Hamid Azarak, Co-founder & CEO, Neoki and Zara Zamani, Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer, Neoki & Chief Solutions Officer, ChromaWay

Hamid Azarak is the Co-founder & CEO at Neoki. He is an exceptional entrepreneur whose journey has been marked by a relentless pursuit of innovation and impact. From a young age, he demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit, working alongside his schooling to lay the foundation for his future endeavors. His unwavering passion for growth and international influence fuels his unwavering commitment to shaping a better future.

Zara Zamani is the Chief Solutions Officer (CSO) of the leading Nordic blockchain company, ChromaWay and Co-Founder of Neoki MultiMetaverse. She has both practical and theoretical knowledge as she is also a Ph.D. researcher and lecturer in blockchain adoption at the University of Halmstad, Sweden. She was featured as one of the 21 women in the blockchain you should know in 2021 by Fintech Review and the 10 most influential women in technology in 2021 by Analytics Insights as well as 10 most inspiring women leaders in 2022 by SuccessPitcher and 10 most visionary leaders to watch in 2023 by CIO Look magazine.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, the co-founders of Neoki shared their insights on the development of VR/AR technologies, the inspiration behind establishing Neoki, their vision for the company, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

What are your predictions for the development of VR/AR technologies? What should business leaders expect in the future if they invest in such solutions today?

The development of VR/AR technologies is expected to continue its upward trajectory with increasing adoption across industries. Advancements in hardware, including headsets and controllers, will enhance the immersive user experience. VR/AR will expand beyond gaming and entertainment, finding applications in healthcare, education, architecture, manufacturing, retail, and training. Integration with AI and IoT will create smarter and more interactive experiences, while social and collaborative features will enable virtual interactions and shared workspaces. Content quality and diversity will improve, offering immersive storytelling, educational experiences, and practical applications. Mobile and wireless solutions will enhance accessibility and convenience. Staying informed about the latest industry trends is crucial to understanding the evolving landscape of VR/AR technologies. In addition, the development of VR/AR technologies has the potential to significantly impact the world of design, including fields like fashion. These technologies can revolutionize the way designers create, showcase, and sell their products. VR/AR can provide immersive virtual showrooms, allowing designers to present their collections in a dynamic and interactive way, transcending physical limitations. It offers customers the opportunity to virtually try on clothes, accessories or even customize designs to their preferences, enhancing the shopping experience and reducing the need for physical inventory. VR/AR can also facilitate the prototyping and design process, enabling designers to visualize and refine their creations in virtual 3D environments. This technology opens up new avenues for creativity, collaboration, and personalization in the fashion industry, ultimately adding value by pushing the boundaries of design, enhancing customer engagement, and streamlining the production and retail processes.

By investing in VR/AR solutions today, business leaders can anticipate gaining a competitive advantage, enhancing customer engagement, improving product development processes, revolutionizing training and education, streamlining operations, accessing new markets, and fostering a culture of technological innovation. Early adoption of VR/AR technology enables companies to differentiate themselves, captivate customers with immersive experiences, iterate designs more efficiently, train employees effectively, optimize operations, expand global reach, and position themselves as leaders in leveraging emerging technologies. These investments can lead to increased customer satisfaction, higher sales conversions, cost savings, improved operational performance, and opportunities for growth and innovation.

What does ‘Metaverse’ mean to you? And why are more and more companies exploring the commercial potential of Metaverse?

To me, the term “Metaverse” represents a concept of a fully immersive and interconnected virtual universe that goes beyond our current understanding of virtual reality. The Metaverse is a digital realm where individuals can interact with each other, virtual environments, and digital objects in real-time. It is a shared space that merges the physical and digital worlds, creating a seamless and immersive experience that transcends the limitations of traditional online platforms. In the Metaverse, people can explore, create, trade, and socialize in virtual environments, blurring the boundaries between reality and virtuality. It is envisioned as a complex ecosystem where various technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things converge to create a dynamic and interactive digital universe with limitless possibilities for communication, collaboration, and personal expression. Additionally, the concept of the Metaverse goes beyond merely building new virtual experiences. It involves expanding our physical lives into virtual reality and seamlessly traveling back and forth between the expanded virtual experience and the physical world. The Metaverse aims to create a bridge between the digital and physical realms, allowing individuals to enhance their real-world experiences through virtual interactions, while also bringing the benefits and learnings from the virtual world back into their physical lives. It envisions a future where the boundaries between our physical and digital existence are blurred, enabling us to navigate and engage with both worlds in a more interconnected and immersive manner.

Companies are increasingly exploring the commercial potential of the Metaverse due to several compelling reasons. First, the Metaverse offers a new frontier for customer engagement and interaction. It presents opportunities for businesses to create immersive and personalized experiences that can captivate and retain customers in a highly competitive landscape. By establishing a presence in the Metaverse, companies can forge deeper connections with their target audiences, enhance brand recognition, and drive customer loyalty.

Second, the Metaverse provides avenues for innovative business models and revenue streams. Companies can monetize virtual goods, digital assets, and virtual experiences within the Metaverse. This includes selling virtual products, offering virtual services, and even creating virtual economies. The Metaverse opens up possibilities for new markets, collaborations, and partnerships that can generate substantial economic value.

Furthermore, the Metaverse offers unique opportunities for collaboration and productivity. It enables remote teams to work together in shared virtual spaces, fostering creativity, communication, and efficiency. Virtual meeting rooms, collaborative design environments, and virtual workspaces can facilitate cross-functional collaboration and break down geographical barriers.

Additionally, companies are attracted to the Metaverse because it allows them to collect valuable data and insights on user behavior, preferences, and interactions. This data can be leveraged for targeted marketing, product development, and enhancing the overall customer experience.

Lastly, the Metaverse represents a long-term investment in future technology trends. Companies that embrace the Metaverse position themselves at the forefront of emerging technologies, showcasing their innovation and adaptability. By actively exploring and experimenting with Metaverse technologies, businesses can gain a deeper understanding of evolving consumer behaviors and stay ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing digital landscape.

Let’s keep in mind, the commercial potential of the Metaverse lies in its ability to offer unique, immersive experiences, new revenue streams, enhanced collaboration, valuable data insights, and a competitive edge in a digital-first world.

Hamid & Zara, can you tell us about your professional backgrounds and areas of interests?

Zara: I have a diverse background in blockchain technology and its applications across various industries. As the Chief Solutions Officer (CSO) of ChromaWay, a prominent Nordic blockchain company, and Co-Founder of Neoki MultiMetaverse, I have been at the forefront of developing groundbreaking blockchain solutions. I have dedicated years to educating and building innovative blockchain applications in industries such as tourism, healthcare, logistics, food chain, energy, gaming, DeFi, DAOs, and now metaverse and fashion industries.

My area of expertise extends beyond technical implementation, as I have also been instrumental in shaping investment models in crypto space. I am an advocate for women in tech and blockchain, actively working to empower and support them through education, mentorship, and investment. Furthermore, my academic pursuits complement my hands-on experience, providing me with a well-rounded understanding of blockchain technology and its potential applications. My visionary leadership and fearless drive for change have garnered attention from various outlets, positioning me as a respected and influential figure in the industry. Likewise, my expertise, combined with passion for innovation, has propelled me to the forefront of blockchain technology, shaping its adoption and impact across multiple sectors.

Hamid: My professional background is rooted in entrepreneurship, starting from a young age. After graduating as a civil engineer, I initially worked in a consulting firm but soon realized my passion for making a bigger impact by starting my own business. I founded a construction company specializing in sea structures and heavy civil projects, rapidly growing it to include 580 staff members and an international presence. Driven by entrepreneurial spirit, I expanded my portfolio by investing in other businesses, including international trading and technology. This led me to meet Zara, and together we co-founded our first business—a traveltech/Fintech company. As time went on, I sought to combine my diverse experience and expertise, leading me to found Hemstad, a virtual shopping mall for interior design featuring over 500 global brands.

However, my ambitions didn’t stop there. Driven by a passion for business growth and international influence, I co-founded an open world metaverse alongside Zara. This venture represents the platform through which I aim to make a significant impact on the world. Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I have embraced the challenges and triumphs, valuing every experience that has shaped my path. With a steadfast determination and gratitude for my journey, I look forward to the future and the opportunities it holds.

What was the inspiration behind establishing Neoki. What sets it apart from other market competitors?

The inspiration behind founding Neoki stems from the increasing virtual presence of users and creators, which has brought forth a range of challenges in the design sector. Neoki identified key issues such as the authenticity of design, proof of ownership, fear of imitation, limited focus on small designers, and inadequate opportunities for them to connect with creators within the current centralized virtual solutions prevalent in the design world.

Among the significant obstacles faced by artists are the presence of costly intermediaries, geopolitical constraints, and the lack of direct access to the appropriate audience in Web 2.0 and centralized systems. Neoki aims to address these challenges by bridging market gaps. These gaps encompass the need for enhanced collaboration and social interactions between users and designers, reducing the dominance of specific creators and brands, combating the fear of imitation and counterfeiting, expanding revenue channels for designers, overcoming creative limitations and visibility issues, improving talent accessibility for brands, addressing sustainability concerns, and introducing greater transparency in the design industry.

Driven by the recognition of these challenges, Neoki’s mission is to establish a platform that fosters authenticity, collaboration, transparency, and equal opportunities for designers, brands, and consumers. The goal is to empower designers by enabling them to showcase their work, connect with their target audience, and generate revenue. By doing so, Neoki seeks to promote a sustainable and transparent design industry that embraces creativity and supports the aspirations of designers, ultimately transforming the way design is approached and experienced.

Neoki stands out from its competitors due to several unique aspects that set it apart:

  1. Nikonomy: Neoki introduces a multilayer economy called Nikonomy, providing brands with financial freedom to build their own branded economies within their communities. This innovative approach allows brands to have greater control over their financial operations and fosters a sense of ownership and collaboration between brands and their communities.
  2. Multimetaverse: Neoki offers users the opportunity to build their own verse within the metaverse. This multimetaverse aspect allows for customization and personalization, empowering users to create unique virtual spaces that reflect their individuality and interests. By enabling users to shape their own metaverse experiences, Neoki enhances engagement and offers a more immersive and tailored virtual environment.
  3. Twin: Neoki’s Twin aspect bridges the gap between the physical and digital worlds. It involves creating NFT twins of digital assets, which users can showcase alongside their physical counterparts or even order the physical version through Neoki’s contracted partners. This integration of physical and digital assets adds a tangible dimension to the virtual experience and provides users with options to engage in both realms.
  4. DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization): Neoki embraces the concept of a DAO, a decentralized autonomous organization. This aspect gives a voice to the entire Neoki community, allowing participants to actively participate in the development and decision-making processes of the platform. By involving the community in shaping the project’s direction, Neoki fosters a sense of inclusivity, transparency, and collective ownership.

These unique aspects of Neoki, including Nikonomy, multimetaverse, Twin, and the DAO approach, distinguish it from competitors and offer users and brands a comprehensive and dynamic platform that empowers creativity, financial independence, seamless integration of physical and digital assets, and community involvement.

What are some of the common barriers to adoption and implementation of VR/AR technologies among your customers?

The adoption and implementation of VR/AR technologies face several common barriers. Firstly, cost can be a significant hurdle, as the development, acquisition, and maintenance of VR/AR systems can be expensive. Technical challenges, such as system compatibility and performance optimization, also pose obstacles. User experience and comfort issues, like motion sickness and prolonged headset use, can deter adoption. Furthermore, limited content availability and quality, coupled with a lack of awareness and understanding of the technology’s potential, can hinder adoption rates. Privacy and security concerns, interoperability issues, and the need for ongoing education and industry collaboration are additional barriers that need to be addressed for wider adoption and implementation of VR/AR technologies

What is the best part of being the tech entrepreneurs in today’s digital era?

The best part of being tech entrepreneurs in today’s digital era, besides being constantly in panic mode (joking heheh) is the immense potential for innovation and impact. The rapid advancements in technology, the widespread availability of digital tools and platforms, and the interconnectedness of the global digital ecosystem offer unprecedented opportunities to create and scale transformative solutions. As tech entrepreneurs, we have the ability to address real-world challenges, disrupt traditional industries, and improve the lives of people around the world through our innovative products and services. The digital era allows us to reach a global audience, connect with diverse talent and resources, and leverage data-driven insights to drive business growth. Moreover, being tech entrepreneurs enables us to be at the forefront of shaping the future, contributing to the digital transformation of industries, and creating a positive and lasting impact on society. The ability to create, innovate, and make a difference in this dynamic and rapidly evolving landscape is truly exhilarating and rewarding for tech entrepreneurs in today’s digital era.

Apart from VR/AR technologies, which other technology are you both fascinated by and why?

We are constantly fascinated by the potential of blockchain and AI technology, and we strongly believe that the combination of these two transformative forces will reshape the world in remarkable ways. Blockchain technology provides a decentralized and transparent infrastructure that enhances security, trust, and immutability in various sectors, from finance and supply chain to healthcare and governance. Its ability to enable secure transactions, streamline processes, and eliminate intermediaries is already revolutionizing industries. On the other hand, AI technology empowers machines to learn, reason, and make intelligent decisions, unlocking unprecedented levels of automation, efficiency, and innovation. By integrating AI with blockchain, we envision a future where decentralized systems can leverage AI algorithms to analyze vast amounts of data, extract valuable insights, and make intelligent predictions. This fusion has the potential to optimize decision-making, enhance productivity, and create new opportunities across sectors. From smart contracts and decentralized finance to personalized healthcare and autonomous vehicles, the combination of blockchain and AI will undoubtedly drive profound changes, enabling a more secure, efficient, and inclusive world. We are passionate about exploring the limitless possibilities of this convergence and contributing to the transformative impact it will have on society.

What’s the best advice you have received in your respective careers?

Zara: Step by step and celebrate small victories to keep going.

Hamid: Consistency is the key.

As Co-founders, where do you see Neoki in the next 5 years?

We firmly believe that Neoki will emerge as the world’s dominating platform, reshaping the landscape of design through its commitment to democratization. By removing barriers and promoting inclusivity, Neoki has unlocked a vast new arena of opportunities for designers, brands, and users in the creative industries. As a decentralized platform, Neoki ensures that power and decision-making are distributed among its community, giving everyone a voice and fostering a sense of ownership. This decentralized approach not only promotes transparency and trust but also empowers individuals to contribute their unique talents and perspectives to the platform. We envision Neoki as the first-choice platform for every designer, brand, and user in the creative industries, providing a vibrant and interconnected community where collaboration and creativity thrive. By embracing decentralization, Neoki is revolutionizing the way design is conceptualized, produced, and consumed. We are proud to lead this movement and create a global platform that puts the power back into the hands of the creative community, shaping the future of design in a truly democratic and inclusive manner.

What advice would you offer to aspiring tech entrepreneurs?

If you see your next step, take it, that’s enough. You do not need to see the whole journey.

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