Lamina1 CEO says open metaverse, blockchain optimization key to unlocking online future

Video interview
May 2023


  • "At the layer one level, people should care because blockchain really can give businesses the confidence to be able to track things accurately, to release payments to their suppliers, to automate programmed aspects of any given agreement and its fulfillment."
  • "I think, from a humanity perspective, it's really, really important, and the more that that message starts to resonate, the more that consumers will start to ask for privacy and ownership and agency around their identity and their assets as we move through the internet."
  • "We believe in this world where we have this window, this narrow opportunity in this transition from Web 2 where we can really restore and right the wrongs, some of the things we sacrificed as an exchange for global access to information and entertainment. This is an opportunity to change things."

Emerging technology and entertainment executive Rebecca Barkin sits down to discuss her role as CEO of Lamina1 and what attracted her to the company, a layer 1 blockchain providing builders and creators a usable framework to create an "open metaverse" for a better online future. Lamina1 was co-founded by Neal Stephenson, who coined the word “metaverse” in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash.

In this interview:

1:25 – New era of digital life

3:48 – Lamina1 and the open metaverse

9:31 – The creator economy

11:55 – Biggest concerns

13:50 – An optimistic 2030

16:03 – Neal Stephenson’s vision

Read transcript

Lamina1 CEO says open metaverse, blockchain optimization key to unlock online future

Joe Kornik: Welcome to the VISION by Protiviti interview. I'm Joe Kornik, Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti, a global content resource examining big themes that will impact the C-suite and executive boardrooms worldwide. Today, we're exploring the metaverse future and I'm excited to be joined by emerging technology executive Rebecca Barkin, CEO of Lamina1, a layer-one blockchain optimized for the open metaverse.

Lamina1 was co-founded and is chaired by Neal Stephenson, a name you may recognize as the man who coined the term metaverse in his 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. Rebecca brings over 20 years of experience, shaping creative strategy and immersive experiences to her role as CEO of LAMINA1, having previously worked at AR pioneer Magic Leap, where she drove the development of AR experience for Warner Brothers and HBO’s Game of Thrones. Rebecca, I'm so happy to have you join us today.

Rebecca Barkin: Oh, thanks so much for having me. It's great to be here.

Kornik: So, I mentioned there that you've spent much of your career as an augmented reality creative strategist and immersive tech expert. So, before we get into Lamina1 specifically, talk to me a little bit about this emerging space and why you're so excited about this new era of digital life that we're sort of embarking on.

Barkin: Yes, sure. I mean, first, I love stories. I love euphoria and the feeling of being transported to a place, whether it's music or an interesting new environment, I don’t know. It can make you see the world entirely differently. I've always loved that. For that reason, I started my career in the entertainment business, in the music business specifically, just as it was being upended by a handful of hackers. I think that made a huge impact on me. I thought it was reckless but at the same time, I was also really frustrated by the very small number of people in the Hollywood community that had the ability to make decisions, sort of had the power and the money to make decisions about which stories were told, who got to see them, how they were casted. I saw advancements in technology starting to really change that paradigm and make room for new people. I saw this kind of crack in the door and some light seeping in and I chased it.

I think my theory on that was, with immersive technology, Hollywood knew how to tell stories, I mean they’re brilliant storytellers, but they didn't know how to do it in a world where the director’s toolbox had been completely broken in favor of these more immersive, more interactive approaches to storytelling, which are more germane to theater and gaming. So, I saw this opportunity to get into it and to take the things that I love very, very much that I think drive humanity, which is the arts, to make us think about things differently and encourage envisioning and critical thinking, which really is what differentiates us from those who came before us. I said, “That's something I want to be a part of, and I have the sort of aptitude thankfully to sit between engineering and creativity.”

Kornik: Sure. I'm sure those days at Magic Leap, as I mentioned in your intro, were probably a little bit of a baptism by fire. I mean, the things that were happening there were probably incredibly ahead of the curve, right, in terms of the technology. <>Rebecca Barkin:  Yeah.<>Joe Kornik: So, Lamina1 now is a layer-one blockchain to empower creators to build the open metaverse. So, if you could explain what that is and why that's important and frankly, why business leaders should care about an open metaverse.

Barkin: Yes. I mean, we’re tackling the opportunity from two angles. First, the base layer, which is simply put this layer one, which provides a transparent ledger system. So, it provides for transactions and verification with security and speed but without really reliance on centralized control; that fear of a single point of failure. So, there's that transparency. There's traceability because that data is reported in multiple locations and people can see it at any time. So, I do think that at the layer one level, people should care because blockchain really can give businesses the confidence to be able to track things accurately, to release payments to their suppliers, to automate programmed aspects of any given agreement and its fulfillment. In our case, we want to apply that to entertainment, gaming and fashion. That's our focus. So that artists can get paid fairly. And so that, as we move into this world that is increasingly rich in 3D and spatial and really blends physical and digital in a really seamless way, that we're able to keep track of all that and it's with a level of transparency that we haven't really had before on the Web 2 era and help creators have prosperity there, and consumers have the privacy and agency to explore it. So, that's layer one, right?

Second, we're kind of at this inflection point where like, engineers make a thing, and they advance us but then there's always that sort of cycle of hype and then disappointment. Everyone in emerging tech has seen it. We saw it in AR as well. But once you get through that, there's this kind of quiet period where people reassemble themselves and they look at industries where it can really solve a real problem. They apply that vertical focus to bring new people into the system. Right now, I think in crypto, there's a lot of recycling of the same community over and over again. What we really need is more interesting content and newer people to see the advantages of it. As we continue to spend more time and more money in these digital spaces people are going to start asking questions around like, “Why don't I hold on to that value?” As a parent of two boys that are pouring my money into Fortnite and Roblox, you ask yourself like “Why don't I hang on to those digital assets?” That's money I've invested, and in the real world, people don't come to your house and confiscate your things. So, I think that we'll start to ask more and more questions about that.

I also think that there has been a lot more attention from a consumer perspective on what this kind of subsidized ad model that is driven by tech platforms has done to us, right, overtime. It's taken a little while, but when we look at the effect of TikTok and Meta, and some of these other companies that really thrive on that ad model and the algorithmic approach to serving up content, bite-sized content that sells, and add AI to that, and we don't even know which things are the real things. There's no authenticity, right, in that content anymore. I think consumers, we owe consumers the ability to take back some of the rights that we gave up in that period where we really wanted to just participate in this exciting new digital space.

So, I think, from a humanity perspective, it's really, really important, and the more that that message starts to resonate, the more that consumers will start to ask for privacy and ownership and agency around their identity and their assets as we move through the internet. I don't know about you, but it's just now started to really occur to my parents that their phones are listening. You know what I mean? That their devices are listening, and they're like, “I didn't even Google that and I got an ad for it.” I just think this is wrong. As a result, I think it resulted from this era in the 2010s in Silicon Valley, where all of these social apps were coming up, and none of them really had to have a business model. It was just prioritize user growth, prioritize user growth.

So, what happened was the only business model they had, because they gave everything away for free, was to monetize people. Now we're trying to reverse this and get people to pay for articles or get people to pay for music and they're like, “Wait, what?” So, we have to change this dynamic, and I think consumers are coming along, I think creators are coming along and asking for more. I think businesses are going to start to realize that if they can effectively integrate their physical and digital worlds and evolve them as a channel, as a holistic approach to channel that, like the community, being able to retain that community is the most important indicator of viability long term, when you look at lifetime value and things like that.

Kornik: Right. You’ve mentioned the creator economy a few times during this interview, and I'd like you to talk a little bit more about that, if you could. The entire ecosystem, right, the builders, developers, and artists creators. Tell me why the creator economy is so important to the future of the metaverse and is this the big game changer for Web 3 and the metaverse?

Barkin: In general, the creator economy, when you look at what happened in that late-stage evolution of Web 2 and social, you started to see all this UGC content. We talked about that door in the beginning, of this little opening in the door. People started to be able to tell their own stories and make their own content and get it out there in the world in a way that brands saw as really valuable, and then people obviously saw as really valuable and started to engage with. So, the more tools that there are to be able to recognize those artists, give them a platform, make it affordable and economic for them to build and release content, the more robust our worlds and our Web 3 economy can be. So, I think it's really important that we open up those channels and we allow people to cross streams and travel more readily. If I can hang on to value as a creator that then moves through the internet freely and can monetize my data and monetize my feed, see all my assets, I'm more incentivized to keep participating in the economy.

I think that that explosion that we saw at the start of Web 2, we can see it again with Web 3. Obviously, we want to change the world like everybody else does, but we really want to change the model entirely for creatives by building really that empowered and prosperous community and be a positive influence, I think, on the culture and the industry on a whole. I think it needs that. We believe in this world where we have this window, this narrow opportunity between, in this transition from Web 2 where we can really restore and right the wrongs, some of the things we sacrificed as an exchange for global access to information and entertainment. This is an opportunity to change things. We feel pretty strongly about that in the long term.

Kornik: Right, right. So, it sounds like you think we're sort of on the precipice or a tipping point of what's next. So, you've covered a little bit about some of the potential warnings or things that could go wrong, but I'll ask you, is there anything that specifically concerns you or your biggest fears or how does this go off the rails?

Barkin: Yes, yes. It's a really good question. I think my biggest concern is that we're battling the convenience and the domination that mega platforms have offered us. It is hard to battle. I mean, I was watching Ted Lasso the other night and we looked on our phones to see, our iPhones to see if it was available. Then, we turn on our Apple TV, and we use Apple Pay. We watch a show that was made by Apple and in the show, it's all Apple products. I think you can very quickly slip into this world where everybody just serves you everything and you don't question it. Particularly with the advancements on the AI side of things, that I worry about that laziness and the convenience that comes with just having things served to us all the time and not really questioning it or encouraging critical thinking. I think that if we can show and demonstrate that interoperability is viable, and that we can sacrifice a little bit of ownership and a little bit of data for new business models that emerge out of our ability to just travel freely and own our own data and monetize it the way we want to and own our assets and track, continue to reward artists for royalties on the secondary market. I think you'll start to see people thrive in a more, I don't know, long-term kind of way.

Kornik: Flip that last question on its head a little bit and tell me what could go right? Like what are all the great things that we could see. Go out a decade if you will, and tell me what this looks like if we do this right?

Barkin: Imagining these worlds that you can travel to freely, buy whatever device you want to participate in the moment but the idea that you could move fluidly through these worlds, in and out of branded experiences and the storied experiences and to meeting people from around the globe share their experiences in virtual worlds that are all somewhat connected, where you carry your own identity and your own assets in a way that protects you from being exploited online, but gives you the freedom to move about that world and discover it at your leisure and with confidence that you're protected and you have the sense you need to have. I think loosening that grip of, we wouldn't have to go to every website you go to, you have to give them all of your data and all your information, not being constantly bombarded by ads, but in this world where I get to choose my level of engagement with those brands, but it's really more about people and art and this in commerce force and the seamlessness by which we can travel through these experiences without feeling exploited or like we might lose them or lose that value at any point in time. I'm really bullish that there is an alternative to the ad model and that constant feed of insecurities and vices that we get when we praise an algorithm too much. So, I'm really hopeful that this vision of an interoperable, rich world 3D immersive, euphoric experiences with a bunch of different storytellers from every corner of the world will be accessible to everyone and the cost of participating in it will come down.

Kornik: So, I just have to ask, did Neal have any idea, do you think, in 1992 when he wrote the word “metaverse” that it would essentially, 30 years later be its own, essentially, industry or its own movement?

Barkin: I mean, probably not, or he might have done things a little differently. I think Neal is an avid consumer of history. So, it's funny. I had asked him about sci-fi books, like, “What other sci-fi books should I read?” He was like, “I don't really read too much sci-fi. I read history.” That's, I guess, how he predicts the future. So, I think he knew that these things were coming, and he's been a gamer his whole life. He's always been in engineering and fascinated by sustainability and whatnot. So, he's a researcher, and he looks into the stuff and he deep dives in it. So, I think he had an inclination that this would materialize in one way or another and saw that, as cost comes down and as people have a need to escape more and to find better economic conditions for themselves, that they would build these other worlds that they could escape to and have those things. He always says like, “I won't predict.” But I think he definitely saw it coming. Maybe not exactly in the way that it's gone down.

Kornik: Rebecca, thank you again for the time today. I really enjoyed our conversation.

Barkin: Yes, I did too. Thank you for having me.

Kornik: Thank you for watching the VISION by Protiviti interview for Rebecca Barkin. I’m Joe Kornik. We'll see you next time.

Close transcript


Rebecca Barkin

Emerging technology and entertainment executive Rebecca Barkin brings over 20 years of experience shaping creative strategy, product, and immersive experiences to her role as CEO of Lamina1. Prior to joining L1, Barkin served as VP of Content Strategy & Partner Solutions at the groundbreaking immersive venue Madison Square Garden Sphere, where she played a key role in bringing transportive experiences to life. Barkin also held leadership roles at Augmented Reality (AR) pioneer Magic Leap, where she led the rebrand and award-winning product design for the enterprise-focused Magic Leap 2 and drove the development of AR experiences with premium partners, including Alibaba, Weta, Warner Bros, and HBO’s Game of Thrones. Named one of South Florida's 2020 influential businesswomen by the South Florida Business Journal, Barkin plays an active role in mentoring female leaders with her involvement in Chief — an organization designed for senior women pioneers to strengthen their leadership journey.

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