Dr Martha Boeckenfeld, named one of the “Top 100 Women of the Future”

Interview with Dr Martha Boeckenfeld

Splitting her time between Spain, Switzerland and her own online “Marthaverse”, Martha is one of the world’s leading Web3 advisers. She works with many global organisation on their Web3 and Metaverse strategies. Martha explains why mainstream organisations need to take Web3 seriously, including:
  • Some of the great use cases for Web3 across the industrial, healthcare and education sector
  • How companies like Siemens and BMW are revolutionising their businesses by digital twins of their entire manufacturing process (aka “the industrial metaverse”)
  • The success of Starbuck’s online “stamps” loyalty program and revolutionary loyalty marketplace
  • How organisations can embrace Web3 by focusing on the customer experience.

If you want to have a look around the Marthaverse, please go to https://www.spatial.io/s/marthaverse-64025c5a7776f525558f58cd?share=1173226691664552099


Nick Abrahams:

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am absolutely delighted today to have an opportunity to speak with one of the great luminaries of the Web3 world, Dr. Martha Bothum.

Let me start that again. I knew I was going…

Ladies and gentlemen-

Martha Boeckenfeld:

You have to manage [inaudible 00:00:27].

Nick Abrahams:

I’m too tense. I’ve got to relax, I’ve got to breathe.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

I saw in your face, it was like, “Oh God, this name.”

Nick Abrahams:

I’m never going to get that name. Okay.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

You’ll get it.

Nick Abrahams:

I will get it. I’m going to get it. Sorry. Okay, let’s start again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am absolutely delighted today to be speaking with one of the great luminaries of the Web3 world, Dr. Martha Boeckenfeld is joining me. Martha, welcome to the show.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Thanks a lot for having me, Nick. Super, super excited to be here today and talk about my favorite topic, metaverse, Web3, and our new life.

Nick Abrahams:

And all of those things. So I bet Martha is a Web3 advisor. She’s the dean and partner of the Metaverse Academy. She’s a Metaverse Evangelista and also was named as one of the top 100 women of the future. And all of those completely deserved, I have to say. If you don’t follow Martha on various social media channels, then you should definitely do that because there’s just lots of great thought leadership and remarkable achievement.

So, Martha, why don’t we get into it and just, how did this all come about? What’s your backstory? How did you get to be where you are?

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Yeah, thanks a lot for asking these questions. I think I have a real, very diverse background, you can say. I’ve been trained as a lawyer, where I also have my PhD, and I started my whole career in Hong Kong. So very close, “close,” very close to Sydney, we talked about it before, to Australia. Traveled a lot of time there. So what always has, I would say, made my life easy, I always had people I could easily connect with. I had always people who supported me in my journey. Was it family, was it friends, was it people I just met, and I have to say also now the Web3 community is most likely the most welcoming community I’ve ever seen in my life. And what helped me is that I have a sense of taking risk, I would say, for myself. I’m always in an kind of adventure. And that’s also how I ended up with Web3.

So many, many years ago, I come from financial services. I was the CEO of a bank in London, so that was around 2016, 2017. And I saw so many things happening. So as a bank, I partnered with Deloitte Digital. And I went there with my team and we saw first time 3D printing. We were like, “Oh my god, you can print food in 3D.” Then we were all venturing with this bigger headsets, yeah. And we were like, “Oh, what is happening now?” Some were scared, some were super, I thought this is it. Everything becomes real what is virtual. And that’s really how I started.

And then in my different executive positions, whatever I did, I always did innovation. So even when I was at the bank, the CEO, I always had executive positions, always innovation, but not separate working groups or it was called the innovation department was always related to business and to execution. And I think that also helps a lot, because sometimes when you have to say when also with big companies, I worked at UBS, I worked with EXA , when the money is short, you can say, and the budget is low, when you add innovation or a strategy, for marketing even, it’s felt like these are not departments we have to support. You have to make sure from my point of view, that you are in the driving seat, that you try to be always somewhere where you have business and where you drive business and where you can demonstrate that with the innovation also business will come, even though it might take one or two years. So companies have to, in that sense, also be very patient.

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, you’re quite right. I mean, those heads of innovation roles, they’re always very difficult because much is expected and people need to deliver.

And so what I think is fascinating about what you bring to the Web3 world is you have what we would see as a very sensible and impressive mainstream career. And then now you find yourself leading the charge into Web3 and the Metaverse and so forth, which probably has a reputation for perhaps not being super straight down the line and so forth. So it is interesting how you’ve come to this part of your career.

Maybe just to sort of baseline a little bit, and when we talk about Web3 and Metaverse, do you have any sort of preferred definitions that you like to talk about? Particularly this podcast is for mainstream organizations, so to try to get the concept across to them?

Martha Boeckenfeld:

So I think we have two different parts, you can almost say, of when we describe it. One part when we talk about the metaverse, it’s more the vision everyone has in mind. And there’s no real expert who knows where it will lead because it’s like the internet, it’s just developing and in its infancy. Sometimes we forget it because it’s so hyped. But there are a lot of different use cases already.

So if we talk about the Metaverse, and Apple was very smart, avoiding this terminology when they now launched the Acquisition Pro, they’re talking about spatial computing. So think about something where you have 3D assets in a virtual world. It’s also including augmented reality, like we know from Pokemon Go. We can also have digital trends. So it’s important that we interact with each other. So the social interaction, the working together, the playing together is something community driven, is something which is very strong in Web3, plus obviously with the technology we have, which is underlying the whole thing, let’s say Metaverse is more the kind of experiences, and Web3 is more the technology like AI. Generative AI, everyone loves it now. You can basically already now create your own virtual worlds. And then the big question is what this is for.

Nick Abrahams:

And that is the great question, isn’t it? Which is, I think you mentioned generative AI. And in some respects generative AI and ChatGPT and so forth sort of suck the oxygen out of the room on Web3, to some degree. Because the media was pretty focused on Web3 and then everything sort of turned onto AI.

So things have quietened down, I think, over the last year with Web3 and so forth. But how do you see it, using your exact words, what is it for? How do you see Web3 as being relevant for mainstream companies?

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Yeah, so first off, I think it’s very important to understand when everyone said Metaverse is dead, because Meta somehow failed to pull out, Metaverse is not Meta. So that’s very-

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah, great point.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

And that is what a lot of people, what Meta does is relevant, yes, but it’s not as relevant.

So talking about the relevance, so we have, in my view, three different areas which are very important. One is industrial Metaverse is big, is huge. So Nvidia is working on that. They call it the Omniverse. And interesting enough, I mean, they’re the most valued company right now. They have AI, they have digital trends, not only of people, but also of factories. So the use cases they have been working on are Siemens, BMW. They also do individual developers, but these are the very, very big use cases. And there’s a beautiful report from Siemens and MIT on how they have done it. They expect 1.9 billion in savings to basically replicate the entire processes, the entire training, the creation, let’s say, also for cars, you replicate this in the virtual world, you can do it globally, you don’t need to travel anymore. And you can imagine what kind of facilities this opens up. And this is huge. And this is already there and people don’t know about it.

So what also Nvidia has done, which I find very beautiful, is they have done a digital twin of the earth. And that is absolutely amazing because for climate change, for catastrophes like tsunamis and so on, we can now have all these simulations which we never had before, which is really great for us to understand all this complexity better so that real use cases, they really, really improve our lives. If you also think about working in the factory with all the trainings you have, and not only how dangerous this will be. So certainly in military that’s also used in other areas, it’s used…

And then the next big area, so that’s the industrial Metaverse industries, is healthcare, in my view. So healthcare is another big application which already is in action. So there, as an example, was a beautiful operation from Brazil and experts from London. So Brazilian doctors coordinating and training in the virtual world to have a separation of conjoined twins.

So obviously again, not everyone has access to the super doctors in London. Not everyone can travel there. And what has happened that the doctor teams worked together, had so many simulations in the virtual world, that they were able to separate the two twins very successfully. And to me, these kind of use cases are amazing and they’re not like the meter half body, everyone blaming them for it. These are use cases which really improve all lives.

And the third part is really education. Everyone can learn much faster, much easier when you learn in virtual worlds or also when you learn in what Apple is now providing. And working together, you can see the other people even as real people, but you can use augmented reality, you can pull in your presentation, you can see the graphs, you can work with your hands. It’s very haptic. So also from a neuroscience point of view, the brain works better when you can feel it. And every time you are in virtual worlds, you can feel it. It feels real. And this feeling of reality can be used in all this aspect in a very, very positive way.

Obviously, it can also be misused, but also for medical treatments, a lot of people have depressions. I mean I’ve been surprised looking at studies. Mental health is a big, big topic. And when you work with virtual reality, it is easier for them. Then also started during operations that you have headsets on, in particular also for children or for people who are very scared that during the operation where you have something on your leg for example, they can do something different, something playful. In particular, kids I’ve seen last time, which was beautiful.

Then behavioral change, you can also train this very good, very nicely. So that’s one super cool example where there are white and black boys and now the white boys got black avatars and they were put into situations in virtual worlds where, for example, there was a robbery and then all the policemen went to the house with the black people, and they were black. So all of a sudden they realized that really affected them. If, in theory, you talk about all this social non behavior, what is not accepted, then kids won’t understand it and even adults don’t understand it. Because everything you learn in the first seven years, as we know, is coded. And you have to basically relearn and retrain and as this famous saying, fake it until you make it. And that’s exactly the case and it’s much, much more easy with virtual worlds.

-So that’s how I would describe the beauty of the metaverse.

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah, I mean, it’s hard not to become completely enraptured by the world that you’re creating there.

So you’ve obviously talked about some terrific use cases there, particularly in healthcare, education, and industrial. I mean, do you see it having an impact in your old world and financial services and so forth?

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Yeah, big, huge impact. Huge impact as well. So there are different layers. I would say some banks are using this as a playground for experiences. So South Korea is very far advanced, but you have also the banks like HSBC in Asia has done some in the sandbox. That’s a decentralized world. You have JP Morgan in decentral land. But I would say these experiences are, one is more gaming, the other… Fidelity has also training, which is a very good and it’s all a good start. So we see in terms of experiences provided to companies, and we also advise companies in particular banks, but also other companies. So when you say for different brands, you have to know what is it what you want to achieve. So be loyal to what your purpose is, think about is your use case, because a lot of companies come to me and say, yeah, I want to be in decentral and in sandbox because there are so many other companies.

But perhaps it’s not the use case because you basically, is this for existing? Is this for new clients? Is this for younger generation? You have to really think about it like you always think when you have new products. And that’s why I also believe it should not be in the marketing department, it should be in the product department. So the product people basically align and have an agile setup. That’s how I always said it. You have product and then you have marketing, you have the risk compliance people and an agile setup working with you. And you can do this, I’m doing this for all verticals. Because at the end of the day what the strategy is quite similar for everyone, but in different pieces. So you might want to start with the world. You might also want to start with an NFT. For example, big examples like Nike has done, which is, in my view, still more for the Web3 crowd. But Starbucks, I mean, Starbucks is amazing. I don’t know if you have the stamps, they created the loyalty program with NFTs in Australia yet, but they-

Nick Abrahams:

Not in Australia yet, but I’ve read about it and sort of seen them on videos and stuff. It looks incredible.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

It is also a high adoption, because what they did similar to what you have to be mindful of, I mean, we now even talking about Web3 digital twin and so on .not intuitive for people who just buy a coffee or could be academics or others. It’s not something you are every day dealing with. We sometimes forget this. And Starbucks is very smart because they don’t call it NFT, they call it stamps. And it sounds very natural to you, and they have some brilliant stamps. You can say a journey to their farm where they create things or something very sustainable. And the stamps are collector items. So they also have a marketplace which is new for loyalty programs that you can basically buy those stamps or you can enhance your loyalty program. So you also become part of the whole system.

So if we think about, that’s also what I did at UBS platform ecosystems. That’s the next level of a platform ecosystem and you create network effects. And that’s how you can really use also Web3. But don’t forget, a lot of people are not yet into Web3. So very often what we do is we link Web3 with Web2 like Starbucks does. So they already have a super loyalty program. Not everyone has this. But you can have digital experiences as well. So that’s a big thing, make it [inaudible 00:16:49] so you get something for it, which you can feel and you don’t need virtual world for it at the beginning. So they also work now with our avatars and stuff. But this is just the next level.

So you slowly but surely bring your maybe existing client base into this, or you test with a completely new client base. You attract Web3, I would say crazy people sometimes who are more into the space. And interesting enough, when you look at the Web3 addicts, it’s not those who are like 15, 20, 25, 30, these are the 35 plus, these are the people, us, I would say.

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah, no.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Those people are into Web3. We have MasterCard, I don’t know if you’ve seen that. They had an artist accelerator program. Two minutes and you get an NFT from an artist. And how they do this, you don’t need a digital wallet for example, and they don’t talk about it. They do it for you, in terminology is a custodian one.

Also, companies can do that. You don’t need to bother your client with digital wallets, you just use an Apple Wallet or you just use anything you have. You can use Web2 technology. And a lot of people and brands maybe might not understand this yet. And to test all this is very important. So that’s why since beginning of the year we didn’t speak about it. I write my own marthaverse now, and it was so exciting. It has so much success that I’m now making a brand out of it.

Nick Abrahams:

Oh, brilliant.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Really overwhelming. I think the difference is my marthaverse, but I use it as a platform for collaboration. So I showcase, I test with people, I created own dresses, own avatars. So I have now an avatar, which is a little elephant. So I’m trying this things out to see also what’s possible, how can I help my clients? I bring my clients into the marthaverse, I bring new people into the marthaverse. It takes you two minutes to get into there, also via desktop. And everyone the most skeptical, even, they now understand it. If I even with the desktop, they think about, “Oh my avatar, how does it look? Oh no, it doesn’t look right. I need another wardrobe.” And you think it’s unbelievable because before you have said, “Oh, these people with their avatar.” And now you have your own one. And your whole mindset is changing.

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah. Well, so I think, I mean, you touched on a brilliant point there, which is not having to deal with a wallet, not having to deal with Meta Musk and so forth, so critical. And indeed I was just talking to quite a successful NFT, an organization that had done a successful NFT drop for their employees, but they basically had taken their employees on the journey to set up a Meta Musk account, which is impressive, but it’s just a little bit of friction, isn’t it? So the more that you can take out that friction, the easier it will be, the adoption.

I’m just interested, because I know you work with some of the world’s biggest brands on this. What’s the process? How does it work when they come to you? Do they come with specific projects or are they, we want to deal, do something in loyalty or we want to do something in-

Martha Boeckenfeld:

It’s very different. Some people have done a lot of research and they say, “We want to do this and we need execution.” But I do think always we do a little bit of revisiting where they come from if it’s the right thing for them to do, because we have to also work with some kind of framework. So we love to start with workshops where we understand what do they really want to achieve, not for them, but for the consumer. Because don’t forget we do everything for the consumer. We don’t do it for the company. And if we do something very well for the consumer, we’ll reflect.

And what we also do is a lot of them, interesting enough, they have all the plans, but I would say 99% of the people who want to do something in that space have never done something themselves. So we take them into virtual worlds or we also have trainings.

So what we did also for a bank, we trained the whole executive management team to do an NFT. So exactly like you said, set up the Meta Musk account, with AI create a beautiful image, which then gets converted into an NFT, and then we place it on a marketplace like Open C. So that’s how it works. And then we take them to a metaverse like the marthaverse where you can also place your as an art and you can connect it with the marketplace. And then they think, “Oh my god, it is all there already. You have a whole journey and you have done it yourself.” And then they also understand maybe for my clients having a digital wallet and having a Meta Musk is too troublesome, so maybe we have to do something different. Maybe virtual world in decentral land.

So when you take them there and it looks all a bit stone like Minecraft, I would say.

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah, it’s very similar.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

It’s not as nice. So my marthaverse is built on spatial platform, and there you have nice avatars, they look quite, can be looking like you. It’s not digital twins, but you can relate to them because a lot of people, they’re not as far as they want to be a unicorn, they really want to be them. It’s the extension of themselves here. And they don’t like to be half or they don’t like to… I mean, I also don’t feel right if I’m not a full person.

So we also train in midterm horizon. So we trained in Roblox to create stuff. So really look at… Roblox could be also one of the applications. Nike has been in every Fortnite, everyone has been in the games because there you have already, I mean, we have 3 billion gamers, they’re not all kids.

You have already hundreds of millions of users, 300 million users a month. So why not also using this? Depending on the value proposition. As with Nike, they have done training in Roblox with baseball player. They have done a Nike land that was like 7 million people in three months. Stuff like that. You just have to know what you want.

But even if you know what you want, I think when you have a good advisor, you also would like them to understand why you want it and if it’s the right way for you. So it could be they have done the research, it’s the right way, but it also could be they themselves discover or maybe not, let’s do something different.

So first is always workshop experiences, understand what is relevant, what is a real use case. And then it’s really to build a roadmap where you start as always in this thing.

So you start with something small like an MVP, minimum viable product. That’s why I say you have to work with the product people, you have to get marketing, everyone on board. Executive team is very important. Without them you cannot drive it. So never try to do it on your own and have a brilliant idea. If the company is not actively using AI or Strats to look at this, I think honestly today I would leave that company, if they have [inaudible 00:24:24] mindset. No, I really think every company has to be in that space, and I believe it’s nowadays people understand that.

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah, no, it’s remarkably transformative.

You said something there which is terrific, which is, “We do it all for the consumer.” And it’s very interesting. That sometimes gets a little bit lost, I think.

Just very interested, with the marthaverse, can you give us a sense how can people who are listening, how can they get in there? Do they just go to the website and then come in through?

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Yeah, so it’s basically a back two application. You get a link, so we can provide this with the podcast as called by LinkedIn profile. You click on that link and when you go by desktop, you don’t even have to install anything, just give your email and you are in. And then you get, there’s some, you have an avatar and then it says are you feminine or masculine? I guess you know what you are. And then you are there and you can already have any clothes on. And I do a number of events and usually it’s quite nice to go to the events.

I made my marthaverse like my second home and all the things I love. So I love the beach, I love the ocean, I love nature. So everything in my marthaverse is about this. And when we do presentations, panel discussions, and stuff like that, we do it at the beach.

But we also have three houses. It looks a bit like Bali. I know that they are Australian people love Bali. So during my travels in Bali, I’m now in Majorca, India. I love all these different countries, and it’s a reflection of what I love. And interesting enough, it works somehow also. But when you go there, you will also see there’s no one there because now there is seagulls are there. You can wander around, you can relax. But if I have my events, then obviously very often we have a DJ, we have party, and have different, you can do different. I will tell you different codes where you can dance and people really also enjoy the fun.

So what I like to do is obviously it’s very serious stuff we do, but also to make it enjoyful and gets this part of… Listen, it’s all this changes, transformation. Don’t be afraid. It’s really fine to be part of this new world.

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah. Well, everyone should go and check out the marthaverse. Just one final question, which is if we roll forward 10 years from now, I mean, do you have a sense of what Web3, the metaverse, what it looks like?

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Yeah, I think… I always say definitions of metaverse will vary, but it’s only really there if we don’t talk about it anymore, like the internet, if we can feel it. And don’t think about it… Also in 10 years we’ll be much further. Don’t think about, we will all go with the big headset. That’s rubbish. Yeah. If people haven’t seen that yet, there is from Human, one of the top Apple X developer, it’s called Human. It’s an AI pin. I don’t know if you have seen that. You put it here on your jacket and I can also give you the link. It’s just amazing. And that’s your AI assistant. It’s already there no matter where you go. So you put a bar in front of this camera and say, “Yeah, can I eat it?” And that thing will tell you, “No, you have an allergy, you can’t eat it.” And then the guy will say, “Yeah, but I eat it anyway because I’m in control of my life.”

So these kind of things where you find AI is a real helping hand, you’ll find this augmented reality. And where we are now and where the space around us and the virtual spaces, this will be merged, this will converge. So the lines between them are blurring. You don’t feel like this is a separate world I go to now. I would really think that in 10 years it’s no longer separate. And we’ll find more easy ways, maybe glasses, maybe AI pin, some talk about chips, sounds a bit scary. But Elon Musk got the approval for neruolink. So I mean, 10 years is a huge time now, because we have exponential growth is number one. And number two, all the tech is converging.

So we no longer talk about AI. And then we have blockchain and then we have 5G, and then we have IOT. We talk about everything together. So the convergence of tech, and that’s what we call Web3 quite often. And think about smart cities, think about smart cities where government, your passport, don’t worry about paper anymore. So the challenge for all of us is obviously for us, ourselves, how we stay up to date, how we get into this, how we become part of it, how we can shape it and not just being the people it’s supposed to, but also how we can take as many people with us as possible. Because we don’t want to be the people who are now 80 and don’t know online banking, don’t know WhatsApp. Then you are out of this world. I mean, it’s impossible. And there’s so many beautiful things we can do for our life expectancy, for health education. If we changed this mindset, I think. It might be the mindset has to change.

Nick Abrahams:

Yeah. That is fantastic. Well, I think it’s a terrific vision of the future. I particularly like the blending idea such that, and we never really distinguish between what is reality and what is virtual.

Martha, thank you very much. I appreciate… You’re incredibly busy. Really appreciate you spending time with us today. Thank you very much.

Martha Boeckenfeld:

Thanks a lot for having me. Thank you.

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