Brian Shuster is a pioneer of the internet and has developed many core enabling technologies. He is an author, speaker and is frequently interviewed on the future of the internet. Shuster is currently the founder and CEO of Utherverse, a metaverse platform that enables developers to build interconnected virtual worlds, provides hyper-realistic immersive experiences for consumers and opportunities for companies to market and monetize their products and services.
Many of the technologies developed by Shuster are now widely used by almost all internet companies. He has more than 100 patents and pending patents on such core internet technologies as internet operations and advanced advertising modalities. Several of these patents have been named by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as being among the top 10 patents whose technology is most critical to the operation of the internet.
Shuster founded his first internet company, World Wide Internet Network, in 1995 and developed the first online commercial advertising network, pioneering the use of banner advertising and banner advertising exchange systems. WWIN established some of the first price points and value propositions for internet advertising sales.
Shuster also founded and was CEO of web hosting company Infonent, where his marketing strategies resulted in the company’s explosive growth and made it one of the largest providers of web hosting services in the world. He was also the founder and CEO of Global Reach, an internet marketing company with a substantial number of properties under its management.
In 2002, Shuster turned his attention to virtual reality and created the world’s first and most popular network of virtual worlds, the Utherverse Network. He is now CEO of Utherverse Digital, Inc., which owns and operates a network of more than 1 million interconnected virtual worlds, has served more than 50 million users since its inception, and logged more than 32 billion virtual commerce transactions. The total cumulative revenue of Utherverse companies is approximately $100 million.
Shuster graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in communication with a specialization in mass communications and a minor in business. He currently lives in Vancouver, B.C.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Brian Shuster: I have been in the internet industry pretty much since its inception and have developed many core enabling technologies. Currently I am the founder and CEO of Utherverse, a metaverse platform that empowers developers to build interconnected virtual worlds, provides hyper-realistic immersive experiences for consumers and generates opportunities for companies to market and monetize their products and services.
Many of the technologies I was involved in developing are now widely used by virtual all internet companies. I have more than 100 patents and pending patents on such core internet technologies as internet operations and advanced advertising modalities. Several of these patents have been named by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as being among the top 10 patents whose technology is most critical to the operation of the internet.
I founded my first internet company, World Wide Internet Network, in 1995 and developed the first online commercial advertising network, pioneering the use of banner advertising and banner advertising exchange systems. WWIN established some of the first price points and value propositions for internet advertising sales. I also founded and was CEO of Infonent, which was one of the largest providers of web hosting services in the world. And I was the founder and CEO of Global Reach, an internet marketing company with a substantial number of properties under its management.
The Utherverse platform was launched in 2005, and a Beta version of our next-generation platform is expected to launch in late 2022. The current platform has already served 50 million+ users with 32 billion+ virtual commerce transactions. The Utherverse team and I have been issued more than 40 patents critical to operating large-scale metaverses.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Brian Shuster: The lessons I took away from these past few years were actually things I originally learned a very long time ago. I found that the most challenging aspects of business are never those things that you’re taught to expect or which you think will be challenging. They’re always the outlier events, the black swan events.
And so, the lesson I learned way back when I first started large scale business was that – I was worried about what my competitors were going to do instead of what my allies were doing. I was worried about competitors and how we edge up the competition and that wasn’t the right thing to be focused on.
The actual things that I should have been concerned about were things such as how to maintain banking relationships in such a new environment that my bankers didn’t understand what we were doing or how we were using the technology to generate income. How do we deal with credit cards when the system was set up only for physical card imprint transactions with a wet signature? Things that I thought were not going to be problematic turned out to be far more troubling than those things I was expecting.
You should always be thinking about where your vulnerabilities might be and prepare so that your business won’t fail. The other way to put that, I spend a lot of time thinking about crises. How can our network be taken down? What would we do for insurance? What would happen if there’s a fire in our data center? How is our data backed up? How could we recover?
You need to be prepared for all these unexpected things; there’s no quick answer for each business. But having a contingency plan and at least having thought through what could cause our business to go under, and how would we prevent that now – without waiting for it to actually happen – is important to me.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Brian Shuster: We’re in an absolute transition. The disruptions we saw in 2020 and 2021 are the leading edge of an ongoing series of disruptions which will continue. Learn how to deal with remote workers; learn how to make sure that remote workers are productive; learn how to deal without an office; adopt software and other resources to ensure that you can properly manage, be creative, brainstorm and deal with your executive team.
Whether it’s COVID, gun violence, terrorism or whatever else is coming, this shift is permanent and if you keep thinking about how things are going to work when you go back to the way things were “before,” you’re fighting the last war.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Brian Shuster: There is a great expression in software development that you must eat your own dog food. What that essentially refers to is using your own product, and if your product is distasteful to use for you it’s going to be even worse for everybody else. The reason this phraseology empowers me is that we adapt by using the very technologies by which we’re developing for use for the public and for other businesses -specifically, metaverse technology.
We adapted by everybody working remotely and radically reducing our cost overhead and by getting rid of our very expensive, large-scale offices. We’ve improved our employee satisfaction and our ability to recruit because we now are structured in a way where I hardly ever even conceive of going into an office or going into a conference room. My default is always getting everybody together for virtual meetings.
And so that’s had the benefit of allowing us to track better talent from all over the world and reducing our overhead, and of course, letting us kick the tires and develop technology that is going to better serve other people in businesses in the same space or in the same predicament.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Brian Shuster: It’s a bad question for me because in 2019 at the first sign of the pandemic we pretty much leapt into action anticipating what was to come. I was canceling VR video shoots we were doing. I made my last trip to Las Vegas because I had to attend conventions, but that was with hand sanitizers and masks. Our response was early and aggressive.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Brian Shuster: There will be several false starts where people feel optimistic that they will be able to return to an office environment. There are some people for whom working in an office really is their wheelhouse, but these will all be false starts. Remote online work is here to stay, and it will only continue to become more important.
My expectations are Zoom is going to improve; obviously we will be releasing the next generation metaverse and that is radically going to improve the capabilities of businesses and retail establishments to become even more productive and compelling online.
I expect that trend is just going to continue to gain momentum. And there is a large segment of the population, the working public, that is going to insist on remote work. My expectation is that companies that embrace the enablement of their personnel to work remotly whenever they can, whenever they want to, are going to have the leg up.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Brian Shuster: I generally spend four to five hours a day in front of a screen. I spend time in front of a screen and then I spend time thinking, and when I’m thinking, I’m not in front of a screen. As a CEO, I think it’s critical to spend about half of your work time thinking about issues and problem-solving, and when I’m in front of a screen I just can’t do that. When I’m in front of a screen, I’m doing work or responding.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Brian Shuster: I think there is great value in sharing real life experiences about different issues and situations. Doing this brings a realism and sense of purpose when talking with staff. It also provides credibility and somewhat of a case study for whatever concept you are trying to explain.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Brian Shuster: We’re in the most challenging time in human history right now. We’re dealing with the most disruptive technological changes ever which are happening at the fastest pace ever. This is the byproduct of self-reinforcing technology that creates efficiencies, which in turn accelerates more technological advancements. We’re seeing this feedback loop where everything is getting faster and faster. At the same time, the geopolitical framework that we’ve relied on since World War II has just been shattered.
There are so many obstacles in terms of sanctions as well as what’s happening with money – meaning your currency – what currency you choose to do business in and the volatility in that currency relative to other currencies. We’re a global marketplace, so when the Japanese Yen loses a third of its value in a couple of months, that impacts your bottom line.
Depending on the nature of the business, I would say you can pick the challenge that you see. Obviously the one that impacts everyone is the transition from work in a physical environment to working remotely. And I would say probably the biggest challenge for most people is going to be how to ensure employees working remotely are being productive and don’t get depressed over lack of human interaction.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Brian Shuster: Certainly, that would be crypto. I think when it all comes down to it, the fundamental nature of money, what I would call a unit of account, is being transformed. If you’re not familiar with cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology, then you run the risk that you will be unable to be properly positioned to accept payment for your goods or services.
Everything is going to shift to cryptocurrency, even if it’s central bank digital currencies, which it won’t be, but even if you believe that it will be, you need to become familiar with that because it’s fundamentally different from dollars and paper currency and credit.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Brian Shuster: I think most people, but particularly executives and upper management, believe they are not the problem and that this is happening to other people. I absolutely do believe that’s true. There are two sides to it, one is the perception of the boss and the other is the perception of the employee. And regardless of the reality, the perception of employees right now is that they’ve got power because they’re so in demand.
The other problem for employers is there’s an unprecedented amount of opportunity for people to transition out of having anybody as a boss and to work for themselves because they can do this online. Even if a person can’t really make more money online, again, it goes down to their individual belief and perception. It’s virtually impossible, in the real world, for a boss to compete and retain an employee if that employee is ambitious and has the belief that with dedicated work and their own creativity, they could make themselves wealthy, or they could have an easier job doing what they love and be better off.
I think we now are talking about much more communication being necessary to ensure employees are happy and are being listened to; not just being able to vent, but that they’re actually being accommodated. I think a big part of this is the ability to work remotely and then making sure they aren’t getting depressed in isolation and that they’re being challenged and rewarded. At the end of the day, an employer just needs to accept that there’s going to be some attrition because you can’t fight fantasy in the real world.
The only real way this perception and attrition problem gets fixed is out any of our control. I think the solution rests with the Federal Reserve, and believe it or not, they’re doing what they need to do right now. I don’t have faith they will continue, but they need to raise interest rates radically, put the country and the world into a deep recession and eliminate a lot of the frothy wealth so that the business climate returns to one where people who are doing unproductive work can’t earn more money than they could if they were doing productive work.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Brian Shuster: I would like to have an uncanny ability to understand consumers; the fickleness of consumers likes, dislikes, what they want, what they don’t want and an intimate understanding of the consumer. This would enable me to fine-tune offerings to a sort of a hypersensitive level. I would really be able to go beyond the usual metrics and have a phenomenal understanding.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Brian Shuster: Success for me means that we have gotten our next generation software out to the public. It’s been my vision for 20 years, and I’ve been tirelessly working on getting a true metaverse experience that is as close as possible to an ideal verion of The Matrix – where each user is able to live their best life. I believe the software version that we’re working on, the Aeon generation, will do that. I want to get it out this year and then have it adopted by a significant number of people.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Brian Shuster for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Brian Shuster or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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