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Hong Kong’s Web3 ‘Mr. Metaverse’ vs. Mark Zuckerberg

CNBC | Rebecca Fannin | Apr 14, 2022

animoca brands - Hong Kong's Web3 'Mr. Metaverse' vs. Mark Zuckerberg

In the evolving metaverse economy, Yat Siu, the founder of a once little-known mobile gaming startup, is becoming known by a nickname: Mr. Metaverse. He's pivoting his Hong Kong-based company Animoca Brands to help shape Web3 in a way that he says will offer an alternative to the tech giants — from Meta to Microsoft, Tencent and Snap — as consumers enter a new immersive market but are wary of a technology that could still be tightly controlled by the biggest corporations.

Since metaverse-like elements began popping up in video games in 2018, the Hong Kong-based upstart has scrambled to invest, acquire and build a next iteration of the internet.

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"We are investing aggressively and broadly to facilitate the growth of the open metaverse," said Siu, Animoca Brands' executive chairman.

"We're in a bit of a hurry because we think the biggest threat isn't regulation, but it is groups like Facebook or Tencent. This model of an open metaverse is very much in contradiction to the way that they've currently constructed their business," he said.  "Right now all the data you give to Facebook doesn't belong to you. It belongs exclusively to Facebook. We believe in a shared network, giving digital property rights to all, and giving creators equity in the space."

Making money in Web2, moving to Web3

As the metaverse evolves, revenue models could be drawn away from advertising, subscriptions and in-app purchases of traditional models to sales of digital assets and transaction fees among participants or individual owners. But how the revenue is allocated is a big point in ongoing debate, and tension, within the metaverse community, highlighted again this week when early adopters balked at Meta Platforms' plans to take as much as 50% of the fees on virtual asset sales.

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Animoca Brands, now a unicorn, has been preparing for a battle over control of Web3 virtual world data by luring more than $810 million in funding over the past two years from metaverse VC specialist Liberty City Ventures in New York, as well as high-profile names including Winkelvoss Capital, Soros Fund Management and Sequoia China. Singapore-based Temasek and China-connected Boyu Capital are adding $150 million this month, according to sources familiar with the funding, on top of nearly $360 million raised in January at a valuation over $5 billion.

James Lang, managing director at Liberty City Ventures:

"Web3 represents an incredible opportunity and a threat," said early Uber investor and serial tech entrepreneur Shervin Pishevar. "The talent, energy and money that is going into it will create a perfect storm, a classic cycle of value creation and destruction," he said. "There's potential for companies to trip in this major transition as a new lattice of the Net develops with decentralized distribution and finance that allows users to be liberated from digital fiefdoms."

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