Nearly 3 out of 4 consumers — 74% — had heard of the metaverse by March and 66% believe it’s going to be life-changing, according to Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. However, just 15% of respondents felt that they could explain what the metaverse is to other people.
If market researcher McKinsey & Co. is onto anything, now’s not the time to be metaverse averse: McKinsey estimates the metaverse will generate up to $5 trillion in impact by 2030, according to a June report.
The potential impact differs depending on industry, with a $2 trillion to $2.6 trillion impact expected on e-commerce by 2030, a $180 billion to $270 billion impact on academic virtual learning, a $144 billion to $206 billion impact on the advertising market, and a $108 billion to $125 billion impact on the gaming market.
Richard Grungo, co-founder of personal injury law firm Grungo Colarulo LLC, prides himself on launching the first personal injury firm in the metaverse. While the firm’s terrestrial location is in Cherry Hill, its metaverse firm is in Decentraland, a world within the metaverse—there are several.
As the father of three Gen Zers aged 12, 17 and 20, Grungo noticed that members of that generation “don’t think twice about there being a line between the digital world and physical world.” And Gen Zers are the future.
“If you have a strategic plan not factoring or considering the metaverse, you have a blind spot. The reality is—crypto[currency] is spiraling and I know people are freaked out—this is so much more. It’s about the technology. It’s not just about cryptocurrency. That’s one small thing in the bigger umbrella in distributed leger technology, aka blockchain.”
Corporations, venture capital firms, and private equity firms have already invested more than $120 billion in the metaverse in the first five months of 2022, more than double the $57 billion invested in all of 2021, McKinsey found. Large technology companies are the biggest investors, but small companies and companies with household names have also staked a claim, including Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Balenciaga, and Forever 21.
Grungo explained that real estate in the metaverse is a non-fungible token (NFT), a piece of data recorded on the blockchain and can be sold or traded.
The public’s knowledge of NFTs is generally shallow. Many just think of them as digital artwork, perhaps the best known and most popular being Bored Ape Yacht Club. BAYC is a collection of 10,000 unique Bored Ape NFTs on the Ethereum cryptocurrency blockchain. As of June 22, one Bored Ape goes for 84 ETH, or $91,549.04.
NFTs are much more than that, though, explained Grungo. At least, their potential is higher.
“The real importance of NFTs is that you’ll be able to take any important document and make it an NFT. Think of it. Your will would be on the blockchain and you’ll be able to say, ‘this is mine.’ It’s not like scanning your insurance policy and putting it in a folder. It’s going on the blockchain,” Grungo said.
New York City CPA firm Prager Metis, with New Jersey locations in Hackensack, Cranbury and Basking Ridge, became the first CPA firm to open a metaverse office in January. Its office is also located in Decentraland at coordinates 18, 144.
“The opening of a metaverse office reflects Prager Metis’ belief that the metaverse will be the future and technology will continue to influence the way the world operates,” said CEO Glenn Friedman in a statement. “Our new Metaverse headquarters will serve as a bridge between traditional and digital and offer valuable real world financial services to the metaverse. Our presence in the metaverse shows how serious we are about our vision for the future and supports our belief that there is a tremendous need for financial expertise and resources in the evolving digital world.”
Grungo credits the opening of his firm’s Decentraland office at parcel -136, 150 with having “created a lot more relationships and set us up for if we have a future client who wants to connect that way.”
“No one’s showed up yet to sign up [for personal injury legal services in the metaverse] but it’s generated a lot of interesting relationships and it’s just a matter of time before there’s a lot of people, particularly Gen Z, in this space,” he said.
He is collecting rent checks, though: Grungo Colarulo created a separate company to help other firms set up in the metaverse and built two towers there, at 37, -58: the Unitas Tower and Veritas Tower. At least six other firms are leasing space in these towers, including four New Jersey firms, a Connecticut firm, and two Ohio firms.
The two towers will eventually be joined by Caritas Tower, a third tower dedicated and donated to law-related charities and legal aid services.
Grungo said LawCity was created to lower the barrier to entry into the metaverse, allowing firms to set up there without having the develop their space, so they could jump into the metaverse with less risk and challenge.
For now, Grungo said his firm is playing the long game. It’s not about making money now. It’s about testing concepts. For other businesses, the most important thing is to do their own research.
“You need to do your own research to understand the vocabulary in this space. Once you provide yourself that basic level of research and info, you need to move slow. There’s opportunity here,” he explained. “But do not think of this world as a lift and shift of your current operations. It’s not just like creating a website, which is what everyone was doing 20 years ago. This is a much more immersive experience. It’s going to require more creativity.”