EP 172 – Adam Simon – US Head of Innovation at UM Worldwide – So Much of Our Daily Life Has Become About Media Production

by | Jan 15, 2022

The Asia Tech Podcast had a blast talking to Adam Simon, the US Head of Innovation at UM Worldwide.  UM Worldwide is a strategic media planning agency and operates in more than 100 countries.  Adam is focused on the intersection of emerging technology and changing consumer behavior.
Some of the topics that Adam discussed:
  • Originally working in the theatre
  • Yet was always interested in technology
  • Attended an innovative graduate program at NYU focused on creative technology
  • How technology and media are disrupting existing businesses
  • The speed at which platform technology changes and helping clients adapt
  • The expansion of content creation beyond those who think of themselves as creators
  • Global culture and global distribution
  • Content localization
  • The impact of streaming services on content creators
  • Media and the evolving metaverse
  • Turning anything into shoppable media
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. Sometimes You Just End Up In It
  2. Constant, Accelerating Change
  3. They Don’t Have to Be Mutually Exclusive
  4. I Think About It as Presence
  5. There Are Probably 7-Year-Olds On Roblox Making More Money Than Me

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Adam Simon 0:00
I’ve learned my lesson. I always hit record as soon as we get on the call. You never know, sometimes you just end up in it.

Michael Waitze 0:16
This is Michael Waitze and welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. We are joined by Adam Simon, the easiest name I’ve had all week, US Head of Innovation at UM Worldwide. Adam, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s super great to have you here. How are you doing, by the way?

Adam Simon 0:33
I’m doing great doing great. Thanks for having me, Michael. It’s an honor to be here.

Michael Waitze 0:36
It’s my pleasure. And where are you based? Right now?

Adam Simon 0:39
I’m based in New York City.

Michael Waitze 0:41
Oh, my gosh, it’s late for you then, isn’t it?

Adam Simon 0:43
It is late. It is late. But you know, we are we’re a very global organization and a global culture these days. And I’m used to late nights and early mornings to chat with my friends on the other side of the world.

Michael Waitze 0:54
Fair enough. I mean, I worked at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs for 20 something years in Tokyo. And we suffered from the fact that our main offices were in New York. So our phone calls were always the people on the trading desk there. So I sympathize with you today. Anyway, thank you for this. are you originally from New York? By the way?

Adam Simon 1:14
I’m not I grew up in Southern California, in Orange County, outside of Los Angeles.

Michael Waitze 1:18
Awesome. I was born in Santa Barbara, but did not live there for that long to be fair. Nice. Yeah. Anyway. So before we get into the main part of this conversation, let’s get a little bit more of your background just for some context, then we can jump in.

Adam Simon 1:33
Yeah, so I have a really bizarre career I worked in, in theater when I was younger, and then went to grad school, because I always had sort of an interest in a pension for technology went to a super weird at grad school program at NYU, that it was basically a Creative Technology Program. And coming out of that, I started a small company, which turned into kind of a digital agency called Social Bomb, we started out trying to make social software and mobile software right around the time that the iPhone was launching. And that turned into for more for a product company into more of an agency and sort of doing that work for other clients and doing some small some work with folks like HBO, which led me to work with some people that would eventually through some fits and starts and an acquisition, lead me to where I am now, which is at at UM Worldwide, as well as running the IPG Media Lab, which is sort of the innovation focused arm inside of IPG. And we are really focused on consumer behavior, changing consumer behaviors and how technology and new media are disrupting existing businesses.

Michael Waitze 2:53
I want to get to this in a second, but I’m interested in somebody who goes from theater into creative technology. Because I want to understand whether when you were a kid and you said, God, I’m really interested in theater that you were also interested in taking that at some point in the future, you saw those two things merging, or is this just happenstance for you?

Adam Simon 3:11
Uh, you know, it’s interesting, there were directly a lot of theater people in that graduate program, and we talked about it a lot, I think that there is just, there’s something a similar creative impulse in terms of the constraints of making theater or you know, or scripted entertainment, or film or television, and working with technology where you’re working within certain constraints, but there’s a lot of creativity inside of those constraints. And you can really push the limits in new and interesting ways. And yeah, I don’t know, it’s, it’s weird, but I’ve met a decent number of other people who have those sort of crossover interests. And for me, it was really looking at a career path at some point moving forward in theater, and where I would be, you know, 10 or 20 years in the future. And thinking, you know, that could be fun, but also, like, it’s a lot of work. And I somehow had this idea that working in tech was going to be less work in a specific way. It’s just, it’s just not, I definitely rewound some of my career choices and thought, well, what if I had gone in this direction? It’s like, I probably would end up at about the same place at about the same amount of time. Fair enough. But you know, I do think that at the end of the day, I think having some a different background, not having a pure tech background, gives me a different little bit of a different perspective in terms of what’s what’s happening, and how, how the culture is developing around it.

Michael Waitze 4:42
I think it’s impossible to be a great technologist without being really creative. And I think that if you look at like, you can’t even be a great musician without being really intelligent. It’s so technical. If you look at great guitarists or great piano players, and I think that there was a part of me when I was a kid. He was really into science and really into math and was told all the time, like, you’re just not your creative side just isn’t there. But you did both of those things kind of together. And I think that’s actually super cool. Because I think if you encourage people that are into tech to also sort of look into and dig deeper into their creative side, that their ability then to take tech, and be creative with it, particularly in the creative arts, it just makes them so much more powerful. Is that fair? Yeah,

Adam Simon 5:25
I think that’s, that’s totally right. You know, I and I think that’s a little bit of how I ended up where I am now is that I have written code and written apps, I’ve built physical electronics, I realized at some point, I was never going to be the best at any of those things. What I was really good at was understanding what was capable inside of those spheres. And then helping other people also understand what is capable and how those capabilities could could help them and or could impact them, I guess, when we talk about our clients, and how we work with them, to help them under future proof their businesses and understand sort of the changes that are going to impact how they connect with consumers.

Michael Waitze 6:09
What is UM Worldwide?

Adam Simon 6:13
UM Worldwide is a media agency. So we are Yeah, we are helping our clients navigate emerging media channels and ways to connect with their consumers. And increasingly, you know, traditionally that has been, you know, buying television, for example, right, and then moving into sort of buying digital services as well. But increasingly, that also means future proofing their business against disruption from changing consumer behaviors, new entrants into the market. Increasingly, it’s about helping them understand how their industries are changing. And for me, the fun part is that, obviously, you can do that inside one of these companies, sometimes, depending on on how forward thinking and innovative they are, right? But the fun part about doing it externally is we get to work across pretty much every industry. So there’s literally one day we’re we’re working on the future of like pet health care, which is near and dear to me as a pet owner. And then the next day we’re talking about well, okay, COVID happening, what’s happening to the film and television industry right now? And how is what’s going to happen to the utricle movies, you know, over the next two years? So that that is the super fun part about it?

Michael Waitze 7:27
Do you feel like sometimes that stuff is moving too fast for your clients? Just when they figure out how to take advantage of Snapchat? I’m serious about this, right? You know, yeah, go to them. Like, here’s the new channel, we’ve got to get it, we’ve got to be on Snapchat, you’ve got to do this kind of stuff. And then Instagram just immediately changes and like Cole, you know, Co Op stories. But then out of nowhere, people are dancing on Tik Tok, and then tick tock has a business side of it as well, like, did this feel like it’s moving too fast, because for you, it’s super fun. You’re like, Oh, my God, a new medium, I can play with them into their head spinning all the time.

Adam Simon 8:03
I you know, it depends a lot on the client, I think that the thing that I increasingly am trying to get them to understand, especially coming out in this sort of late COVID period, I don’t want to say coming out of COVID, because knock on wood will see this late COVID period of eats, things are not going to slow down, they’re not going to settle. And we’re basically in a period, I would say probably for the rest of the decade, at least, that is going to be constant accelerating change, names are just going to be constantly changing. And the sooner you embrace the idea that anything is going to settle down, and we’re just going to have a new template, or even or a new normal as people liked to say a year ago, it’s just going to be constant change. And the sooner you get used to that idea and get comfortable in the fact that it’s constantly changing, the more you can sort of capitalize on that experience.

Michael Waitze 8:59
I have a whole show about insurance and InsurTech. The insurance companies were late to digital transformation, because they didn’t have to be their margins were high insurance penetration in Asia, in particular still like point five or 1% of GDP. So it’s still really low, whereas in the US, it’s like 6%. So there’s a massive growth, they didn’t have to worry about digital transformation. But COVID And everybody working at home removed the sort of agent to person relationship that everybody had, it was obvious that they needed to now do digital distribution and digitally transform their entire enterprise. Otherwise, they’re gonna get left behind from the insurtechs. I’m curious what the impact on the media landscape was. And I’ll give you an example. Do you like the studio where I’m sitting right now?

Adam Simon 9:46
Yeah, it looks great.

Michael Waitze 9:47
It looks awesome, right? You’ve got the sign on the background. You’ve got people walking around behind me and all this stuff yet super. This studio where I sit is awesome. Except I’m not really there.

Adam Simon 9:57
Yeah, of course not.

Michael Waitze 10:00
Like you would know. But most people don’t know I’ve got a green screen behind me. I’ve got a video running here, this microphones actually real the only two real things hear me in the microphone, the chairs, too. But the point is that the media is changing so fast that even in my studio here, and frankly, in the studio, my house, I can do things like this. And I’m curious how else you because I think that media just like everything else, I don’t like to use the word being democratized. But it’s really coming all the way down in my mind to the bottom of the funnel and saying even someone like I am, can do this. I’m curious how you see this changing? And I agree with you. I don’t think it’s going to be like, here’s the change now run with it for the next five years. Yeah. So I’m curious what not happening anyway.

Adam Simon 10:45
Yeah, no, I mean, I totally, you know, I think about this a lot. And there was a, you know, it’s almost cliche to say, at this point, but COVID was a huge accelerator of just adoption of all kinds of things. To your point in the insurance industry, it just moved forward, what was going to happen eventually, but it just moved it forward very quickly. And, you know, to your point about creative tools, you know, we’re at a point where the creative tools that are available for not very much money at all, are available to everyone. And at the same time, the past two years have really turned everybody into a content creator. Exactly. Because we’re obviously doing this for a podcast on a recording, we’re recording on purpose. But even if we were having this call as colleagues on Zoom, yep, we’re still producing media for each other at the end of the day. And I think that a thing that people are struggling to wrap their heads around is that even if I’m just on a zoom call, don’t I want a good camera? That’s better than my laptop camera. Microphone, that’s better than saying this, maybe you need to get I’m staring directly into a ring light right now, you know, we’re not recording video, but it’s there. Right. And I think that the all of those tools that were like these, I wouldn’t they’re not they weren’t niche, but they were for a specific creator community. Yeah, are the kinds of things that people are starting to adopt in, in business in education. So much of our daily life has become about media production, even though we don’t call it that. And I think that’s going to have profound impacts on what happens next. Because once you get comfortable with those tools, you realize, oh, I could be, you know, a YouTuber, or a Twitch streamer, or a podcaster. And you have all the tools and all the know how, and that’s just, I think, increasing the expansion of this of content creation, beyond people who even think about themselves as creators,

Michael Waitze 12:39
right. So my way of saying this is that, if you’re going to show up even to an internal meeting, right, you should have a decent microphone, because the way you sound is important, you definitely should have a good camera, because you don’t want to be staring down into your laptop and have that view or it looks like it’s coming up from you. You don’t know this, but you’re sitting on a 72 inch television set literally with your head directly above the lens of my 4k Shooting camera. Yeah, but the other thing is, you wouldn’t go to the prom, in a T shirt in a tank top and a pair of shorts and in an old car, because it’s just the wrong method for doing that. And you’re right, as people get more and more used to this, they’re going to be more good microphones, more green screens in people’s offices and more great cameras so that the presentation is better, just like it would be in a regular business meeting where you show up in a shirt and tie. And you have a PowerPoint thing. You have a nice laptop that doesn’t have stickers all over it, like the presentation matters. And people are starting to figure this out.

Adam Simon 13:37
Yeah, exactly. And you know, I think, obviously, some of those in person meetings are going to start happening again, but not all of them. We know that a lot of them are going to remain remote. And it’s there’s going to be it’s going to be very obvious which individuals on some circumstances and then some circumstances which organizations which companies are really investing to make that experience the best for the people on the other side of that of that camera and microphone. Right. And I Yeah, it’s I don’t think it’s crazy to think that some of the conference rooms in our offices, when we go back should be turned into things that look more like studios absolute, like sound stages.

Michael Waitze 14:15
I’m going to build out here. Well, yeah, I’m definitely I’m in the process of looking for locations and building all that stuff out here. I think one of the seminal moments for me, and I’m curious about your opinion on this as well is the interview that Oprah did with Barack Obama. They weren’t in the same room. Yeah, they weren’t even in the room that you saw, that was all green screened. And that was all computer graphics. So he was in a room that was completely green screened. And so she’s sitting on a similar chair. And what they did was they put furniture that reference the furniture in the scene next to them, so they trick the brain into believing that they were in the same room when they demonstrably were not. But you can do that too. And I mean, you’re right about the tools. I’m curious about your opinion here. I’m just shooting this on OBS right? So, yeah. And it’s free. Yeah. But most but if I asked my brother who’s a neurosurgeon, right, so 10 times smarter than I am. Do you know what OBS is? He’d have no idea. It’s not about how smart you are. It’s about the tools that you use every day. And I think that’s changing radically as well. Yeah.

Adam Simon 15:20
Yeah, no, no, I mean, a neurosurgeon. His tools aren’t changing that quickly, yet, they will probably within the next decade, right. But right now, it’s very early days there. I just was reading something a couple days ago about how they’re starting to train doctors in using VR, because it’s gives them a closer, it’s still not perfect, but it’s a closer experience to eventually what they’re going to be doing in real life, can fast forward that by five or 10 years, and you can see how it gets there. Pretty quickly.

Michael Waitze 15:50
Can you talk a little bit about how distribution has changed, like over the last five or so years? From your perspective? Again, I look at it from what I’ve been doing just over the past three to five. And distribution for me has become so much easier. Again, you have to know how to use the tools, though, right? But it’s now global, like the podcast that we’re recording for has listeners in 140 countries.

Adam Simon 16:11
Yeah, I mean, we talk about global culture. We’ve been talking about it for years now. Because it’s I think it was the kind of basically, as soon as global culture has always been a little bit global for things like podcasts and things like Twitch streams and what have you, right. And YouTube, obviously, I think the the, the turning point for professionally produced media was when Netflix flips the lights on globally. And back in 2017, you know, that is almost five years ago now. And it is we’re still seeing some of the traditional film and television companies struggling with unwinding some of their contracts to get to a place like that, you know, Disney just bought everybody out,

Michael Waitze 16:53
they did, it’s like,

Adam Simon 16:55
Apple said, we’re not going to deal with the problem, we’re not going to buy any library content, for the most part. So like they they saw that it was important to sort of be have have a global perspective on these things. The others are, are slowly unwinding that. And I think that that is going to take a little bit longer than it probably should. And I think it’s going to impact them negatively. And I think it has been impacting them negatively. You can’t have a squid game on HBO max right now, why? Oh, we signed these other contracts five years ago. And it’s like, okay, it’s, I understand how those things happen. But it’s not great when you can’t undo them. And as we know, five, you know it, if it takes them another even three years to undo all those contracts, three years is a long time in this business, and a lot is going to change. And you’re going to lose a lot of ground to your competitors in the meantime. So

Michael Waitze 17:46
add them in the legacy distribution systems out there, created DVD regions, right, we used to buy region free DVD players, because we lived in Japan, but wanted to buy a DVD from the United States and, you know, region free CD players and stuff like that. So very familiar with that. I’m curious about your view on, right, because all this stuff is global. But you can’t distribute in Indonesia, the same way you distribute in Vietnam, even though nominally, they’re both in what we call Southeast Asia. How do you look at and sort of talk with your clients about localization, which is more than just like translating it or subtitling it? Yeah.

Adam Simon 18:26
Yeah, I think that it is, it’s challenging, because you do and this is something that I think, you know, even talking about things on on social, let’s say, where you, you, maybe you have this, you can you can actually get it to eyeballs in those places. But is it going to be received the same way? Is it going to be interpreted the same way? That’s something that’s a challenge for everybody. I think that it is making it broadly available and accessible. And accessibility would be the language component by still meeting some local expertise in terms of how to actually help it connect with people. And to make sure that it gets in front of the right people it is, it is a strategy that involves being both looking at it globally, but then also having experts on the ground who can really speak to the local culture and the local influencers, frankly,

Michael Waitze 19:18
yeah, absolutely. Look, I was watching a commercial yesterday, I can’t remember which movie it was, but it actually came out and said explicitly on the advertisement in movie theaters only.

Adam Simon 19:29
Yeah. A lot of them are doing that these days. But

Michael Waitze 19:33
So how has this changed? Right? So you mentioned that flex before? You know, Netflix, if I remember the statement correctly, when it first started licensing content from the big creative houses, you know, they said, Look, I don’t really care about the Lithuanian army, right? They’re just just not that big and not that strong. And now, you know, Netflix is spending 910 Pick a number $11 billion yarn creating their own content. It’s definitely not the Lithuanian army army anymore. Yeah. But what is the impact of all these streaming services? on, you know, movie and television in the way that stuff gets distributed now.

Adam Simon 20:06
I mean, it there’s just, there’s an outpouring of opportunity for creators of professionally produced scripted and increasingly unscripted as well content for for these services. It is definitely a golden era in terms of there being so much amazing television that you will never have time to watch at all. I think we’ve been it’s probably been close to a decade now when it’s been impossible for anybody to watch all of the television and actually tell you what was the best thing on TV and given time, right, right. It’s so huge boom for creators, which is great, it will contract again, eventually, we’re not going to stay in this boom mode forever. You know, there there will be competition will eventually narrow the, the pathways again, and that’s part of Netflix’s bet, in terms of they can’t keep spending this much money forever. They’re assuming that at some points, they will outlast and outspend enough other folks that some of these other services start to license content with them again. And I think that’s probably true, I don’t know that the appetite at all of the all of the studios, even the ones that are even studios that are owned by larger conglomerates, is going to fund this endless runway for more than another five years or so. But in the meantime, that is you know, what the effect it’s having is shifting consumer attention fully over to streaming, a lot of accelerated cord cutting here in the US that sort of tipped over into into larger numbers during COVID. And really, it’s just news and sports that’s holding up propping up television legacy and legacy distribution. And I think, you know, I sports is gonna everyone was counting on sports to hold it up until for another few years. But sports was crumbling faster than people thought it would because of the regional sports network struggling for to turn a profit. So it’s one of those things that I am forgetting who said this, but it’s the quote about going broke, where it happened slowly and then quickly. And I think we’re entering the end quickly phase faster than people were really prepared for

Michael Waitze 22:15
exactly bankruptcy. It starts really slowly, and then it happens immediately. Do you feel like at some level, the entertainment and the media industry has kind of followed your path in a way? Right? So you started with theater, you ended up in tech, and then you merge the two of those things together. And then you have all this creative stuff going on, whether it’s at you know, Fox or wherever. And Sony, Sony tried this decades ago, didn’t do it so well. But now you see Apple, Google Amazon, fancying themselves as not just tech companies, but immediate companies as well. Did they call you and ask you if they could copy or?

Adam Simon 22:56
No, it’s? It’s funny. I hadn’t thought about it that way. But yeah, I mean, I think the rationale here is that for Apple or Amazon or Google, if they sort of get their act together, they can afford to fund things at Netflix levels or higher, exactly, basically, forever, in order to grow ecosystem value. And I think that there are inside of Hollywood, there are people who are happily taking the checks from them, because no one’s gonna turn down a giant check from Apple. And they pretty much let them you know, it’s the Netflix model, you can we’re gonna be pretty hands off, we’re not really going to give you any notes. It’s just, you know, we’re green lighting and everybody loves that. But I think there is a little existential discomfort there with the fact that at the end of the day, you know, I think no matter how well an apple promotes your your movie or your show, it’s really just fodder for selling more iPhones are fodder for Amazon for selling more toilet paper or what have you. And I think there is a you know, the shift into streaming for for music really turns the entire music industry into an app on your phone, right? Spotify or Apple Music or maybe Amazon at this point. And the same thing is happening to Hollywood, it’s just turning an entire industry into a few a handful at the end of the day of apps on your phone. And there are pluses and minuses to that the music industry is making more money than they have in a long time. And Hollywood is is also if you look at sort of the collective in terms of how much money is being spent. But there is a little, I think, existential angst around the idea of just being a feature of a smartphone. Right. And I get that it’s it’s a little it’s a little uncomfortable. But I do think that’s where, you know, it’s better than than the news industry and what’s what’s happening with journalism. Unfortunately, that’s not that transition hasn’t actually morphed into just being a well paid app on your phone, right. So you know, the Are there worse fates?

Michael Waitze 25:01
Yeah. So if my memory serves me correctly, Shonda Rhimes signed a gigantic deal. Right? So and good for her. But also, I remember listening to Ken Burns, right, who does all the documentary stuff. And Vietnam was actually one of my favorites. But he was asked as well, you know, what would it take to lure you on to one of these new streaming platforms? And I think he does his stuff with PBS? I don’t know for sure.

Adam Simon 25:25
Yeah, he’s he is still funded by PBS. And

Michael Waitze 25:28
he said, he said, they let me do whatever I want to do. And I’m not doing this just for the money. I want to produce great content. I want to have great conversations. And I think that that talks to some of the angst you’re talking about, like, Sure, he could probably go and triple or double the money that he’s getting paid to PBS. But then he’s got to be, like you said, a feature on an app as opposed to a really creative person who’s trying to tell a story. And that’s a big, that’s a very different thing. Yeah.

Adam Simon 25:53
I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. They don’t have to be. They don’t think they have to be i An example that I like to throw out, which I think is everybody has mixed feelings about is what happened with Sesame Street where Sesame Street now premieres first on HBO, Max, because everybody needs children’s content. That’s super important for to reduce churn on your services, right? Everybody has their sort of prestige children’s brand. Warner got Sesame Street. And Sesame Street also had been funded by PBS for forever. And they still receive some funding from PBS. But now they’re super well funded, because they’re getting giant checks from Warner media. Yeah. And on one hand, that’s great. We don’t have to worry about the federal government suddenly deciding that PBS is not a priority and cutting their budget and sesame street going away. Right on the other hands. I don’t know. It’s a little

Michael Waitze 26:47
Yeah, Big Bird should not be driving a Ferrari. Right?

Adam Simon 26:51
Do you want Sesame Street to only be for people who can afford HBO? Max? No. No, you don’t. And it doesn’t there’s it trickles down. Eventually, it eventually still long goes to PBS, but it’s a little a little uncomfortable, but also better. I don’t know. It’s Is it better? I’m clear.

Michael Waitze 27:08
Can we talk about media without talking about blockchain? Or the metaverse? Is it possible?

Adam Simon 27:17
We have we have been up until now. So

Michael Waitze 27:20
Right. But I mean, we haven’t really talked about it explicitly. So my idea on this is that people at scale over time, are really starting to organize around interests. Right, as opposed to geographical locations, right. So if you’re into a specific kind of art, you can appreciate that art from Indonesia, from Vietnam and from Santa Barbara. Right? Yes. And that that is both the power and sort of the drawback of what’s going to happen in the metaverse because you can gather there. And when the technology gets really good at it really feels like you’re there. And you and I both have a green screen in our room. And we sit in a room that’s fully immersive. And we can be in the same place at the same time, without goggles on, and all the silliness, and have some sort of tactile feedback. So I can shake your hand and I can touch the art or whatever it is. That to me is the real power of this. And I think that, frankly, it brings the world together in a way that we haven’t been able to do before because of the distance.

Adam Simon 28:18
Yeah, I totally agree. I think that. First of all, I think that a lot of the pieces and very low resolution versions of what will be the metaverse are already here today. We’re doing it right now. Yeah, we are some in some respects, right? It’s not great. But it’s better than it would have been 10 years ago, she has 10 years ago that our video would have been super low quality, and our audio would have sucked and probably your green screen effects wouldn’t have worked on whatever laptop or computer you’re using. Right? Like it’s, it improves. I think that what has happened over the past few years because of the pandemic is that there’s just been a lot more interest and a lot more money funneling into how do we make what we’re doing right now? Better, right. And, you know, some of that’s going to not be there. Some people companies will choose the wrong path and it won’t pan out. Others will choose you know, the right thing and eventually we’ll find our way to higher resolution, more immersive, virtual presence. I think about it as presence really, it’s like we have live presence on the Internet in a lot of different pockets right now. I think it’s you know, a lot of folks who were excited about what’s happening with the metaverse are on Discord, which is a live has its own sort of live presence, right? Or the you’re you’re in, you’re in a VR workspace, or you’re playing multiplayer video games with each other. Those are all different for or you’re even frankly editing a Google doc together maybe the lowest form of presence, but you that cursor is there and you know if somebody is in that document live editing, and I think that all of these things are just going to constantly increase in resolution until we get to something more immersive. And what that will be, I think has less to do with whatever Mark Zuckerberg might say in on stage or in his his promo videos, and more with what we’ve figured out works best for us culturally, I think that there are ideas there that have been around since the 70s. Frankly, sure, that are probably not going to pan out the way that that people that were thinking about them today, we’re probably going to try them and say, Well, that was an idea of how to work with somebody in in in the metaverse, and maybe we’ll come up with something better. But it’s the same as with every technology will will grope our way there and find the right thing eventually.

Michael Waitze 30:38
So I think you’ve hit on something actually really important. And that is that companies like Facebook, they can call themselves whatever they want. But everyone’s gonna call them Facebook the same way people call alphabet Google. Yeah. We’ll create the tools potentially because they have the money for us to exist better and to have that presence that you were talking about in the metaverse, which we won’t even call it the metaverse, we’ll just call it reality as we go forward. But because the technology is becoming so ubiquitous, it means that you and I are going to create the metaverse the way we want it to be created as because the tools are available. Right? Like I said, Yeah, I’m 56 years old. I shouldn’t know how to do any of this stuff. But because the tools are so good. And because I’m interested, I can figure out how to make myself I could if I had a video of your next door neighbor, I could be sitting in their apartment and you would freak out right? Yeah, that’s possible to do. I was actually joking with a friend yesterday, like you could take a video of the classroom at school because she’s a professor, and then freak out the students by broadcasting from home and be like, it doesn’t seem like you’re here. But it looks like you are like, I think we’re gonna create this thing. But I don’t think Facebook is

Adam Simon 31:55
I 100% agree. And I think that you can see it. If you look at first look, first of all Facebook themselves have some very strange ideas about how people interact online that I don’t think are fully accurate, which I think explains a lot of the the issues that they have. But if you look at what they’re doing the horizon VR products right now horizon, workrooms is like a very basic, very 1.0 thing, finance a proof of concept. But but the horizon, the social experience that they built, they built this whole virtual world and then had no idea what to do with. There’s nothing to do there. And it’s basically just open for other people to create content in, which I don’t think is the wrong idea. But they don’t even have like, I think good proof of concepts for how it should work. Which is why I think I’m more interested in what’s happening in things like fortnight, or Roblox or Minecraft, because you can see real creativity happening there. And you can see people logging on with a purpose. And I think that Facebook has not shown that they know how to start that creative engine, right, you have to start somewhere, right? You can’t just give people a blank canvas in a new medium and expect them to know what to do. And I think that they need to figure out how to rev that engine somehow.

Michael Waitze 33:19
So everything that Facebook does, they kind of do for themselves. And they’re not really good at sharing, which is fascinating for a company that was built on sharing photos, but you’ll see what I mean in a second. And again, I’m having to be wrong here. I want to go over to e commerce Oh, and look at a company like Shopify, that has basically built an API platform that allows companies to build services on top of their platform and become very wealthy doing that. And my favorite example is Shogun, or Shogun, if you want to pronounce it properly, they built a page builder for Shopify, that plugs into their API’s that allow Shopify as customers to pay Shogun to do that. So to me the platforms that are open that allow people to plug into them and do the creative things that maybe they can’t do are going to be the platforms that succeed at scale. Right so if you had something called you know a mess, diversify, and you’re right, those game Roblox I can never remember the name of the game. I just cannot just leave my brain. What was the other one? You said? Minecraft or Minecraft? Yes. So my daughter never played Minecraft, but these businesses have also figured out how to let people create and do mods and all these other things. Right. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 34:36
I think companies like that, that are gonna create the platform, sorry, they’re gonna be able to build a Metaverse that we’re gonna be able to take advantage of. Go ahead.

Adam Simon 34:42
Yeah, no, exactly. I you know, I clearly Roblox is a platform that is has a relatively accessible creative platform. There are probably seven year olds on Roblox who were making more money than me just selling content inside of Roblox. Are you any of us at this point, like I’m pretty sure that’s true. But I think what’s missing right now in the immersive space are basically in any sort of 3d immersive, whether we’re talking about AR or VR content, is it still a little, the tools are too new, they’re still a little too complicated, but we need to really turbocharge the creativity there is something like the Shogun or or the way I think about it is like we what we need is tick tock for immersive environments where I can take something I can be in your thing, and like it, and then copy and paste it into my thing where I can alter some stuff, and then republish it. Like the thing about tick tock is the reason they’re so successful is they just made the creative tools. So dead simple, right? That you can engage with it. And it was the creative tools and sort of the community and the sort of expectations of the platform are that you would take somebody else’s content and change it slightly and do your version of it. Right. And I think we really need that in in 3d immersive tools. At this point, we need the view source, copy, paste, edit two lines Publish. And I think that I think we will get there I think we’re probably within a few years of getting there with, with AR with like 3d objects, I think we’re pretty close to there’s some API’s which are not exposed to the public in the newest version of iOS, but that developers can use to scan objects. And like, that’s a good step in the right direction. If I can start scanning objects in my home into a 3d immersive space, that’s going to be a huge step in the right direction.

Michael Waitze 36:36
Do you advise people through u-m in some of the stuff you some of the other stuff you’re doing as well, about how to use technology, real time streaming? All this stuff that we’ve been discussing for commerce sites, like real live e commerce as well?

Adam Simon 36:52
Yeah, we’ve been increasingly talking about just turning everything into shoppable media. Just any time we’re, we’re not quite there culturally in the US yet doesn’t as much as I know. And lots of Asia is just like everyday everywhere. Yeah. But everybody knows what’s coming. And so we’ve been increasingly talking to our clients about collapsing that funnel and that this the second that somebody sees anything about your product, whether that’s an actual ad or a commercial or you’re working with an influencer, it needs they need to be able to click a button and or tap a button or shout to Alexa and be able to buy that that object that item.

Michael Waitze 37:36
Yeah, I agree. Okay, look, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. This has been a ton of fun for me. Hopefully, it’s been a ton of fun for you. I want to thank you, Adam Simon, US head of innovation at Yuan worldwide for coming in doing this was awesome for me. Thank you,

Adam Simon 37:49
Michael. It’s been a ton of fun. Thank you so much for having me.


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