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Metaverse: Wall Street not sold on Mark Zuckerberg's vision of the future – CBS News

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By Irina Ivanova
November 2, 2021 / 7:46 AM / MoneyWatch
Wall Street isn’t exactly hopping aboard Facebook’s plan to explore the metaverse. Shares in the social networking company fell to a five-month low on Thursday — the same day CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined its new direction at the company’s annual developer conference. 
Although Facebook’s strategic shift could eventually pay dividends, it “will take years to come to fruition while coming at a steep price,” CFRA analyst Angelo Zino told investors in a report. Investment bank Raymond James also dropped its price target on the company’s stock to $410, although it maintained a “buy” rating. 
Such caution is warranted. Even true believers in Facebook, which last week officially rechristened itself as Meta to underscore the company’s new mission, will likely have to wait years before seeing any return on what is sure to require a massive investment as the company pivots toward what it bills as the internet’s next stage. 
Bank of America analysts estimate that Facebook could have to sink as much as $50 billion into virtual reality, augmented reality and other building blocks for the emerging metaverse before it even breaks even. The scale of Facebook’s metaverse push poses a “risk of capital destruction,” they wrote, warning of the “potential loss of focus on core business” such as Instagram and Facebook as well as competition from Apple or other hardware companies. 
Translation: Building out the metaverse will be arduous and expensive, while the financial payoff is uncertain. 
More certain, by contrast, is that Facebook —  a company that in its early days famously trumpeted a willingness to “move fast and break things” — is now at a stage where big bets and speed of execution are essential. The personal network it’s created encompasses half the world’s population, and given the scrutiny it faces from governments, growing more by buying competitors seems unlikely.
To be sure, if anyone can foot the gargantuan bill of creating a new digital world, it’s Facebook. The company is on track to generate more than $100 billion this year from ad revenue — a figure larger than the GDP of Luxembourg or Costa Rica.
“They have a cash-cow business in the form of their current social media apps,” Mandeep Singh, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, told CBS MoneyWatch. “They can afford to make these kinds of big bets.” 
If Zuckerberg’s vision proves correct, the financial returns could be enormous. In its version of the metaverse, Facebook would own far more than a merged service or product, but rather it would control the very infrastructure where people lead their digital lives, said James Muldoon, a senior lecturer at the U.K.’s University of Exeter who studies technology and politics.
“Meta wants to own the digital infrastructure of 21st century life. They want to be the first mover in a new world of product, so that their hardware and software becomes the default,” Muldoon told CBS MoneyWatch. 
“The new move for Meta will be creating large digital worlds, with ecosystems, and they basically want to get in at the base,” he added. “They can charge content fees, subscription fees, licensing fees, transaction fees — they want to own the digital world in which content creators, users, operate.”
The term, first popularized in the 1992 sci-fi novel “Snow Crash,” refers to a virtual world that coexists and overlaps with the physical one, with people interacting as avatars. 
“The metaverse becomes the gateway to most digital experiences, a key component of all physical ones, and the next great labor platform,” venture capitalist Matthew Ball wrote in a treatise.
That world doesn’t exist today on anywhere near the scale Zuckerberg envisions, but a small version can be found in gaming. Platforms like Roblox and Minecraft allow gamers to collaborate to create different experiences, from battling to socializing; gamers make money by streaming and even hold protests in games in response to real-world events. Wearable computers, from the Apple Watch to Snap’s augmented-reality spectacles to Google’s failed Glass project, could make up another part of the metaverse. Nvidia’s Omniverse, which connects 3D environments into a shared virtual space, is another.  
Wall Street sees myriad ways to make money in this world, from virtual sports and concerts to fitness classes and souped up shopping.   
There are “multi-billion revenue opportunities,” Bank of America analysts wrote. “For example, 50-yard line seats for the Superbowl, taking a hitting class with [Major League baseball player] Buster Posey or shopping for sunglasses with virtual try-on may all be possible in the metaverse,” they said. 
Horizon Workrooms, a work-focused virtual space Facebook launched in August, could offer an upgrade on Zoom, allowing less awkward collaboration and even board meetings, said Singh of Bloomberg Intelligence.
“You can sit with your colleagues, and even though it’s virtual the experience will be a lot more intimate,” he said.
All these virtual experiences will be paid for with actual money, Zuckerberg outlined. 
“If you’re in the metaverse every day, you’ll need digital clothes, digital tools, digital experiences,” he said in an October 25 earnings call, with this digital economy worth “hundreds of billions of dollars” by the end of the decade.
Not surprisingly, there will likely be plenty of ads in the metaverse. Zuckerberg has made clear he wants to carry Facebook’s business model, which is based on using personal data to sell targeted advertising, into this new domain. 
“Ads are going to continue being an important part of the strategy across the social media parts of what we do, and it will probably be a meaningful part of the metaverse, too,” he said in the call. 
To draw people in, of course, Facebook will need a critical mass of users. Singh calculated that 12 million to 15 million people would need to join the metaverse before the company starts reaping the benefits — a milestone he thinks will take at least three years. 
Virtual reality technology also remains clunky, hindering more widespread adoption, said Muldoon of the University of Exeter. “People may not want to spend that much time in the metaverse,” he said.
But even if individuals aren’t yearning to enter such virtual worlds, it’s possible that other companies — employers or schools, for instance — could impel them. 
“Corporations do have a way of forcing people to use new technology, even though it starts off being unpopular at first, primarily through workplaces and other institutions,” Muldoon said. 
This could happen if large companies migrate to Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms, for instance. “Meetings will be held in the workplace, primarily through virtual headsets — they will be forced to attend online events, and it will be something many workers will experience as … a new drudgery for their work,” he said.
Facebook’s bid to create a new virtual world — just as it faces mounting legal and regulatory scrutiny in the current one — has irked privacy advocates and tech critics. “[T]his is a PR ploy to distract from Facebook’s myriad scandals,” Matt Stoller, research director of the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly group, wrote in his newsletter. 
Muldoon noted that the move could backfire by making regulators more likely to crack down on the company. 
“This might be a bridge too far, particularly for the EU, which is looking at digital markets. This may push them to take stronger action than they otherwise might have,” he said.
First published on November 1, 2021 / 12:33 PM
© 2021 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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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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