Reimagine the possibilities: Tech visionary Cheemin Bo-Linn on boards being ‘metaverse-ready’
- The promise of the metaverse lies in improving work tasks, creating immersive experiences, enhancing corporate brands and finding new, robust revenue growth.
- As corporate decision makers, we focus on the problem we’re trying to solve and what steps are needed to be future-ready. As a leader, I ask my team to reimagine the possibilities and think through how this major transformative disruption might make the impossible possible.
- The metaverse represents a quantum change in immersive reality, in how we interact with both the physical and virtual world. Therefore, business models must be re-examined and strategies recalibrated, to achieve success.
In this interview, Joe Kornik, Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti, sits down with Bo-Linn to discuss the board’s role in a strategic metaverse future. Bo-Linn also offers an "executive playbook" for Web 3 and the metaverse, here.
Kornik: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with VISION by Protiviti. You are a tech visionary, and I’m curious to hear your view on how technology will enable the metaverse, and which technologies you are most excited about.
Bo-Linn: The metaverse has spurred excitement as the “next age of the internet” with online searches for the term “metaverse” having increased 7,200% in the year 2021 alone. The promise of the metaverse lies in improving work tasks, creating immersive experiences, enhancing corporate brands and finding new, robust revenue growth. We will surely see new applications and services as a result of new disruptive technologies in the metaverse. Web 3 brought internet advancements that enabled increased democratization and decentralization in the online world. Disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things, virtual reality and artificial intelligence saw further advances as did crypto currencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as the digital assets on the blockchain. However, it’s the combination and convergence of these disruptive technologies that will accelerate advancement as the physical and virtual worlds intersect. Advances in AI will continue to play a dominant role, and 5G will help revolutionize it. A powerful suite of advanced smart chips and internet technologies from augmented and virtual reality will open up brand-new 3D digital spaces that will create new and unique user experiences.
Kornik: Many forecasters are bullish about the metaverse economy over the next decade. What do you think about its potential?
Bo-Linn: Much of the world now runs on the internet; if one postulates that the metaverse is the next generation of the internet and it will be disruptive, expansive and transformative, it is plausible the metaverse will have its own economy. We can already see how the metaverse can demonstrate the value of equal access through democratization and decentralization, creating a different world than the one we know. Demographically, with Gen Z having more consumer purchasing power, and already being digital natives, that generation alone can further accelerate the metaverse economy. Tech companies, which play a key part of any economy, have already made large investments; data show private capital has been doubling since 2020. In 2022, the investment increased to over US $20 billion, and 2030 projections are at US $5 trillion or more. However, companies need to determine their own investment theses, of course.
Demographically, with Gen Z having more consumer purchasing power and already being digital natives, that generation alone can further accelerate the metaverse economy.
Kornik: The potential is huge, but I think there’s still a fair amount of skepticism about the metaverse among the board and C-suite. Is that warranted? And how should executives proceed in this environment?
Bo-Linn: A skeptical view of the metaverse exists as we continue to separate hype from reality. However, regardless of the view, board members should help management stay relevant and assess the future potential of the metaverse and navigate as appropriate. Strategic discussions should center on how the metaverse might change the competitive landscape of an industry; how that determination would factor into a corporation’s investment framework and timeline; and finally, how all that would be incorporated into an overall business growth strategy tied to projected revenue outcomes. We talked about long-term projections, but nearer term, forecasts predict the metaverse will be a US $800 billion global market in 2024. Even if it were a fraction of that, a company should at least invest the time to better understand and envision potential opportunities that may arise. Even if the metaverse doesn’t fully materialize to what some think is its full potential, it will open up many new possibilities and encourage companies to consider different and creative ways to engage employees and customers. That’s always a good thing.
Kornik: As business leaders really start to consider the business implications of the metaverse, as well as potential investments in both resources and capital, what advice would you offer?
Bo-Linn: Well, a longer-term strategic view is required to be metaverse-ready in this uncharted future. Business leaders should reflect on one’s effectiveness in leading the prior major technological shifts, such as digital transformation, and the speed at which new business use cases were developed and digital technologies applied. The metaverse, which will have an even greater impact, is a quantum change with its own set of challenges, including a significant one—how to establish a virtual commercial presence that drives business. A balanced view must be taken by the C-suite, with the understanding that time will be needed to hire talent and develop solutions and policies even as the technology, standards and regulation are still in flux. As the board performs its fiduciary responsibility of risk oversight, directors must also be competent and well informed so they can ask the right questions of management and help them navigate a course of action. Risk management is key in evaluating potential use cases—the risk of engaging, the risk of avoidance and the risk of late entry into the metaverse all must be considered. As corporate decision makers, we focus on the problem we’re trying to solve and what steps are needed to be future-ready. As a leader, I ask my team to reimagine the possibilities and think through how this major transformative disruption might make the impossible possible… all while reaping financial rewards.
As the board performs its fiduciary responsibility of risk oversight, directors must also be competent and well informed so they can ask the right questions of management and help them navigate a course of action.
Kornik: In what ways do you see companies successfully leveraging the metaverse in the future?
Bo-Linn: Opportunities for companies range from creating new applications, development platforms, hardware devices, software and tools, all the way to infrastructure or interoperability standards. There are other opportunities for those who provide governance, research, security, privacy, reputation management or can assist in upgrading the skills and capabilities of the workforce so it’s metaverse-ready. At the core of the metaverse strategy, or any viable strategy, must be the customer. A successful company has the customer at the center of its DNA, and smart, strategic business leaders anticipate and follow the leads of their customers who desire more personalized engagement and real-time experiences. Research your current and future customer base and make determinations on the relative importance of this new commercial space for growth, then decide how and when resources should be deployed.
Kornik: What industries or sectors do you think have the potential to be most disrupted or transformed by the metaverse?
Bo-Linn: There are many industry sectors that can benefit from the metaverse. However, the marketing function, which is cross-industry, is the biggest potential winner as it extends a company’s brand from the physical to the virtual world with an ROI. The financial services industry has largely led the way by adopting new digital assets and technologies and decentralized finance exchanges. J.P. Morgan launched a virtual lounge to pursue banking in the metaverse and purchased digital real estate. Sectors such as commerce, entertainment and gaming were early adopters and may already be considered mainstream. Retail was disrupted early and saw the possibilities of exciting shopping experiences to reach more consumers. Walmart is leading the pack as it built out digital immersive shopping experiences and is continuing its investment. CVS Health is offering healthcare services and virtual products. Nike launched a new line of Nike-branded NFTs enabled with blockchain technology, and Nikeland digital brand experiences. Meanwhile, classic brands such as Gucci have created fashionista avatars. Finally, education may also be a big winner as it democratizes learning by offering virtual classrooms. Training centers can implement digital twins that will disrupt traditional training practices and create brand new and dynamic learning opportunities.
A successful company has the customer at the center of its DNA, and smart, strategic business leaders anticipate and follow the leads of their customers who desire more personalized engagement and real-time experiences.