In my recent episode of Metaverse, I got to chat to fellow blockchain optimist, Sandra Helou. Sandra is the head of metaverse and NFTs at Zilliqa, a software that seeks to incentivise a global, distributed network of computers to run a blockchain platform aiming to increase user scalability through sharding, a process by which data is spread across multiple computers. This makes Zilliqa one of a number of competing blockchains aiming to grow an ecosystem of decentralised cryptocurrencies. As Head of Metaverse and NFTs, Sandra is tasked with ensuring Zilliqa’s use of NFTs includes minting and trading them in an energy-efficient way. She also heads up the company’s journey towards the metaverse, determining what route Web 3.0 might take, so it was especially exciting to gain her insights.
As someone with a strong background in digital transformation, Sandra was naturally drawn to the blockchain from its inception. She was particularly drawn to Zilliqa’s unique work in the space, with their sharding technology, vision and community, and has been thrilled to be part of the team since 2017. As Ziliqa’s Head of Metaverse and NFTs, Sandra’s position focuses on both the broader building out of the new digital world as well as more specific support of the creators the company hopes to bring on board. Zilliqa is presently launching an artist-focused, curator-led marketplace that is bridging the gap between the physical and digital world. This requires onboarding many traditional artists into the digital NFT space and helping them understand how to operate in this new world. Additionally, from a metaverse perspective, since the space is emerging, much of Sandra’s work centers on strategising what the future holds, problems they need to solve, areas that we need to develop and grow to push innovation and the creator economy forward.
It was interesting to hear how Zilliqa is setting itself apart in the blockchain space by really focusing on the creator economy by not only establishing themselves in the esports music and art industry, but by working towards a fully functional metaverse as a service platform for brands, entities, and individuals. Their focus is very much on innovating together, which makes Sandra see other platforms not as competition, but as future collaborators and people who are collectively driving progress. We also touched on how progress has been accelerated by COVID, which collectively challenged us all to reimagine what the world looked like and what qualifies as interaction and collaboration. When the pandemic first hit, few of us were ready for this massive digital transformation, but after the past two years, we’re all now fluent in remote work and schooling and “are pushing at speeds that no one really planned for,” which means a whole lot of change in very little time is possible.
When I asked Sandra what she considers the biggest excitement about the metaverse, she boiled it down to “building the next internet,” an always-open layer that people can continuously engage with in a borderless environment from any location on the planet. Meanwhile, from an NFT perspective, she’s excited by the legitimising of digital art with traditional artists entering the space, as it previously was tricky to monetise.
To those thinking this might just be a “fad”, Sandra admits it’s okay to be sceptical, but that it’s important to keep an open mind and make an effort to truly understand what something is trying to do rather than simply criticising it. The massive amount of innovation that is happening within the space is undeniable: so even if some of these companies go bust, the metaverse and NFTs are absolutely still here for the longterm, even if we don’t know what shape they’ll take.
On the other hand, for those excited to get involved, Sandra notes that, as with anything of value, scams are everywhere. So she encourages newcomers to the space to always do their own research on a project or company: get to know what their vision is, who they work with, and really do your due diligence instead of trusting hype. Don’t just invest in something because a friend heard about it.
Ultimately, Sandra emphasised how we’re building the future we want to see: “a safe space… that’s inviting for all,” but that it’s all of our responsibility to ensure that’s how it rolls out. To do so, she believes we need to be incredibly intentional about how we build the next internet, and that we place a high emphasis on education, since we will need to work together to make this work.
To hear more of our inspiring and wide reaching conversation—and to hear what the future holds for Sandra and Ziliqa alike—you can listen to the full episode of the podcast here.