Bear market or not — Marja Konttinen bets on Decentraland’s resilience

From shining promise to crypto crash. Despite the last year’s web3 backlash, Marja Konttinen, marketing director of Decentraland, still thinks the future lies in a decentralised metaverse.

19 Sep 2023

Decentraland is a 3D virtual world browser-based platform. Users can buy virtual plots of land on the platform as NFTs via the mana cryptocurrency, which uses the Ethereum blockchain. It was opened to the public in February 2020 and is overseen by the nonprofit Decentraland Foundation.

Hi, Marja. Great to meet you. Can you describe your role at Decentraland?

— I’m the Marketing Director for Decentraland Foundation, the body behind the social platform, which in itself is actually governed and owned by the community. It’s a decentralised autonomous organisation — a DAO.

How did you get this gig?

— Well, I’m a curious person, and prior to this I was working at Angry Birds, so there was already an interest in community building, games and building new industries with no real playbooks. I saw what Decentraland was doing and thought it was really special, thinking that they must have a massive team behind it all. So I just called them and asked kind ”How does this work, what is your setup, what tools do you use, what kind of data are you collecting, what kind of investors do you have?” They said none! We started to collaborate on a few projects, and one thing led to another.

Love that story. But what is the origin of Decentraland?

— Decentraland was created by Argentinians Ari Meilich and Esteban Ordano and has been in development since 2015. They were inspired by Bitcoin and how it disrupted the banking landscape, especially in Argentina where economic perspectives are quite different to those in the Nordics. In 2017, they created a white paper which stated their vision to create this virtual world where people were able to own land, collaborate, and have a creative outlet to use smart contracts for owning that piece of land. Then in 2020, the actual platform opened, and we celebrated three years in February.

Can you talk more about decentralisation?

— I think the best example that I can think of that actually makes sense to me was when Patagonia became a foundation, people were quite shocked. But it’s all about giving back to the community and to the world, sharing the profits for something greater than the company itself. We want to take it one step further.

The platform is owned by all the members, and they also decide on what needs to be developed. Is this perhaps a reaction to the current state of the internet, how it is dominated by the big tech corporations?

— Decentraland is the antithesis of that corporation-led internet development. We’ve taken an extreme approach to open-source development, and anyone can come and participate and start contributing to it.

”Decentraland is the antithesis of that corporation-led internet development.”

So how do maintain the running costs of the platform?

We don’t do sales as the Decentraland Foundation is a non-profit.

— The revenue that the platform creates is through the marketplace when people are buying wearables or land, and then 2.5% of that transaction goes directly into the DAO’s Treasury. So it goes back to the community, which then gets to decide what that money is used for.

How has the past year’s crypto crash — or correction as I prefer to call it — affected you?

— Transactions and users are lower than a year ago, so it has definitely impacted us, but also for the better. A lot of waste has been flushed out in the crypto space. Decentraland has never been about creating the most popular place. It’s not a direct competitor to any social network currently or other social gaming platforms. Those are owned by big corporations and we are not.

— Brands can, for example, engage with our community and create inspiring and thrilling events and social games. In doing so, they get to test how a truly decentralised metaverse works, experiment with new technology, and meet early adopters.

— This is why brands like Absolut, Samsung, Adidas, Atari, PwC, Miller Lite, and Sotheby’s have done events on our platform. Last year we also hosted the Metaverse Fashion Week in which major fashion brands appeared, including Dolce & Gab- bana, Tommy Hilfiger, Elie Saab, Nicholas Kirkwood, Perry Ellis, Imitation of Christ, and Estée Lauder.

This article was originally published in issue 4 of Scandinavian MIND, April 2023.