Looking back, it has been a great ride launching and running a business organization thru the modern technological revolution. SBE Council launched in 1993, and I still marvel at all the work we cranked out without the benefit of advanced technological or digital tools. How we adopted and changed during the growth and maturation of the internet has been profound – as it has been for millions of entrepreneurs and small businesses worldwide. It promises to get more exciting in a Web3 world.
SBE Council launched during what I consider the pre-Internet period. I fondly remember, for example, when our new fax-blast system was cutting edge. As an early adopter of workplace flexibility, my chief economist and I would overnight edited documents, talk through edits on phone (until we were able to fax marked up documents back and forth) and then distribute those reports, letters to Capitol Hill, issue briefs, member newsletters and “action items” via the mail or through interns and service businesses that would hand deliver these items to the Hill, media outlets, or federal regulatory agencies. We used a lot of paper, postage, and couriers.
The early internet seemed pretty cool, and so was SBE Council’s first webpage in 1995 that used our logo as “wallpaper.” We didn’t get many hits because not that many people were on the internet or they didn’t know where to find us, but we knew we had to keep up with technology given the prophetic guidance about how “all of this” would be connected someday and allow us to reach many more small businesses and countless millions of others affordably and with ease. Things happened pretty quickly, and the rest is history (and I haven’t even brought my first flip phone into the story), as the internet has evolved and transformed in ways we never imagined. This has all been good news for small businesses and disruptive entrepreneurship.
Now, as we move into Web3, I see parallels between those who scoffed at the internet during its early period, and how some of today’s influencers are knocking the metaverse.
Of course, there are always the naysayers. However, the early metaverse is already here. People and businesses are using AR and VR in creative, helpful, and practical (and not so practical, but fun) ways. Indeed, the future remains exciting for the use and deployment of immersive technologies on connected platforms, for entrepreneurs and businesses as creators, employers and trainers, disruptors, and competitors in the marketplace.
While we are still in the early stages of this next stage of computing, investment in and use of immersive technologies is serious business. For example, Walmart has trained 1.5 million employees using VR technology that simulates real-store scenarios including Black Friday experiences. UPS, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Exxon Mobil and other companies have also tapped into the power of VR for employee training. In March 2022 Wendy’s announced the opening of a digital location in Meta’s Horizon World VR space. McDonald’s filed “at least 10 trademarks for its name, logo, McCafe and the rights to various goodies for a virtual restaurant.” Many retailers are busily preparing to meet consumers – and some have already met them – in the metaverse.
The metaverse also offers entrepreneurs, small businesses and local brands the opportunity to stake their place, create new experiences for customers, and be seen by new audiences. The “applications are limitless” and with the metaverse’s economic value possibly reaching more than $5 trillion by 2030, those who discount the internet’s next stage, which will develop and evolve in ways we cannot even imagine, will be left behind.
The Metaverse Business Alliance will work to educate businesses, policy leaders, lawmakers and the public about the powerful and positive potential of the metaverse, the important uses of immersive technology currently, and why we must continue to support investment and growth in this emerging computing space. It is critical that the U.S. continue to lead this next technological phase, and I look forward to working our business community allies in these needed educational and advocacy roles.