The Internet downturn seems to be here. The Economist pointed out that so far this year, the U.S. technology stocks that previously dominated the NASDAQ Composite Index has been hit hard, witnessing seven consecutive weeks of decline. When the tide is turning, businesses seek chances for transformation. That explains why the metaverse is under the spotlight, loaded with the mission to boost the whole industry. It is estimated by Oriental Fortune that 113 companies in the A-share market have made a bet on the metaverse. In an interview, Zhang Lu founder and CEO of Soul App, pointed out that chances and challenges walked hand in hand on this track.
Zhang Lu is a female entrepreneur who founded Soul App. She is also one of metaverse pioneers to bring up the idea of a social metaverse. Under her leadership, Soul App has developed into a social networking platform that has attracted more than 100 million people. Currently, over 9.3 million young people would spend an average of over 45 minutes every day exploring this virtual social playground and connecting with similar young partners. During an interview, Zhang Lu elucidated the story of how she developed Soul App and how she discovered opportunities from the social metaverse. According to this young entrepreneur, the metaverse is promising not in its ability to bring about business opportunities, but its potential to create value.
Chances and challenges come along in the metaverse. We seize the opportunity of the social metaverse.
Soul App was launched as early as 2016 when the metaverse was still an unfamiliar concept to the general. Zhang Lu developed this app intending to create an online social networking platform where people can release themselves from the burden of real life and build social connections through genuine communication.
Soul App is characterized by its gamified interaction modes and interest-based social networking. When users registered for this app for the first time, they will be invited to take a series of personality tests first. Then Soul App’s AI will generate an interest profile from the results. The results also tell the personality of an individual so that users reach for those who share matching characters.
What’s more, users are not allowed to upload real-person images as profile photo. They are encouraged to design their avatars based on existing templates. In a nutshell, building social connections is no longer dependent on real-life relationships. Instead, users can identify and contact those who share common values based on their avatars and interest profile. Simultaneously, the two elements constitute their renewed identity in a virtual space.
Zhang Lu found it hard to define the social modes in Soul App. At that time, she called it a new kind of social networking. In 2021, she defined that the mission of Soul App is to build a social metaverse for the young generation, earlier than Facebook changed its name to Meta. Metaverse gives an answer to this new kind of social networking in Soul App. Looking back, we see every step she took did coincide with the development of the metaverse.
Instead of seeking fortune from the metaverse, we think creating value is more important.
Zhang Lu believed that the metaverse is a prosperous ecosystem where users grow as the platform develops. While companies seek ways to monetize from the metaverse, Zhang Lu, together with her Soul App, managed to create value for both businesses and individual users. As is observed by Zhang Lu, the metaverse provides a platform where everyone is likely to live up to their dreams and imagination. Namely, everyone has the potential to create value. This boosted the birth of the creator economy, and enablers like Soul App are accelerating this process.
Avatar creator is a new job that emerged with the popularity of unique avatars on Soul App. Users desire a personalized avatar that distinguishes them from others and are willing to pay for the bills, which breeds this new profession. Avatar creators design customized avatars for their clients. And Soul App provides a online shop platform for creators to sell and users to purchase. It is reported that an avatar creator can earn as much as 45,000 RMB a month, far beyond the average income among his peers.
The metaverse is originally a term proposed in the novel Snow Crash as the name of a future virtual society. Three decades later, this concept is taking its shape but no one is confident enough to give it a clear definition yet. However, what can be answered for sure is that the metaverse is much more than the future of the mobile network. It represents a virtual miniature of human society, a platform for social networking, entertainment, and gaming for the next generation.
According to Morgan Stanley’s latest research, the metaverse is expected to become a massive $8 trillion market.It will entice a sizable number of people to spend hundreds or thousands of hours—and real money—living in a fantasy world, thus showing great potential for developing businesses. Pioneers like Zhang Lu are already on their way to seizing the opportunity and facing the challenge in the metaverse.