In Focus: The Metaverse
In 1992 The Lawnmower Man was released in theaters. At the time the buzz was all about the movie's cutting edge visual effects, which helped to spark another business. Following the release of The Lawnmower Man, virtual reality kiosks popped up in malls all over America. For a few bucks patrons could throw on the head gear and visit virtual reality similar to that seen in the movie.
Yes, virtual reality has been around for a long time. While many were excited about the investment possibilities of virtual reality and augmented reality when Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014, it was lost on me, because I remembered how the virtual reality mall kiosks faded into oblivion as we moved further away from the release of The Lawnmower Man.
There's something about virtual reality and augmented reality that has never gotten me excited as an investor in the past. In a video several years ago about investment ideals, when it came to the topic of AR/VR, Scott Galloway once stated - and I'm paraphrasing here - that people are conscious of being cool and looking cool, and big headsets don't make anyone feel or look cool. When I heard the take I agreed with it 100%. But today, I'm starting to warm up to AR/VR and I think investors who have ignored it as I did should warm up to it too.
The evolution of virtual reality is in play, and that next layer to VR is the Metaverse. You've probably heard the term thrown around quite a bit in 2021 without having any idea what it is. Sadly, I don't really have a specific definition for you, but I will borrow one from Matthew Ball.
The Metaverse is an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence.
So Why Now?
It's true that progress is a slow process. We've been taking baby steps into the digital world, adding just a little bit more digital into our analog lives as time passes, but never going all in. Some of this has to do with infrastructure limitations, and some of it has to do with our cautious nature.
It took a global pandemic for companies to figure out that they could run their businesses from anywhere with their employees being anywhere as long as they had an internet connection, a feat that could've been accomplished in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Without the pandemic, going to the office everyday from 9 to 5 would still be the standard, and working from home everyday would still be seen as unusual.
Because of the pandemic we are all a little more comfortable with a virtual lifestyle, and this has provided a nice opening for us non-super techies to acknowledge the metaverse. The metaverse is going to change people's thinking about augmented and virtual reality, even though AR and VR are just a small piece of what the metaverse could be.
Although the hype around the Metaverse has caused it to become a buzzword like "blockchain" in 2015 and "the cloud" in the early 2010s, experts believe we're a decade or two away from a metaverse.
So Why Now Pt II?
In the early 2010s I was investor, but not a professional investor though. I invested to make money to supplement my income so that I could party from Monday to Sunday. In those days I wasn't thinking about using the stock market to build wealth or a portfolio that could replace my 9 to 5. Back then, as "the cloud" was making its rounds as the buzzword of the moment, and investment media ran segment after segment and article after article with the title "What is the Cloud?" Even though I saw the title pop up time and time again, I didn't investigate it as I should have.
In those days companies were popping up left and right claiming to be cloud computing companies because they allowed smartphone users to save their pictures, music, and documents in the cloud. Now knowing what we know, saving photos, music, and docs off premises or in the cloud is just the tip of the tip of the cloud and cloud computing.
During this time, let's say mid 2011, Amazon ($AMZN) was trading at under $300 per share, Google ($GOOGL) was trading for under $400 per share, and Microsoft ($MSFT) was under $30 per share. The cloud and cloud computing as we know it today transformed those three companies and helped create over $5 trillion in market value.
The cloud added a layer to the internet creating trillions of dollars in value, the metaverse will likely do the same and add even more value to the markets and to the portfolios of forward looking market participants. What I learned from the cloud and even the internet before that, when you start seeing "What is ...?" It's time to start looking for investments.
It was in 1994 when Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel asked what is the internet on NBC's Today Show. That was the signal for investors at that time to start investigating and investing in the internet. In the year following that Today Show episode, American Online's stock would split twice, first in November 1994, and then again in April 1995.
Who is Leading the Metaverse Charge?
The company's that appear to be leading the charge towards the metaverse may not surprise you. Facebook ($FB), Google ($GOOGL), Microsoft ($MSFT), Amazon ($AMZN), Apple ($AAPL), Sony ($SONY), Nvidia ($NVDA), and Unity ($U) are the major public companies. Then there's Epic Games, creators of Fortnite, and Valve on the private side.
Investors saw the internet age blow by former titans of industry like Sears. Then the move to mobile internet blew by another set of industry titans like Microsoft, Intel, and Compaq. This time around however, it's unlikely that the move to the metaverse blows by big tech of today, because they're all currently researching it in their own way.
Still, I think anyone interested in investing in the metaverse and what it could be should keep an eye out for the metaverse's version of America Online in 1992, which would be a small and not too well known company interested in doing big things that sound far out.
From Making Money to Becoming Wealthy
One thing I remember fondly from my time on Wall Street was how investors who made money navigating the market in the 80's had lots of spare cash to invest in the internet when it seemed like a wild idea. If their investments in the 80s made them rich, their internet investments made them wealthy. The metaverse is that new wild idea and we are entering the "what is the metaverse" phase, which means it's time to start investigating and investing.