The Sandbox COO and co-founder Sebastien Borget has always been attracted to the idea of giving power back to the creators.
"I've always been excited by this idea of creating a company or a game in a garage. Bill Gates started Microsoft in a garage, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple in a garage," he says.
"To me, that embodies the original spirit behind programming and gaming. But now, everything is done by major corporations. Everything is centralized."
Borget was born and raised in France. He grew up playing video games during his summer breaks. He studied engineering, mathematics and physics in France before shifting to Hong Kong, where he majored in computer systems networking and telecommunication.
After returning to France, he dove almost immediately into entrepreneurship. He and his current business partner created a peer-to-peer technology company in 2007, making it one of the very first decentralized platforms. They started building mobile games in 2011, and it wasn't long before Borget got the idea of turning players into creators.
"The Sandbox is actually the fourth company we've founded together," Borget says.
It's a fall afternoon in Seoul. The sky is clear and the air is crisp. It's still warm enough for short sleeves during the day. Borget talks to me via video chat from France, where it's morning. We briefly talk about the COVID situation in our respective locations before delving into his personal philosophy on the metaverse and his vision for The Sandbox.
Borget is friendly, open and thoughtful. He answers questions with sincerity and depth. Despite his accomplishments, there is no pretension in his attitude or demeanor.
Elaborating on his reason for starting The Sandbox, Borget talked about his dissatisfaction with the conventional gaming industry.
"Even if you buy a game in today's market, it's still not fully yours. You don't have any authority. The power is still in the hands of a centralized entity," he says.
"I was frustrated by creators not benefitting from their creations, so I wanted to create something that gives back to the creators. And we also redirect as much company revenue as possible back into developing the platform."
The Sandbox is a virtual world where users create avatars and develop digital real estate and experiences. Users accumulate the program's native token SAND to buy LAND and curate online experiences such as art exhibitions and fashion shows, for which they can charge admission. Users also create their own play-to-earn games on the platforms and form their DAOs.
The platform has spawned an entire digital economy with its own unique jobs and careers. What starts as a hobby in the metaverse can end up replacing your full-time job.
"I was honestly surprised by some jobs, such as the virtual real estate agent," Borget says.
"We now have jobs like virtual fashion designers and artists. The ecosystem is completely organic and decentralized. If there is demand for a service, then someone steps up to meet that demand. There is no centralized authority."
Another unexpected Sandbox experience is provided by a project called WiV, which tokenizes real-world wine -- be it by the bottle or case -- and educates users about wine production, from soil to vine to barrel to bottle.
Borget says his ultimate goal is to make The Sandbox completely decentralized. At that point, the creators will remove themselves completely and the community will take over.
"We've grown up in a system that works. But it's really about exploiting users and not providing a great experience," he laments.
Borget thinks the world has evolved to the point where users should own their own data and creations and take charge of their digital identity and assets. He wants people to break out of closed economic systems. He views YouTube and TikTok as evidence of how creative people can be when provided with a platform for individual creation.
"No matter where you're from or your background, you can be a creator and benefit from your creations," he says.
We touch on the topic of metaverse skeptics who emphasize the importance of real-life experiences over digital ones. Borget takes a moment before offering his response.
"Humans are capable of engaging in many different experiences, regardless of whether they're in the physical world or in the metaverse. Your digital avatars can do things that your physical self cannot do, and vice versa. They complement each other. One doesn't have to cancel the other one out."
Borget brings up another critical point: humans are explorers by nature. However, it's unlikely that we'll make major advances in space or deep sea exploration within the next 50 years in a way that makes such exploration available to the average person.
So what's left to explore? Our imagination. To Borget, the metaverse is a way to express the depths of this imagination.
"We don't have to be bound by the reality that we're born into," he says.
"I want to give people opportunities to enrich their lives based on their passions and skills, opportunities that may not be available in the physical world."
Borget also stresses the difference between the metaverse and crypto.
"Our users earn by creating real value through their NFTs and experiences. It's not speculation."
The Sandbox is among the world's largest user-generated content platforms, recording over 40 million downloads and 1 million monthly active users around the world. However, if Borget wants to see his vision of a mainstream digital economy realized, metaverse adoption has a ways to go.
The answer is to keep building and developing, Borget says. He thinks we'll eventually see a tipping point that leads to mass adoption.
I ask Borget when his next visit to Seoul is. He enthusiastically responds that he hopes to get here in November. Hopefully, COVID doesn't cause too much of a fuss.
He mentions that Korea is The Sandbox's second largest market in terms of community and landowners.
"The ecosystem is very well built in Korea. The country has high crypto adoption, and people have fostered a culture of trading virtual assets for years," he says.
"It's also a country of e-sports and influencers. Kids watch YouTube videos of gamers who provide strategies. They watch gaming showdowns like Europeans watch football matches. It makes sense that the metaverse is well-received and understood in Korea, compared to other regions of the world."
Borget hints that The Sandbox will announce more partnerships with Korean companies going forward. We’ll simply have to wait and see for the details.
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