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David Stevenson: Apple not Facebook could be the killer bet on the metaverse

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The announcement that Facebook is going to change its name to Meta Platforms generated a collective groan among my peers, especially those sci-fi nerds for whom the concept of the metaverse online has been common currency for at least a decade (check out Neal Stephenson’s books). For me though, the announcement had an added personal twist.
One of my oldest friends – a proper tech nerd – has been touting the enabling technologies behind the metaverse for decades. He was into virtual reality (VR) in the 1980s and 1990s and I can vividly remember him saying those infamous famous words: ‘This’ll be the next big thing’.
Trying on his headset and zooming through countless virtual worlds, all I remember thinking was that the headset was bloody uncomfortable, that I felt dizzy and that the virtual worlds weren’t terrifically exciting.My friend is no longer in the VR business, but I think it is fair to say that virtual reality (full on headset), augmented reality (think glasses with a display screen) and the rise of virtual worlds online have proved a corporate graveyard for many an ambitious tech titan. Just like nuclear fusion, it’s always nearly there.
Well, maybe this time we are approaching ‘that moment’ when it will be the next big thing. Why? A number of signs suggest that the serious money is lining up behind the metaverse. Giant US investment bank Morgan Stanley has just released a spate of reports – ‘The Next Big Theme – Metaverse’ by Edward Stanley is one summing up the tone nicely – which highlight in detail why we need to think about this new world emerging.
According to Morgan Stanley, the metaverse in a nutshell is: ‘A virtual world for immersive experiences that is persistently available and where users can explore vast numbers of experiences concurrently. Within these experiences, people across the world can meet, play, watch, trade and learn across millions of experiences.’
The enabling technologies behind this catch all term include augmented reality (those glasses again), virtual reality (think Oculus headsets worn by gamers), virtual gaming worlds and ‘digital twin’ technologies used by big corporates to manage physical assets online.
The immediate reaction of most paid-up cynics – me included – is to wheel out all the old doubts and point to all the failed next new things. But there are tangible signs that maybe ‘this time is different’. There are now real world applications and hard money being invested in the next great leap in the immersive electronic experience. In no particular order, I’d highlight the following:
A sure-fire way of figuring out what might become the next big thing in investment land is to see if there’s an exchange-traded fund that is based on a thematic. And surprise, surprise, there is. In the US a specialist issuer called Roundhill has launched, guess what, the META ETF.
In the space of 20 weeks since inception, the assets of this fund have increased from $50m to $260m. Top holdings in the fund include some well-known names such as Nvidia, Microsoft, Autodesk, Amazon and Tencent, as well as less familiar names such as Roblox and Unity Software. And of course, the newly-coined Meta Platforms
It’s not hard to see why money has flowed into this fund. Of course, there’s the Facebook rebrand, and the obligatory ‘forecasts’ of exponential growth. The Morgan Stanley report foresees ‘a base case VR hardware market size of $60bn by 2030 and >$250bn by 2040 with the lion’s share in [consumer sales] where the “killer apps” are beginning to emerge’. Within augmented reality they believe we are fast ‘approaching lift-off’ where anyone with a smart phone can plug in.
But the likely answer to why this could now be ready to take off after decades seems to be…Apple.
If anyone is going to take VR, AR and the metaverse into the mainstream, it’s our friends from Cupertino, who’ve got hundreds of millions of consumers worldwide to overpay for a phone, tablet and watch (I have all three). Apple specialises in making ‘exciting’ technology mainstream (if not quite affordable). And the signs look promising for VR and the metaverse.
Apple for instance has ‘introduced advanced 3D sensing LiDAR technology in its high end iPhones and iPads to better measure the distance of planes in a 3D world’, according to Morgan Stanley. The report adds: ‘It’s rumoured that Apple is in the process of developing its first generation of AR/mixed reality glasses, with a launch expected in late 2022/early 2023.’
One hopes that Apple will be giving real thought to the challenges. Going back to my old friend’s headsets proudly displayed in his home office, the ‘form factor’ needs fixing. In other words, it’s got to feel comfortable, look cool and work. It’s also got to make sense financially and the content it gives access to needs to be compelling enough to shell out the money.
What of the investment implications if everything lines up? Well, I suppose it’s a safe bet to say that Apple might find the new category killer it’s been looking for. While Facebook/Meta Platforms looks to be taking this deadly seriously and, trading at 20 times earnings, isn’t insanely overvalued in stock price terms.
I also can’t help but thinking that Microsoft will maintain its grip on business-to-business (B2B) applications through this, and it has been the essential tech stock to own for decades now. I like Silicon Valley-based Roblox as a radical disrupter, but the Morgan Stanley report also highlights some ‘old world’ businesses that might just do well if this space takes off. Those include Entain (interactive entertainment), EssilorLuxottica (wearables world), and Samsung SDI (materials behind AR and VR, plus a stake in Samsung Display).

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Metaverse Crypto Index Fund Launched by Matthew Ball, Multicoin, and Bitwise – Decrypt

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There's a wide array of crypto builders working to bring the metaverse to life, whether it's via platforms, tools, assets, or infrastructure. Now one of the leading voices around the metaverse has launched an index fund focused on crypto assets tied to the next-generation internet.
Today, writer and venture capitalist Matthew Ball announced a partnership with Multicoin Capital and Bitwise Asset Management to launch the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index. Bitwise has also made an associated fund available to qualified purchasers.
"We developed the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index Fund because, prior to today, there was no easy, expert, and methodologically diversified way for investors to have broad-based exposure to bona fide metaverse-focused crypto assets," Ball told Decrypt.
"To this end, the Index doesn't exist to time Event A or Market Conditions B. It exists so that investors can participate in what we believe is a multi-trillion dollar transformation, which will unfold over the coming decade," he continued. "If blockchain is relevant to the future of the metaverse, and our approach is sound, we believe the opportunity is significant—today, tomorrow, next month, and so forth."
The index will feature up to 40 crypto assets chosen by the partners, but a list of included assets was not provided to Decrypt by the time of publication. Bitwise's associated fund is available to qualified purchasers with a $100,000 minimum investment.
Ball described the Ball Multicoin Bitwise Metaverse Index as a "rules-driven index that combines the best of institutional indexing approaches with special adaptations to the crypto and metaverse spaces. That includes various risk screens, such as analyzing liquidity, developer activity, tech and regulatory risk, and "relevancy to the metaverse," said Ball.
"The ultimate goal is to curate the crypto assets that will be outsized contributors to the creation and success of an open metaverse," he added.
The metaverse refers to a future version of the internet that many believe will be built on blockchain technology. It's expected to be a more immersive and interactive experience that people navigate via 3D avatars and use for work, play, shopping, and socializing. It may also use NFT assets for user-owned items like avatars, apparel, and virtual land.
Ethereum-based games like Decentraland and The Sandbox are seen as early examples of the metaverse.
Facebook also showcased its own vision for the space and even rebranded its parent company to Meta last fall. However, it's not entirely clear whether Facebook's plan is for an open platform that is interoperable with others.
Ball is a leading writer on the metaverse whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Economist, and Bloomberg. His book, "The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything," is due out from W.W. Norton in July.
He's also a managing partner at EpyllionCo, which has invested in crypto startups such as Dapper Labs and Mirror, as well as a venture partner at Makers Fund. Ball is also behind the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF, which focuses on metaverse-centric stocks and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.
"Our objective was the creation of a diversified, balanced, and expertly-designed crypto Metaverse Index," explained Multicoin Capital co-founder and managing partner, Kyle Samani.
"This required a similarly capable team," he continued. "Matthew Ball is the definitive thought-leader in metaverse strategy and investing. We specialize in crypto assets and are one of the preeminent crypto investment firms. And Bitwise Asset Management is the proven leader in crypto indexes and index funds."

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Meta's losses show the metaverse's costly risk – Insider Intelligence

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Facebook parent Meta launches startup accelerator with India’s IT ministry in metaverse push – TechCrunch

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Meta Platforms is looking at India’s burgeoning startup ecosystem as it bolsters its bet on the metaverse. The social juggernaut has partnered with the Indian IT Ministry’s startup hub to launch an accelerator in the country to broaden innovation in emerging technologies, including augmented reality and virtual reality, officials said Tuesday.
MeitY Startup Hub and Meta’s effort, called XR Startup Program, will work with 40 early-stage startups and help them in research and development and developing workable products and services. Each startup will also receive a grant of over $25,000, the American giant said.
The program, supported by Meta’s $50 million XR Programs and Research Fund, will initially hand pick 80 startups to attend a bootcamp. It will also help startups with finding customers, inking relationships and raising funds, Meta said.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said the program is especially aimed at helping encourage technology innovation in smaller cities and towns.
The XR Startup Program is the latest of Meta’s growing participation in the South Asian market’s upskilling efforts. The firm, whose Facebook and WhatsApp services identify India as their largest market by users, partnered with Central Board of Secondary Education, a government body that oversees education in private and public schools in the country, to launch a certified curriculum on digital safety and online well-being, and augmented reality for students and educators in the country.
The program — to be implemented by four Indian institutions, including IIT Delhi — will also host a “grand challenge” for innovation in categories including education, healthcare, entertainment, agritech, climate action, sustainability and tourism, the American giant said.
“India will play a pivotal role in defining future technologies. Decisions and investments made here in India now shape global discussions on how technology can deliver more economic opportunity and better outcomes for people. It is critical that we help to create an ecosystem that will enable India’s tech startups and innovators to build the foundations of the metaverse,” said Joel Kaplan, VP of Global Policy at Meta, in a statement.
Meta’s interest with working with startups in India is also not newly found. The company has backed three startups in the country, including social commerce platform Meesho and online education group Unacademy.
3 views: Is the metaverse for work or play?

“India’s rapid tech adoption combined with a vast pool of tech talent puts the country in a vantage position for shaping the future of the internet,” said Ajit Mohan, VP and MD of Facebook India, in a statement.
“For this future to be equitable, it will require active participation from all stakeholders, including developers, businesses, creators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs. We are excited to collaborate with MeitY Startup Hub and hope that the XR Startup Program will act as a catalyst to unlock the use of immersive technology across sectors like education, healthcare, agritech and tourism, not only in India but across the globe.”

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