Wisdom From The Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries, With Nancy Beaton of VCOIN
Surround yourself with smart women. Build a circle of trust at work and in life. Build each other up and support each other. We do not need to be in competition, we need to work in collaboration.
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, as a part of our interview series called “Women Leading The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy Beaton.
Nancy Beaton is the Vice-President of Strategy at Together Labs, the technology parent company behind the leading friend discovery metaverse and social app IMVU and VCOIN, an ERC-20 token, built on Ethereum. Nancy Beaton currently leads efforts to turn the economy of IMVU, one of the largest virtual 3D worlds, into the next generation of market exchange through blockchain technology and VCOIN, which lets all users hold, earn and exit the platform with real value.
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?
Nancy Beaton: I’m a “good” Midwesterner, born and raised most of my life in Kansas before moving to Colorado to help start a tech company in Boulder. While both my parents started as teachers, my dad eventually found his way to politics and ended up being one of the longest-serving Lt. Governors of the state. And, growing up it seemed like a lot of obligations at the time, but traveling the state with him and going to dinners, press conferences and even having my family be visible in the media really exposed me to a lot that my formal education did not.
On the more formal side of my upbringing I have three degrees (BA in Rhetoric, MS in Journalism and an MBA) as I need to be continuously learning which likely contributed to me typically jumping at new career opportunities that challenged me — which is also why I think I was so attracted to starting new businesses, especially in the ever-changing environment of tech.
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?
As I mentioned before I have an insatiable appetite to learn, there isn’t one touchstone book or podcast that had an impact on me…I listen to and read as many as I can. I can tell you that growing when getting in trouble, my dad would always say, “well, what did you think would happen?” This was a common phrase in my house and likely hit meet more than a single market strategy from an Olgivy book. It left me always thinking through scenarios, what would happen and a bit of strategic game play when it came to business.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.
We have all seen the Ready Player One type movies, Westworlds and others that portray the idea of a unified experience across the Metaverse and I personally believe these are all a matter of “when” and not “if”. I have been fortunate enough to be on the forefront of some great tech plays and believe in the power of what X Reality, what it can bring to users and how it can shape the market.
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?
I am a firm believer that we achieve our ultimate success with help from others. It is key to surround ourselves with friends, mentors, bosses and colleagues who make us better and stretch us to play at the top of our game. It is why I feel lucky to have had strong mentors and why I choose to be a mentor in programs such as TechStars.
Specifically, I am fortunate to have first, a strong group of women that I call friends, mentors, colleagues and part of my circle of trust that I can turn to for any part of my life — — professional and personal. For any woman, young or old, this is essential. Things are different for women and we need others who understand and can support us.
On the business side, I would say that I have been in business some way or another with John Burris, Chief Strategy Officer for Together Labs, for the past 20 years. He pushes me to recognize what I am capable of, even when I might not see it myself, is something for which I am grateful. And, while we challenge each other, the friendship, friendship of our families and his guidance has helped me reach where I am today.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
VCOIN. This is the first digital currency that can be earned in a virtual world and transferred off of the platform and converted to real cash for people to us in the real world. Based on Blockchain technology, this puts control in the hands of earners in virtual worlds, games and communities and enables users to turn the love of the game and the time they spend to real money.
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.b What in particular most excites you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?
What excites me most is the immersive nature that VR, AR and MR deliver to users. I already see it with my eight year old son who dives deep into Minecraft on his Oculus because “it feels more real”. His expectations are already high when it comes to what you can do with technology and eventually AR,VR and MR will meet and exceed those expectations.
Secondly, I believe that when you combine these technologies with other new and exciting technologies such as blockchain, NFTs and other forms of user control and interaction the market will really begin to take off in a meaningful way.
What concerns you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
Right now, the most proven business case is gaming with just a few standout examples. And, don’t get me wrong, gaming is a great industry in which to have success — it is bigger than Movies and North American sports combined. Obviously, we are huge fans of the game and social gaming industry.
But for the AR, VR and MR industries to really take hold we need to see proven business models in other industries as well. This will be a matter of time as the technology becomes more widely adopted with access in lower-priced devices and accessibility across devices in everyone’s hands. This is when it will turn from a “novel science” to a useful product.
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
Definitely. VR, AR and MR have great capabilities in the areas of health care — which is front and center on everyone’s minds right now, construction proof of concepts, mapping with AR and arts and galleries creating more immersive experiences than listening to guided tours on headsets.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in broader terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? If not, what specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
I think there is always room for improvement — especially when it comes to women in STEM. I think we address this starting at the roots:
First, we need to highlight more women in STEM. As we discussed before, no one gets to the top of their game without mentors. It makes it even harder when you don’t see anyone like you as a successful leader, harder to find a mentor to help you navigate a sometimes difficult path, and harder to see yourself in the field at all.
Secondly, we need to share more of what STEM is — Amazon is STEM, Facebook is STEM, Google is STEM, Snap is STEM. We need to attract more young women to the field with the products, companies and interests they know and have today. It starts in school where it should be core to the curriculum and not an after-school offering to join STEM as it is in many classrooms today.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
Virtual experiences are more than just fun games. These experiences truly connect users, create friendships and give users a means to make a living. Unlike just scrolling through curated social posts, true virtual experiences — like those we have at Together Labs — can create healthy social environments with new friends and give users a way to turn the time they spend in the game into a way to make real value.
For example, in IMVU, our users provide all of the virtual goods and services on the platform. Now, those that are wedding officiants, avatar editors, personal shoppers can provide services, earn a digital currency (VCOIN) and convert that VCOIN to real cash. When you hear from this Producers, as we call them, connect with users, provide a valuable service and earn real money. Very different from a traditional first-person shooter experience on a console.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in Tech” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Five leadership lessons…wow, after this many years in tech, I have learned a lot.
- Both men and women are smart, many times only men believe they are smart enough. Too many anecdotes on this one to choose just one.
- Both men and women are smart, many times only men believe they are smart enough. I am saying it twice because it is that important.
- Walk into the room like you belong there…because you do. When I was younger in my career we went to Japan to research a new product offering and how to bring it to market. As was the custom at that time, they had two tables facing each other (one for our team and one for the partner’s team). Name tags were placed from center to the end based upon professional hierarchy. Being one of only two women my name tag was at the end — although I was second in seniority. Without causing embarrassment I picked up my name tag and moved it to the middle to sit across from my partner counterpart.
- Always be learning, be watching, be listening. Unfortunately, oftentimes a weakness of women in tech is that we don’t feel we belong — or it has been so hard to be recognized, you sometimes question that. So we are always trying to improve, to listen to what people need and carefully watching. Use this as your superpower — and you will quickly surpass those that stagnantly rely on only what they possess today and ego.
- Surround yourself with smart women. Build a circle of trust at work and in life. Build each other up and support each other. We do not need to be in competition, we need to work in collaboration.
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. :-)
Free good education to everyone. It is a great equalizer and can also be a great barrier. I have been fortunate to be born into a circumstance and environment where it was available, valued and made accessible. But not everyone has that opportunity and they should. It should be a basic right.
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 :-)
There are so many.
A living leader — likely Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx. I love her drive and grit, even when she got into an industry she didn’t know. And, even today she hasn’t lost that drive, nor the desire to change women’s lives.
The nerd in me — I have always been fascinated by the Algonquin Roundtable — the idea that smart, sassy and well-read people would get together and banter and collaborate every day at lunch is my cup of tea.To be part of that once would be amazing.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!