant and important as enterprises and leaders alike tranverse the Metaverse landscape.
Edo Segal: Thank you for your time and your wise questions and for our listeners.
Atul Srivastava: Thank you.
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