Office Hours: Virtual Reality Pioneer Philip Rosedale on the Future of the Metaverse

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

​CEO and Co-founder of High Fidelity Philip Rosedale
Courtesy of Philip Rosedale

This talk was originally broadcast as a live online discussion on Zoom that took place as part of Madrona Venture Labs' “Launchable: Web3 Startups” event on March 18, 2022.

Over 20 years ago, Philip Rosedale created what could be considered the first iteration of the metaverse.

It was Linden Lab, Rosedale’s San Francisco-based tech startup, that developed Second Life, the online multimedia platform where people could create avatars for themselves. At the time, Rosedale recalls, most outsiders didn’t really understand what Second Life was trying to do—making it a tough pitch.

“Just the very idea that people would do something other than, say, play a video game on a computer in 3D—they would just live there, build things, try to make money, do all this stuff—was a pretty foreign idea,” Rosedale said.

Today, the idea of a “second life” on the internet has entered the mainstream with the emergence of the metaverse, as well as a whole universe of Web3 applications from cryptocurrencies to NFTs. On this episode of Office Hours, Rosedale spoke with dot.LA co-founder and chairman Spencer Rascoff to discuss the metaverse’s rise in prominence and what the future may hold for immersive, virtual online worlds.

Rosedale’s own vision for the metaverse today isn’t just about turning the 2D world into a three-dimensional one, but making the internet feel alive. He mentioned how, when we’re web browsing, we have no sense of when other people are on the same page at the exact same time.

“Imagine [on] every site, [you] had the ability to be there together with other people,” he floated. “What would the rules be on that?”

While turning the internet into a live experience is something that will take time, crypto has already established itself as a potential “native currency” for the Web3 iteration of the internet. Rosedale noted that while crypto makes sense in a world where people are transacting online more than ever, he did raise concerns over who has been benefiting from its emergence..

“I'm much more concerned about crypto and wealth inequality—that crypto is absolutely going the wrong way on that, just as expected,” he said. “Any economist will tell you that's not a surprise. But crypto is making an even smaller number of people even richer than ever before.”

For Rosedale, it all reminds him much of the early days of the internet, and watching some companies rise to success while others fail spectacularly.

“Web3 feels to me a lot like the internet of the late ‘90s… Which is [to say], we all knew there was a lot of B.S. at the time.” he said. “But the general theme we knew to be true—that clearly things were moving from offline, from newspapers or magazines or other offline experiences, onto the internet.”

Want to hear more episodes? Subscribe to Office Hours on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.

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