Michael Maoz of Salesforce: On the Long Road to Metaverse, Crypto and NFTs Just the Latest Steps

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As if there weren’t enough focus on the Metaverse and the role technologies like virtual/augmented reality, cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFT) will play in its expansion into our world, Microsoft’s $70 billion acquisition of video game publisher Activision put an even bigger spotlight on the topic.

But, while most people had never heard of the metaverse before Facebook changes its name to Meta, the idea of it is at least a couple of centuries old, as I learned in a recent conversation with a few venerable technology pioneers.

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In fact my CRM Playaz co-host Paul Greenberg and I introduced a new segment on the show we call Venerableness. It’s all about having conversations with folks that for decades have “been there, done that”, and are continuing to do it at the highest levels in the tech industry. And we were really glad to have two folks who completely fit that description to kick this off:

My CRM Playaz co-host Paul Greenberg and I introduced a new segment on the show we call Venerableness.  It’s all about having conversations with folks that for decades have ‘been there, done that’, and are continuing to do it at the highest levels in the tech industry.  And we were really glad to have two folks who completely fit that description to kick this off:

  • Steve Gillmor – One of the forefathers of podcasting founding one of the first two podcasts in history with The Gillmor Gang (which is still going strong and I’m proud to be a member of) and currently serves as Head of Technical Media Strategy for Salesforce.
  • Michael Moaz – Former Distinguished Analyst for Gartner and current Senior Vice President of Innovation Strategy for Salesforce

Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation.  To hear the full conversation click on the embedded SoundCloud player.

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Brent Leary:  Where are we with the Metaverse?  Is it real?  Is it something that will be as big as some people say it will be?

Michael Maoz:  I sit with this kid every day and we sometimes go skating, sometimes kick the soccer ball and sometimes I sit and watch him play Roblox. And that’s Metaverse in training, if you want to think about it. That’s really the MIT for 6-year-olds. Think about all the things they’re doing, they’re completely immersed, and almost a daily basis. Hundreds of millions of people are in that thing and think about the things they’re doing. There’re different dimensions working. So you have to make really quick critical decisions about, do I want to give up some coin or gain some coin? Do I want to accelerate and go after? Do I go to another level? How much risk do I want to take on? I mean, is this real or is this real? This is real.

This is a total reality where they’re meeting people, but not real people. And when we’re talking on a FaceTime or sending me a TikTok, the 6 year old, he is in the face of a rabbit, he’s talking like him, but he looks like a rabbit. So this is in the sense that we are getting more meta anyway, ever since we started printing paper and calling this value; and then we said gold represents value. And now we’re doing Bitcoin and non fungible tokens (NFTs), and we’re calling them real. So this is just a step along the way. And I think every major crisis in history has launched another step into like meta stuff, like dataism after World War I, right? This is just setting things free. And I like that. It’s another step into meta that we’ve been on for hundreds of years.

Steve Gillmor: Michael, can you explain if you think there’s some sort of significance of the metaverse to the Enterprise?

Michael Maoz:  To the Enterprise. Just think about what some of the football teams in Europe are doing right now. We call them soccer teams, but football teams, what are they doing? Some of the clubs, they’re starting to give out these tokens for being fans and the more tokens you have, the more credibility you have and the more you get to influence what kind of merch they’re selling, what kind of food they’re selling, what kind of partnerships they get into. This metaverse stuff is going to mean a lot to businesses trying to do things like provenance, right? And move into more meta. 

Now I actually know Brent Leary, when he says he’s A B C D E F. Like, what the hell do I know? He put it on LinkedIn?  It’s all a bunch of deep, fake, garbage, right? But now I’m using something like blockchain and I’ve got certificates and everything he says, it has a provenance. And now we can be as meta as you want. So I can certify that the people I partner with are ethical, that they are inclusive, that there’s supply chain, there’s a sustainability. It’s all there vetted.

If I wanted to own something virtual I could never actually own something virtual, because everything on the internet is infinitely replicable. But now I can use the metaverse to say, no, this is mine. 

So I think, commercially, all those things I just talked about, the sustainability thing, all around the supply chain, all around identity, it’s going to open up incredible vistas. And even in medical care, medical certifications, vaccine certifications, it’s almost endless what you can do with the metaverse.

Brent Leary: Steve, give us your thoughts on what role the metaverse will it play in not only consumers, but in the enterprise going forward?

Steve Gillmor: Well, I think it is significant for the enterprise. But I also think Michael and I both worked for a guy, Marc Benioff, who in my opinion, had the subtle insight to observe the consumer space and then move it to the enterprise space.  So I think that we’re going to see a lot coming. 

There’s an argument underway about what Web 3.0 is. And personally, I couldn’t care less. But there’s certainly a lot of excitement about how you create these cowpads, if you will, so that you can then get all that goodness that Michael mentioned on top of it. How does it get funded? How does it get built out? What is the impact of open standards on that development? And I think they’re starting to fight that out right now in what’s allegedly called the media.

Paul Greenberg:  You see metaverse, games, AR, VR and practical activity on a day to day basis without a headset. But ultimately you’re talking about cultural impact, which is really where it’s going to have the most profound impact. So how do you see that? And maybe I’m wrong about what I’m saying, if I am, I am, but how do you see that Steve? Because you really have a really strong focus on culture.

Steve Gillmor: I don’t know if I have a focus on culture. What I do know is that every time I see something that I think is interesting to me, it usually comes from the consumer space. So I don’t see it as having an impact on it. I think that it’s the driver of it and that I think technologists take a look at that energy and then they figure out how to be able to harness it for business and for creativity. I was just listening the other night to a Clubhouse, and I’m on the Gang, constantly reviled by this guy in the upper left hand corner here, among others, for my fascination with Clubhouse and live audio in general. But this was a conversation with the director of the movie, “Don’t Look Up”. Have any of you seen it?

Paul Greenberg:  Yeah. It was all right. I didn’t love it. Overdone message.

Steve Gillmor: I Feel the same way. It was all right.

But the space, or in this case, the Clubhouse room was fascinating because I come from a background of technology coming from directing and producing in the creative spaces. So to me, this was a gold mine of information that was being served out in real time in a conversation where the director and two of his producers were basically describing the difficulties of how they navigated the pandemic, which as he says in this show was vaccines hadn’t even been invented at this point when they were starting production. And the impact on that, and also the intersection of his script and the improvisations that he encourages and navigates with his actors (Leonardo DiCaprio evidently an amazing improvisationalist). When you mention the Firesign Theater, what they gave, I think to us all, was this ability to sound like they were improvising, but actually it’s all tightly scripted.

Now there is an element of that in interchange, but so how that lights up this conversation that anybody can just turn on their phone and listen in. And possibly if they have something interesting to say, there were a bunch of questions coming from the audience. This is a profoundly disruptive technology and we are at the early days of it. But to see this kind of thing happening in the, this is going to go to every business and corporation and theater and everything else is going to be annotated based on this technology or something like it, like what we’re doing here. That’s a big deal.

Brent Leary: Can I just make one clarification of the venerable Steve Gillmor’s characterization of my thoughts on Clubhouse. I just didn’t understand it as a standalone. I think the technology and the live audio will just be integrated into the current platforms or maybe somebody will buy Clubhouse. But no, I think the technology and integrating live audio is definitely an important component, but not as a standalone.

Paul Greenberg:  I tend to agree. I see it as a backstage or an after party, really. I mean, the value in that, meaning all those conversations are going after the event. Clubhouse is a good place to have them. I’ve always seen it that way, to be honest, once I figured out, I was kind of waiting for all the celebrities to get off it, because I figured eventually the flame would die and the moths would leave. Right?

Steve Gillmor:   I’ve talked about this off screen with Michael Maoz several times. And the thing that he said to me in his early assessment of this is he said, I’m fascinated by this. I’m not sure why or if it’s important or not. I mean, I’m paraphrasing Michael’s reaction to it. But there was a characteristic of Clubhouse and also Twitter Spaces of not being able to record. And that locked in over the past two months or so. And then they developed these replay functions where the ability to listen to a room or a conversation was preserved after the actual live recording. And my feeling was that this is going to promote small groups of people who are looking for certain kinds of information to band together. 

There’s a new feature called Share With Clubhouse, where you can basically take a room you’re listening to and share it to the people who follow you or you follow. I’m not sure which. But to me that’s going to create this kind of community aspect of this thing, which is going to immediately lead to leaderboards, to top replays, which this show that I was just telling you about jumped to the top of the top replays and has stayed there for a couple weeks. Eventually that’s going to sort itself out into something other than just the celebrity aspects of this. This happened with Twitter as well. It started being all about recommended users and all of that stuff. And I’m not sure it’s yet survived that issue, but everybody in the Congress and in the Government basically has a Twitter account, except for people who, thank God, don’t have it anymore.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.

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