Updated: Apr 24

In the first 10 minutes of this years Facebook Connect conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned the word Metaverse 17 times. An hour later he announced that Facebook, one of the largest companies on the planet, was changing its name to Meta. But what does this nebulous term actually mean?

The term originated in Neal Stephenson sci-fi book Snow Crash released in 1992. It refers to a virtual, 3D videogame-like world where people are represented by avatars. Users, be they individuals or corporations, can build destinations like games, music venues, and social clubs along “the Street” which bisects the entire metaverse. In order to do so, planning approval and fees must be paid to a trust that’s responsible for server fees and general upkeep of the metaverse. There are multiple currencies mentioned throughout the book, both fiat and otherwise. In summary, there is no single company that owns the metaverse, nor currency that rules it.

While companies talk about building the metaverse, what 99% are actually building is more akin to a microverse. A microverse has little, if any, interoperability with other microverses. They can monetize through subscription fees and by selling items and powerups. They may or may not have their own currency enabling in game economies, and friendships and social graphs are microverse specific. Think Roblox.

Then there are macroverses, which are essentially a collection of microverses owned by a single entity. Items and access are still sold per microverse but because each is owned by the same entity a single currency may be used. Elements like identity, achievements and social graphs can be shared, although skills are largely microverse specific. Think EA’s Origin or Activision Battlenet.

Lastly, there is the Metaverse, a universal protocol that makes all things within it interoperable. It’s like reality, only digital with the rules existing in software rather than nature. The challenge is that while nature dictates the laws of physics, software is created by people who don’t always agree on laws resulting in things like varied countries and religions. It’s also why we have 8,100 different cryptocurrencies. The challenge is further complicated when people are incentivized to drive value to their particular belief system, which in the case of Web3 is a core principle. Over time universal standards created by centralized authorities are needed which, in the case of cryptocurrency and Web3 is somewhat paradoxical to their decentralized ethos, which is where DAOs can help. But I digress…

The conclusion I’ve come to is that while it’s unlikely in my lifetime that we’ll see the singular metaverse described in Snow Crash, I expect to see more interoperability between micro and macroverses. This will appear small and first, perhaps the ability to read data from a crypto wallet like metamask, but will ultimately become a functionality people come to expect. This is where I think the metaverse opportunity lies. In the small threads that can one day form the rope that pulls the world towards that universal protocol that is the metaverse.

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The old adage goes, “Give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.” But what if you make a living selling fish? Teaching people to catch their own fish might not be in your best interest. Now substitute your average fishmonger for a trillion-dollar public company, and substitute fish for iPhones. What you have is the crux of the right to repair electronics movement.

Consumer electronic companies like Apple would rather sell you a new product than provide information on how to repair the one you already own. While they offer a Genius Bar for repairs, these can be costly and visits are time-consuming. Beyond consumer electronics, farmers recently found they could no longer complete simple repairs on the John Deere tractors they own without going to John Deere. Arguments from manufacturers range from trying to ensure customer safety, to protecting IP, but the cynic in me says they just like to sell fish.

In the automotive industry, a law was passed in 2012 that required car manufacturers to provide information to owners and service centers so repairs can be conducted. While Tesla has pushed back on this, the laws are generally respected. Inspired by these laws, The Repair Association was formed in 2013 to push the adoption of the same laws for the consumer electronics industry. Adoption in this industry is slow with Apple showing little interest in the topic.

The byproduct of these difficult to repair electronics is 50 million tons, or 13lbs per human on the planet, of e-waste every year. Only 17% of e-waste gets recycled. Toxic materials in e-waste like mercury, cadmium, and lead end up poisoning groundwater when not disposed of properly. Great video here summarizing the e-waste problem.

Our latest investment in Framework is setting out to fix this problem. From their website…

Consumer electronics is broken. We’ve all had the experience of a busted screen, button, or connector that can’t be fixed, battery life degrading without a path for replacement, or being unable to add more storage when drives are full. Individually, this is irritating and requires us to make unnecessary and expensive purchases of new products to get around what should be easy problems to solve. We need to improve recyclability, but the biggest impact we can make is generating less waste to begin with by making our products last longer.

The conventional wisdom in the industry is that making products repairable makes them thicker, heavier, uglier, less robust, and more expensive. We’re here to prove that wrong and fix consumer electronics, one category at a time. Our philosophy is that by making well-considered design tradeoffs and trusting customers and repair shops with the access and information they need, we can make fantastic devices that are still easy to repair. Even better, what we’ve done to enable repair also opens up upgradeability and customization. This lets you get exactly the product you need and extends usable lifetime too.

We know these are big claims and consumer electronics is littered with the graves of companies with grand ideas and failed executions. The proof is going to be in the products. We’re excited about the team of fantastic engineers and designers we’ve pulled together who are carrying hard learned lessons from what we’ve built before, and we’re grateful for the capable and competent partners we’re working with who believe in our mission. We are looking forward to showing you the Framework Laptop and showing the industry and the world a framework for a better way.

Framework’s initial product is a laptop but they will be expanding into all areas of consumer electronics using the same strategic framework in the future. Tested did a fantastic video review with CEO and Founder Nirav Patel here. It’s a huge swing but how often do you have the opportunity to both save the planet and invest in a company with the potential to be the next Apple?

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Yesterday Anorak held it’s annual partner meeting on Sophya.Space. The goal is to bring together our LPs and portfolio companies to learn, connect and support each other. I’m grateful for all those who took time out of their busy schedule to attend and feel inspired by the support shown both during and after the event. What follows are the slides I presented providing a macro perspective on venture and Anorak, along with some color commentary.

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