Makers of The Metaverse: McKenna Sweazey Of metaXmoda Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
… Curiosity. Needing to know more about the possible innovations spurs a lot of the creation in the space and makes for valuable contributors. You can go deep and narrow into a topic or wide and superficial into all the topics, but gathering knowledge about how Web3 is growing is critical.
The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing McKenna Sweazey.
McKenna Sweazey is an experienced global marketer and Web3 expert, having worked for brands such as YSL, Google, and the Financial Times. Her focus is taking marketing best practices and applying them to Web3 opportunities for brands. She runs metaXmoda, a marketing consultancy that helps brands develop their plans and implementation strategies for harnessing Web3.
You can see more of her perspectives in her newsletter, metaXmoda, which covers evolving perspectives in Web3 marketing. And her first book, on Digital Empathy, is coming out this fall from Career Press.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
My dream was always to work in fashion, and I started my career at Yves Saint Laurent. But the lure of tech and its innovations eventually sucked me in and I spent time at various start-ups. With the advent of Web3 and the included technologies, metaverse, AR/VR, NFTs, I realized I could finally combine the two passions in a really exciting way.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles. It’s such a beautiful story about how your perception of a situation is far more important than the actual situation. I read it in a blue period of my life, and it was instrumental in snapping me out of that sadness. I saw a path to changing my own perception thanks to the beauty of that story.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.
I’ve always been fascinated by the “new,” and that’s probably what spurred my career in fashion, the cycles of trends and the excitement they bring. When I started learning about Web3, it piqued my interest for many of the same reasons, watching cycles and trends happen. Only in Web3 does everything seem to be happening at Warp Speed! I think it was mostly the launch of companies like DressX and the Fabricant, who were early in bringing digital fashion to the forefront. Brands like that started me down the rabbit hole of what this new technology revolution would bring to the fashion and beauty industries.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
Everything about this industry is exciting to me. I think the best part is the diversity of people playing pivotal roles, and getting to meet them and understand how they are making Web3 come alive is the best part. These innovations will change everything in our lives, and seeing how people like recruiters and fashion designers alike are finding unique ways to pivot is fun.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Leap and the net will appear. I love this idea of having faith that everything will work out. In reality, this is so not me. I’m a worrier, an over-planner, with a spreadsheet for everything. I have to be reminded to have faith in the universe and to believe things will work out, so the idea has stuck with me.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Perhaps ironically, since they freely admit to understanding about a quarter of my newsletter (metaXmoda on Substack), but my parents were the first(only?) to tell me this was the best work of my career by far. Starting out in a new space can be daunting, but it’s nice to know it aligns with their (very high) hopes and dreams for me.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m working on a few projects to help content creators, whether they are brands or individuals, better connect with their users and find new mediums to delight their fans. A few key players have dictated the way we consume content, but with user-owned platforms in the metaverse, there are so many different ways to interact with brands and creators. This opportunity is exciting on the one hand, because it provides more direct compensation for creators, helping them take home a larger share of the revenue from their creations. It’s also exciting because it levels the playing field, giving so many more people the opportunity to experiment with the idea of “what is content?” Any time you have that explosion of access, creativity blossoms.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?
The ways Web3 and the metaverse will change the creator economy are engaging notions for me right now. NFTs are just the tip of the iceberg in the shifting value proposition between consumers and the content they consume.
The second is the lower barrier to entry for fashion design. Because it only takes software knowledge to design a dress, not access to fabrics or factories, many more people who want to create fashion can. That makes for an exciting time to watch the trends and see what kinds of designs gain traction and popularity. The next question then will be, how will this affect physical sales?
Lastly, the opportunity for all of us to embody the identity we feel most comfortable with. In the metaverse, I am exactly who I want to be. I can represent my physical, emotional, and intellectual selves in a way that feels most authentic to me. This opportunity for authenticity hasn’t been true for many humans across time. And the mass adoption of our true selves could lead to really novel evolutions in how people relate and engage with each other.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
I think one of my biggest concerns is representation. Particularly for women, making sure that there are avatars and profile pictures that feel true to people’s authentic version of themselves, not a “perfect’ version that seems very video game-y, the Lara Croft version.
I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?
Virtual work is one of the most exciting use cases for AR and VR. Connecting with colleagues, brainstorming, and having random “water cooler” moments can all be more effectively simulated in a 3D virtual workspace. Proximity and facial expressions are much easier to simulate in a metaverse-type world, particularly as the technology evolves.
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
Equality of access to creative industries. The costs of computing power and software are coming down, giving more people access to the tools needed to be creative in an immersive and luxurious way. The hundred million dollar budget required to make action films that excite audiences will be a thing of the past, a small, agile, technically-minded team will be able to create the same effects for a fraction of the price. Combine that change with innovative funding models, like NFTs or DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations), and artists will be able to control their creative destinies like never before.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
It’s not all about the headsets. A persistent, 3d internet can and will show up in our lives in so many different ways. So many people tell me they “don’t like the metaverse” because of this fear of wearing a headset and being disconnected from reality. And while I think VR technology has some elegant applications, I believe AR and 3d internet are much more applicable to this moment in time and can be a seamless bridge between the physical world and the virtual.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”
Curiosity. Needing to know more about the possible innovations spurs a lot of the creation in the space and makes for valuable contributors. You can go deep and narrow into a topic or wide and superficial into all the topics, but gathering knowledge about how Web3 is growing is critical.
Open-mindedness. So much of what’s taken as an accepted fact in these industries changes from person to person and month to month. Being willing to change your ideas on what IS a metaverse or how your avatar SHOULD look will help people stay at the forefront and not get bogged down by their own preconceived notions.
Creativity. The sky’s the limit. The metaverse is a waste if we don’t push it to the limitations of creative expression.
Commerciality. BUT someone has to pay for all this innovation. Finding new ways to monetize these industries will be critical in a way that works for consumers and brands.
Zen. It can feel like a relentless 24-hour news cycle in the Web3 world, so finding a way to cultivate a feeling of Zen helps to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
What if we baked old-fashioned ideas of community into the metaverse? What if people lost social credit, in a public way, for behaviors that violated an agreed-upon code of ethics? We have an opportunity to make the internet better and we should seize that chance
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Cathay Hackl, the godmother of the metaverse! She understood the power of the metaverse, both for human connection and for brands, early on and her thought leadership in the space is unparalleled.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!