Will there be enough talent to build the metaverse?
The battle is heating up for workers with skills to build the metaverse. Microsoft’s AR team has lost around 100 people in the past year – many of them to Meta – while Apple has also been seeing departures and Meta itself needs to fill 10,000 roles. As part of The Drum’s Metaverse Deep Dive, we ask whether there will be enough talent to build the metaverse.
No longer just a virtual stomping ground for gamers, the metaverse world is set to go mainstream this year. But despite recruitment still catching up to the concept of the metaverse, big tech has found it essential to rush in to capture this potential $800bn opportunity by 2024.
Because the metaverse requires different types of emerging tech to build another ’universe’ that is close to reality – virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), artificial intelligence (AI) and more – there is a need for skilled talent that is both hard to find and hard to retain.
Raghu Ravinutala, co-founder and chief executive of Yellow.ai, says you can’t just hire people on the back of their experience and skills, adding that team fit and “the emotional quotient“ play a big role too. “But how do you gauge this in the metaverse?“ he asks.
“As it is so new and constantly evolving, talent recruitment criteria aren’t outlined extensively. We are trying to find mythical creatures in a way – talent with big brand experience and an inherent understanding of a ’platform’ that has been in mainstream existence for less than two years. Hiring in the metaverse is likely to grow for sure, but finding skilled talent to meet the growing demand can be challenging.“
Ravinutala adds that, as the metaverse continues to evolve, the right recruitment strategy “will depend on how well we comprehend this new space, what it is capable and not capable of, and how we find or upskill talent to help grow this new reality as it matures in the future“.
Jason Velliquette is the executive vice-president for digital at R3. He points out the importance of also recognizing that building the metaverse will rely on more than just AR developers and designers.
It will be, he says, the result of a grand composite of human interfaces, advanced computing power, enhanced infrastructure, new protocols, intersecting payment services, experience design and the creator economy.
“Talent from every corner of the tech and marketing industries will bring value to the construction of the metaverse. It’s not just the tech companies that are headhunting – brands such as Nike, Samsung, Budweiser and Adidas also have their sights on recruiting this next generation of builders. And let’s not forget the OG pioneers of the metaverse – Roblox, Minecraft, and others in the gaming industry.”
In agreement with Velliquette is Danny Stefanic, the chief executive officer of MootUp, a virtual event platform. He says the talent needed to build metaverse solutions is a rare breed as they require a deep understanding of web technology and business and enterprise needs.
He notes that many believe they can simply take the talent from the games industry and are ready to rock, but that is not the case. “Most of the teams in the games industry use Unity or Unreal game engines, and these engines usually rely on building apps. That is why our business had no choice but to build our pure web engine, called Hyperspace, which has enabled thousands of enterprise virtual worlds to be created.”
Stefanic goes on to explain: “Today’s game talent doesn’t know much about the depth of web technology and how to use it to create integrated scalable solutions. If you are building a metaverse team, you will need to cross-skill your people but that will likely take time.
“Ultimately, the metaverse technology stack will be built on web technology. Currently, Unity and Unreal are filling the gap by creating a virtual computer in the cloud for every single user – a virtual computer that is powerful enough to run the 3D and video stream it to each device. This doesn’t work well globally, though. It doesn’t scale well and every user is now running two devices – one at their fingertips and the one in the cloud.
”To add to that, there is a unique video stream per user, not one broadcast shared with many but one broadcast per user. You can see the sustainability impact here as well, at a minimum doubling the carbon footprint of each user.”
What other talents are needed in the metaverse?
With the metaverse merging both digital and physical worlds, it also gives rise to a whole slew of brand safety requirements that will need to be considered, says Arshan Saha, the chief executive officer for the Asia Pacific at Xaxis and GroupM specialized businesses.
He explains that on top of bringing together the right skills and talents to create the technology behind the metaverse, there should also be dedicated teams working towards emphasizing safety and privacy – whether it be bolstering data protection, securing in-world ID verifications or implementations or mass IoT integrations.
“This new world of technology is also slated to bring about a new generation of marketing and advertising opportunities where brands and consumers can come together to co-create and turn into reality a consumer ad experience unlike any before,” says Saha.
”As advertising continues to be the backbone of revenue for social platforms, acquiring the right people and skills relevant to advertising and media will be crucial for the success of the metaverse. The wealth of potential for advertisers also comes from being able to bring together the technology behind the metaverse and making use of the framework built on top of sensors, cameras, and headsets to enable a whole slew of new creative storytelling that is both engaging and effective.”
He continues: “To seamlessly integrate these is another skill set altogether, however. To keep a metaverse sustainable, a whole new ecosystem of advertising has to be created to circumvent adblocking and to create an interactive environment where ads are entertaining and non-intrusive.”
What should smaller platforms do?
Ultimately, poaching is nothing new. In every industry where the hiring market is competitive, top talent is going to be greatly sought after and smaller players will be up against larger and more established tech companies in a range of different areas.
Justin Banon, co-founder of Boson Protocol, says this could include the potential for increased responsibility in a smaller company where employees are allowed to shape the culture and direction of the business in a way they might not ever get near to in a large company with more rigid processes and protocols.
What’s more, he says, smaller tech companies are more likely to offer bonuses in the form of shares or tokens that have the potential to grow in a way that more established companies can’t.
“It’s not for everyone. Working at an early-stage startup requires perseverance and great resilience. The problems and challenges we come up against daily are different and offer employees exposure to a different realm of problems and challenges, and to come up with solutions to those challenges.
“We are building a new decentralized commerce ecosystem that will make the buying and selling of goods fairer and more equitable. Our business is entrenched in breaking down barriers of possibility to create a world that respects individuals and their data, while offering smaller enterprises the chance to win bigger than they do now, because large intermediaries, like Amazon, for example, are removed from the relationship between buyer and seller. Facebook’s metaverse will be a digital prison that will go to every length to maximize profits for shareholders. But there’s a whole new generation of people and companies out there that want to be part of building a more fair and equitable future.”
For more on the exciting new opportunities for marketers in this rapidly evolving space, check out The Drum’s Metaverse hub.