Web3 is an innovative and sometimes confusing space that many businesses are still learning to navigate and maximize. For some of the biggest brands in the world, Cathy Hackl has been the essential guide into the Metaverse.
Hackl is a Web3 strategist and tech futurist. As founder and Chief Metaverse Officer at Journey (formerly Futures Intelligence Group), she supports brands who are breaking ground and expanding their businesses into the virtual world. Her studio helps clients capitalize on tools like NFTs, gaming, virtual fashion, virtual worlds and Metaverse growth strategies. Hackl is largely credited with being the first professional to be bestowed the title of Chief Metaverse Officer.
Appropriately nicknamed the Godmother of the Metaverse, Hackl has been at the forefront of bringing Web3 to business strategy. But her success didn’t begin in tech. Hackl was a broadcast journalist before transitioning into corporate communications and live video.
“What I learned in broadcast journalism, from production, from attention to detail, from writing, is at the end of the day, a lot of what we do is telling stories, whether it’s using technology or not.”
With a newfound vision for storytelling in tech, Hackl joined augmented reality company Magic Leap as an Enterprise Strategist. She was deeply invested in her work, believing the brand to be the next Apple. So, when massive layoffs left more than half of Magic Leap’s staff unemployed, Hackl was devastated.
Hackl quickly recovered and took her talents to Amazon Web Services while also writing about tech at Forbes. In August 2020, she penned a piece about Direct to Avatar, a consumer model where brands could sell their products directly to users’ digital identities. Soon after, she was fielding inquiries from brands and founders who wanted to hire her to help them apply the Metaverse to their businesses. For Hackl, the decision to say yes and pursue Web 3 consulting full time came easily.
“I had been thinking about the metaverse and talking to executives about it since 2018, ‘I’m going to do this and dream big. And if I fail, I already have some amazing skills, and I can always go back if I need to,” Hackl recalled.
But she never looked back. In fact, Hackl built and led the agency she founded to a 7-figure acquisition in just 10 months.
Whether she’s in LA producing virtual concerts or in New York styling celebrities in virtual couture, Hackl has worked with dozens of notable brands on groundbreaking projects. These included guiding Ralph Lauren to launch virtual fashion lines, developing a community-centered digital collectible for Clinique; and collaborating with Boss Beauties to create the first NFT collection displayed at the U.N.
Although Hackl’s clients are making industry-leading moves in the Metaverse, she notes that not every brand has to make such big leaps. For those businesses who want to start small, she encouraged using parts of their innovation or marketing budgets to test the waters.
“There are ways for you to test assumptions in some of these virtual worlds or test how your brand might be able to do certain things. You can do those things as prototypes and privately. Not everything has to be a big headline maker,” Hackl said.
Hackl shared similar advice for women who want to explore careers in the Metaverse. She was quick to admit that the space is still male-dominated, and as an early adopter, she had to learn to carve out a lane for herself.
“I decided to take a page out of my male counterparts’ books and run with that. What did I see them doing? I saw them out there being really outspoken about the work they were doing. I saw them out there putting out a lot of thought leadership. And I said, ‘I’m going to do the same thing and I’m going to be unapologetically myself.’ And that’s what I started to do,” Hackl said.
Now a well-respected expert in Web 3, Hackl continues to show up boldly in TV appearances, speaking engagements, and her published works. Despite the challenges she sometimes faces, she knows that her representation as a Latina woman continues to open doors for other women to thrive in tech as well.
“I’m one of the few women who is out there very publicly leading in this space. I get attacked every once in a while. But that’s okay, because I feel like if I need to take some of what I call virtual bullets for lack of a better word, I’ll take them happily. Because I know that I’m taking them for the women who are coming right behind me,” Hackl said.
Hackl encouraged women who want to build their own careers in Web 3 to be bold about their goals and consider how their existing talents (even non-tech skills) can contribute to the fast-growing industry. She also advised women to push past their fear of leaping into tech by remembering they always have the option to pivot if things don’t go well. As for the lack of representation, Hackl noted that while the industry is male-dominated, there are excellent supports for women.
“It can be discouraging to go to a Web3 event and see mostly men. But there are lots of amazing Web3 women communities. Find those groups of people who you’re going to feel comfortable with, who are going to push you forward,” Hackl said.
Hackl’s support for women in tech isn’t just limited to representation and advice though. She puts her money where her mouth is as a limited partner for WXR, a venture fund focused on women-led startups in AI, AR, and the Metaverse.
“I wanted to move from observing things on the sidelines to actually investing. WXR was the first fund I ever put money into. And it helped me lose the fear of investing and join more funds after that. Now, I’m looking at more and more opportunities to be an angel [investor] and eventually would love to explore having my own fund as a VC,” Hackl said.
For women who aren’t founders but want to benefit from Hackl’s knowledge on Web 3, her latest book, Navigating the Metaverse: A Guide to Limitless Possibilities in a Web 3.0 World, is a great place to start. Written with beginners in mind, the book is meant to demystify the Metaverse for business owners and professionals alike.
“I’m hoping that anyone who reads the book can have that aha moment where everything clicks for them and they realize how Web 3, blockchain, and virtual worlds impact the future,” Hackl said.
With an impressive roster of clients and a newly published book on her resume, what’s next for Hackl? She’s working on a Web 3 project of her own – People of the Metaverse. Modeled after the Paris Salons of the Bell Epoque, People of the Metaverse aims to bring philosophers, thinkers, and creators together to build the future.
“There’s no agenda. It’s literally to bring these minds together so they can meet each other. And the collaborations and ideas that are going to come from there are going to benefit the world and the ecosystem,” Hackl shared.
For Hackl, it’s full speed ahead toward the future of the internet and she hopes to be a guiding light for the Chief Metaverse Officers to come.
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