The NFX Podcast

Cyan Banister on the Future of AR/VR

Episode Summary

Cyan Banister is an early stage investor in Uber, Niantic, SpaceX, many others. She’s a partner at Long Journey Ventures and spends most of her time dreaming about what the future could look like. In this NFX conversation with James Currier, they talk about the opportunities of AR, VR and the future of human connection.  Highlights from the conversation: - Allow yourself to become obsessed with something. Really obsess about the product and dream about what it can become. - Invest in things that will become part of your life.  - Futurism is more than being intellectual, it’s more about daydreaming, it’s about how you feel and how you live. - Silicon Valley is getting too serious. Where did the hacker mentality go? AR, and crypto are real frontier categories where there is still bright eyedness of “we don’t know what’s going to happen.” - Endless curiosity helps identify people who are solving problems that are actually real problems. - Be curious about how systems work. Analyze businesses and what makes them special. Try to figure out the economics of everything, anything. - Sometimes it makes sense to paint inside the lines, but sometimes you really have to paint outside the lines. Regarding the future of VR: There's no reason why you and I, if we want to hang out, that we have maybe 8 options… go to dinner, have a phone call, see a movie, maybe go for a walk… but why aren't there thousands of options? There should be so many, that's why Founders need to think bigger.

Episode Transcription

James Currier (01:00):

You're a former founder. You're now an early stage investor, angel investor, early stage. You're an early stage investor in Uber, Niantic, SpaceX and bunch of others. So many others. You spent four years at the Founders Fund and now you've joined our friends, Brian Balfour and Lee Jacobs at Long Journey Ventures. Grew up in Arizona, you're a self-taught engineer. And last time you and I saw each other was at the lobby in Hawaii, David [inaudible 00:01:24] the lobby. And you and I share many loves that hopefully we can talk about today. And we see the world in similar ways. I feel like the reason that we wanted to have you on here is just because you're such a futurist and we'd love to spend our time in the future as well. And you know, you see things as they could be not as they are, and you've got this future orientation in everything you do.

James Currier (01:45):

So you're spending all your time thinking or dreaming about what the future looks like and investing in people who are creating it. What does that mean to you, this futurism, this future mindset? Express what that's like to other people who are listening.

Cyan Banister (01:58):

So when people pitch me on their idea, often it's at the earliest stages of a company. So there's not traction, there's not anything to really quantify. So it's all qualitative. And so one of the things that I like to do is daydream and see if I can visualize the future that they're trying to paint for me. And if I can, then I try to figure out what are the steps? Is now the right time? How far are we from that future? And is this the right team to actually execute that? And so for example, with Pokémon GO and my Niantic [inaudible 00:02:31], and right before they spun out of Google, I identified that they had this app called Ingress. And I started playing Ingress and I started asking myself questions like, "What is it that Google is using this app for? It just can't be just to capture portals and play this game. And there has to be a bigger picture to this. It's Google after all."

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And I started dreaming about what that future would look like. This is going to be the most amazing application in the future. And unfortunately I couldn't in it at the time, so I just kind of dreamed about investing in it. And then they spun out as part of Alphabet, the whole reorganization that Google did. And a friend of mine messaged me and he said, "Now's the time to invest if there ever was any." So I was just like, "This is great." But it was really interesting trying to convince other people of this future that I saw. So that's what's been the most challenging part about my job, which I'm sure you also run into, which is trying to convince other people about what you see.

James Currier (03:28):

Yeah. So why ... gosh, so many things are there. Number one, you said when you do what you allow yourself to become obsessed with something, who has the time in this busy world to allow themselves that indulgence of getting obsessed with something? Speak to me about the granger of obsession.

Cyan Banister (03:47):

Yeah. I go pretty deep with the products that I use and try and get very, very immersed in them because it's not that I'm trying to solve problems that are just my problems, you see that a lot with some investors. It's more I want to believe in that future and I need to really immerse myself in it. So for example, I just invested alongside, personally, as well as with long journey company called Pop Shop Life is one of the first deals that we did together. And I'm a seller on the weekends, so I sell things, and I really, really enjoy it. And that's how I got into it was pretending that that is my world and that's all that matters to me.

Cyan Banister (04:27):

And seeing how the tool works and how the fans come in and how they engage with me and how I sell product, is all part of how I evaluate things. And so I can visualize that being a really big application with Global Reach and being very impactful to people, which is why I get really excited about it. So I don't know how I have the time to be honest with you, I just make it, I guess. It just becomes part of my life. I like to invest in things that become part of my life.

James Currier (04:57):

Well, it's interesting because there is a culture in the tech world of intellectualism. And intellectualism is often just being smart and often being smart is something we learned in school or something we learned from a mentor. But what you're saying is that part of this futurism is allowing there to be a daydream, allowing there to be an obsession, an immersion. That seems so indulgent. It's a little bit anti- intellectual, anti-thinking. It's more about the feeling. It's past a feeling and a thinking, it's toward a living. And that's a powerful way of thinking about it. And I love hearing that from you.

James Currier (05:29):

So the other thing you mentioned was that, when you have these daydreams, you think, "When is the time for this to come?" So I had a friend who always thought 15, 20 years in the future, he would talk about these things. I was like, "Dude, that's not going to happen forever." And then other people are sort of following trends that they already see like, "Oh, I'll invest in the next Uber or whatever." Right after Uber got invested in. But what is the right amount of time for you to want to make an investment

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where you think it's going to come? Is it two years in the future? Is it four years in the future? Is it six months from now?

Cyan Banister (05:57):

Probably. I take a very long time horizon for my investments. So a lot of my investments take 10 years or more to pay out at some point. So I think that I'm patient with showing some traction, some results in the first couple of years. And I think that would prove whether or not you have some kind of fit and whether the timing is correct. If you think about Uber, and Niantic and SpaceX, and some of these investments I have done, they're all category defining companies that are actually creating a whole new way of doing things. So with Uber, that was based off of kind of my ideological beliefs. I was really, really obsessed with how the taxi industry worked.

Cyan Banister (06:40):

And I sat and basically evaluated the entire medallion system to try to figure out, why is it on a rainy day I can't get a taxi? Why are they so poorly maintained? Why is it that this taxi driver drives like a bat out of hell to and from the airport? And if you sit and you analyze the economics of it, you figure out why. And so there was nothing I could really do about it other than be upset. And so along came Uber and it was the answer to my prayers. It was really interesting because if you allow yourself to daydream and think about the problems in the world, then along comes a company and a founder that sees the world in that way. And maybe it's not the exact way that you see it, but it's close enough. And so basically they came along and said, "We're going to fix this whole thing. We're going to disrupt this entire ecosystem. We're going to destroy the Medallion." If you're going to have that kind of ... there's got to be a founder fit. So you've got to ... you know Travis. You got to have someone like Travis to be at the helm of a company and an ideal like that. So a lot of people found his abrasiveness and the culture of Uber made them uncomfortable, but at the same time, if you're getting on regulators, then you're going to fight an entrenched establishment. That's the only way to do that is to have that kind of [inaudible 00:07:56]. And so basically all those things had to kind of align in my mind in order to make sense of that investment. And at the time, it really didn't make a lot of sense. The marketplace wasn't working.

James Currier (08:12):
But it was still a black car service at that time?

Cyan Banister (08:17):

Yeah. It was still a black car services, it was called Uber Cab. And I think they only had one or two drivers. They were paying them full time to drive around. So the on demand get a car thing just wasn't working yet. So it was definitely a leap of faith.

James Currier (08:31):
Cabulous was out there. Cabulous was already out there and had been out there for about a year by the

time Uber came along.

Cyan Banister (08:36):

Yeah. So mostly it was just I think people at their breaking point, they're unhappy with the taxi industry, there's this narrative going that people will not get into strangers' cars, but I didn't think that was true because we did anyway. And all of that just sort of led to the right decision. And it's really interesting

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how that works, but had I not allowed myself to daydream about taxis, I don't know that I would have

made that investment.

James Currier (09:01):

Right. Daydream about taxis and also daydream about people getting into strangers' cars, because this was a social barrier that you had to believe people would get over, or sleep on their extra airbeds at Airbnb or that sort of thing. There has to be a social change and this gets it. What's so interesting about you is that your origin story is really unusual for tech. You've come out and talked about how you were homeless as a teenager, and under bridges and begging for spare change before you became a self- taught engineer. And then you find your way to Silicon Valley. And how does this really, as part of your life inform sort of who you are now, and how you see the world? Because you are able to imagine that people get into strangers' cars no problem.

Cyan Banister (09:41):

So I think that part of it is, I'm really, really in touch with an unusual experience. And so I'm not going to say I'm completely unique, there are other people in the tech industry who have confided in me and come to me and said, "I lived in a car where I was on the streets, or I had this kind of family life as well." But it is fairly unique. And I think that-

Cyan Banister (10:03):

But it is fairly unique. And I think that I had a lot of service oriented jobs when I first started out. I didn't immediately become an engineer. I was working at record stores, sweeping floors, food service industry, retail. It always changed and I always improved my life every step that I took, but it gave me a fine appreciation for how things work. In part of how I think I got to where I am was being just endlessly curious about the things that were around me. And I think it makes me a fairly good investor as well. So if I wasn't curious about how systems work and I sit down and I write down the questions of why is it that Chipotle only has six items or something like that or In-N-Out or I like to analyze businesses and try to figure out what makes them special.

James Currier (10:53):
Or what are the thickest magazines at the airport newsstand?

Cyan Banister (10:56):

Yes and why are they thick? If you try to figure out the economics of anything and why it works the way it does, it's really fascinating. And so that endless curiosity just kind of got me to where I am. And I think it helps me to identify people who also have those traits. There are solving problems that are actually real problems.

James Currier (11:20):

That makes a ton of sense. I mean, that outside the box thinking that is so critical to actually coming up with category-defining companies like an Uber or a [inaudible 00:11:29], if you can really relate to that because of the unique situation you've been in. So the other thing that I so much admire about you is how you paint outside the lines in terms of your thinking, but you also paint inside lines. So you're

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painting inside the lines by living in Silicon Valley, by being a venture capitalist, by investing in billion dollar companies and being proud of it and doing it well and doing it repeatedly. But you're also painting outside the lines. I mean, you founded Zivity in 2007, which was an adult photo sharing site that you raised about eight million. And I guess it ended in about 2017. I mean, you've shared your story about being homeless. What does sharing yourself publicly allow you to see about Silicon Valley and about yourself. And because all this we're doing is just a journey for our own transformation, right? So...

Cyan Banister (12:17):

Well, the biggest thing is I'm facing my biggest fears. My biggest fear in the world for the longest time, and it was the thing that held me back professionally, was public speaking. And so I would put myself out there on purpose and really make myself vulnerable. And you can't be more vulnerable than being naked on the internet. I'll tell you that. So once you do that, it's like nothing can harm you. Nothing can touch you. It's really interesting, the psychology that came along with that experience. And I also developed an appreciation for who I am through it. I had a complete this association with my physical self for a long time. And so being able to take photographs and appreciate myself in that way was a gift. And I actually wanted to give that gift to other people.

Cyan Banister (13:09):

So if you talk to other people from Zivity and during that time period, I think you will overwhelmingly discover that people really enjoyed being on the site and being part of the community as well as how they viewed themselves afterwards. So it was a lot more than just pictures, right? I think pictures were just, you can get pictures anywhere. Zivity was more just a community and a patronage site. And eventually we have Patreon and Kickstarter, but we really invented that category. And so I'm pretty proud of that. It was incredibly hard. So when I raised money for the site and when we set out, me and my co-founders, to build this company, the knee jerk reaction in Silicon Valley was, "Oh my gosh, you guys are starting a porn company. You're crazy." I had so many people that would come up to me and they'd find out who I was or what I did and the handshake would get retracted.

Cyan Banister (14:07):

And then, and some people leaned in. So it was interesting because some people left and some people were much more interested in what I was doing and very helpful. So it was a really interesting filter for the world. And I have to say that Zivity really, really helped me in so many ways. One, I got to start a company from beginning to end and see the entire life cycle of it. It also helped me with some of my investments. So had I not raised capital myself, hired people, had layoffs, unfortunately fired people, the whole system behind it, I wouldn't have identified opportunities like Carta. So when Carta was eShares, they pitched onstage and I thought to myself immediately, "Oh my gosh, cap table management is horrendous." And it has nothing to do with pin up photography.

Cyan Banister (15:02):

Every business faces this problem, including Zivity. And so it helped me identify an opportunity. And I think that's why I do think a lot of investors should try, if they haven't, should try to either intern or be a part of a business or help operationally understand the business. It's not necessary, but at the same time I think it makes you more in touch and in tune with founders and their experience and how hard it is to build the things that they built. It drives me crazy when you're online. People are like, "Oh, two engineers can do that in a weekend." And you're like, "Great. No, that's not true."

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No. That's not how it works. Yeah. Yeah. This thing about having people pull back their hands when they found that you were running Zivity and there's this sort of mainstream reaction to various new ways of thinking. I mean, you've been experimenting with different hairstyles and how you show up and whatnot. And I think there's just so much of a lesson there because, I mean, what drives you to be like that? Do you know? Is it love? Is it facing your fears? Is it some sense of power over your life? I mean, because the Zivity people were going through the psychological journey, each of them, within your community. It's not just pictures, it's actually humans evolving, exploring, growing. And you were too, by creating that context for all of them. I mean, what's behind that for you? Because that's the essence of Silicon Valley, that's the essence of creation. That's the essence of creating the future and you're demonstrating in that you're living it out loud and I'd love to hear you speak to it.

Cyan Banister (16:28):

Yeah. It's funny that you would identify this, of course you would. You're always really good at seeing these things, but I think that to me, life is performance art in a game. We're all playing a game. It's different for every single one of us. But at the end of the day, the only people who keep score are ourselves. But I like to wake people up around me. And one of my heroes of all time in life is Bill Murray. He's my spirit animal. I think that he lives his life and all of the art that he makes, from what I can tell, I haven't seen a lot of his movies, but it seems to have this recurring theme about being present and appreciating the now, being very curious, seizing the day, those sorts of things.

Cyan Banister (17:15):

And so I try to live my life that way to my best of my ability. I really wish I could get rid of email and my phone and everything that Bill Murray does. But if anything, I kind of channel Bill Murray in a way, my perception of Bill Murray. And I try to bring a little bit of that to Silicon Valley. So I think Silicon Valley can sometimes be too serious. It's getting more serious by the day actually, which is kind of sad because when I first got involved in tech, things were a lot more futurist. And everybody was very bright-eyed and everything was promising and anything was possible. And the energy was infectious, right? And now we see some of that still, but it's also only capital driven. People care more about the monetary outcome of something than they care about the journey or what they're actually changing sometimes.

Cyan Banister (18:09):

And that can be fatiguing. It's not what I got into this for. And so I think part of what I'm trying to do... I even have fun with outfits I wear on stage. I spoke at some Disrupt thing and I wore this head to toe Hawaiian outfit that was just really loud. And I was channeling Hunter S. Thompson that day. I was like, " I'm going to be Hunter S. Thompson." And people were talking to me about it, but it was a way for me to just get people to be silly and remember their kind of childish selves or curious selves in, because it really feels like we're just losing touch with it. And if I'm going to get up and do talks, because I don't really need to, is I may as well have fun with it and try to reach someone. If I can reach someone in the audience or if I can reach someone by talking or doing a podcast or anything.

James Currier (18:59):
Or by how you do your hair by what you're wearing.

Cyan Banister (19:01):

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Exactly. Exactly. A lot of people will reach out to me and because of how I present myself, they identify themselves in me, and they'll say, "I'm not different from you. So how is it that you got to where you are?" I love that. I absolutely love it when they stop me and they're like, "How did you get here?" I don't find it insulting at all because that's a dreamer. I find them and they're dreaming about something different, something bigger or trying to grow themselves every day. And I think that's really magical.

James Currier (19:32):
I love it. And when you say when you first got involved with Silicon Valley, when did you arrive here?

What was that first four or five year period where the energy was infectious? Anything was possible?

Cyan Banister (19:41):

Yeah. So I got involved with the internet. So I had considered my generation of people who got involved in the tech industry to be the builders. We were the pipe players. So a lot of my background is in internet infrastructure. So I worked, my first tech job was actually not in Silicon Valley. It was in Arizona and it was...

Cyan Banister (20:03):
It was in Arizona, and it was-

James Currier (20:03): What year was that?

PART 2 OF 4 ENDS [00:20:04]

Cyan Banister (20:04):
Oh, I want to say like '96. '96, '97. I could be wrong.

James Currier (20:10): Somewhere in there.

Cyan Banister (20:10):

Somewhere in there. And I started reading all these magazines and saw basically all of these companies that were exciting, and they're all in Silicon Valley. And I was like, "They're not here in Arizona. There's nothing. This is a one way ticket to nowhere land here." So I picked up everything and I came to Silicon Valley. And at the time, Google had just launched. Search was the thing. It was like being able to find things on the internet was a miracle.

James Currier (20:37): 'So this is 98.

Cyan Banister (20:38):

Yeah, so '98. Probably like '98, yeah. And there was something just so miraculous. First, it was the miracle of getting online in the first place and discovering anything, and then it was the miracle of being able to talk to someone. And I remember back then, we used to see this future. This Zoom future seems

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so far off. And it's funny how we take it for granted. You and I are having this conversation that in '98 would have seemed impossible. We knew it was coming, but we just didn't know when. And so back then, people had webcams that took still photos, and so that was the state-of-the-art then.

James Currier (21:14):

Got it. So you jump in and '98. You're first touching the internet in '97, '98, and there was this less serious... There was this hobbyist approach. There was this creativity-first, money as fuel for creativity. And now what you're saying and what you're seeing is that it's now money-first.

Cyan Banister (21:33): Yes.

James Currier (21:33):
And the creativity serves the money.

Cyan Banister (21:34): Correct.

James Currier (21:35):
And so, what's the diagnosis? I mean, that's the diagnosis. What's the prescription?

Cyan Banister (21:39):

I really think that one, it's on the venture side, is one. There are firms that could think differently about how they deploy capital and who they deploy it with, and what sort of outcomes they're looking for. We all have LPs, and the LPs have different risk profiles. But I do think that we need to encourage people to dream big and and to solve really meaningful problems. People may argue that sandwich delivery is not a meaningful problem, but it actually is. I think that it creates millions of jobs. It allows people to have their time back, which is incredibly valuable. So I have people who say, "Oh, that's not a valuable company," but clearly it is. Postmates is what I'm talking about.

James Currier (22:23): Yeah, right.

Cyan Banister (22:25):

But I really wish people tried to figure out how things work. Where did that hacker mentality go? It doesn't seem to exist. It does in a few little areas. So if you look at crypto and you look at AR and VR and some of the real frontier categories, there are still some of that bright-eyedness that you can recognize, the naivety. The, "We don't know what's going to happen." So I'm kind of addicted to spatial computing for that reason, because it is a unknown territory of which we really don't know when it's going to happen and what it's going to look like. I am addicted to finding those little pockets, because I recognize... I'm sure you remember, what was it like when you got online the first time?

James Currier (23:12):

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Amazing. [crosstalk 00:03:17]. Just sitting there late night, just coding the HTML and learning HTML from

the things that you would print out about how to code HTML. Yeah, it was great.

Cyan Banister (23:21):
Yeah, and then putting up a website and somebody coming to it and seeing the little counter thing count

up. You're like, "Wow, there's human beings looking at what I'm making. This is amazing."

James Currier (23:33):

Is it a function there of the time in which we find ourselves 25 years into the advent of this new type of technology? And therefore, of course things age. And the great time to make railroads was sort of 1830s to 1860s, 1870s. If you're making railroads in the 1880s, it's kind of hard. Are we just later in the cycle? Is that what's killing this, or do you think it's actually something culturally we could do, some language, some approach, some mental models that we could bring to Silicon Valley that would help reinvigorate that playfulness, reinvigorate the fun, the curiosity?

Cyan Banister (24:03):

I would like to think it's cultural, because I do think that we haven't solved everything. We have not figured out every problem. We have not stretched the internet in all the ways that it can be stretched. It really bums me out when people are like, "Well, this is it. This is peak." And it's like, "No, we can push further. We can go way further than this." And I think that some people are just like, "Well I'm just happy making this me too clone of this other company and selling it for a couple hundred million dollars, and I'll be happy with that." And to me, that's not why I got into this. I ended up making a lot of money, which is fantastic, and I was able to help other people make a lot of money and have wonderful jobs and careers, and hopefully will continue to do so.

Cyan Banister (24:49):

But it's definitely not my driving motivation. I'm not going to lie and say I don't like money. I do, but those two things can be in unison with one another. You can like making money and that can be a mission in your life, and it can align with this bigger purpose. So I would just love to see more of that.

James Currier (25:08):

Yeah. No, I completely agree. Yeah. I think that as VCs, we particularly have a responsibility to strike the tone around that, around the creativity and around the thinking big, and speaking to people who think big. Speaking to people who think outside the box to let them know that they're welcome and they're not going to get trod on by the machine that is becoming more and more of this ecosystem that we're in. So one of the things that you and I have talked about in the past that we both love is these artificial beings. So I was on the board of Second Life for five years, and Philip Rosedale is an amazing futurist himself. We would talk about creating a thing called Pomo, which was going to be this child that was going to be born in Second Life, and then everyone was going to watch it grow up. And it was going to become sentient, and it was going to eventually pass the Turing test and whatnot. Can you tell us about Lucy and Lil Miquela and what's going on with that? It's a fascinating part of your investing thesis.

Cyan Banister (26:04):
Yeah, so I became obsessed with this space after seeing Hatsune Miku.

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Say again? Say again, you just cut out because of the Zoom-

Cyan Banister (26:13):

Oh, after seeing Hatsune Miku. So for those that don't know what that is, I highly recommend you go to YouTube and look it up. But she is an avatar who plays music live, and the music is created by fans. So the music is not... There's not one central source that's making the music. It's a whole bunch of people contributing, and it's fan made, and then she performs it for the fans. And she is not a hologram. She's like a Pepper's ghost, I think is what it's called, projection, and so-

James Currier (26:48):
She'll be on stage, and she'll be-

Cyan Banister (26:49):
Yep, she's on stage dancing around.

James Currier (26:51):
Yep, and she's 15 feet tall sometimes, or whatever.

Cyan Banister (26:54):

Yeah, she can be different heights and sizes. And people have these glow sticks and they dance in unison to it, and it's so electric and amazing. And so I went to one of those. First I saw it online, and then I decided I have to go immerse myself in this and experience it, and get all into it, and-

James Currier (27:10):
So you flew to Japan. Did you fly to Japan?

Cyan Banister (27:14):

I did not see her in Japan. I saw her tour the US, but I have gone to Japan specifically to immerse myself in some of these things. So I am guilty of that. I will go there for like 10 days just to watch people and see how they interact with things and with each other. And part of what's really interesting about Tokyo in general is that they have this density that we don't have here, and they have to figure out how to live in unison and in harmony with one another. So they have all these amazing things that we get later, much later. So it's really great to go there and kind of see what our future might look like. Hatsune Miku, I figured, was in our future, but culturally that's not quite who we are, so it wouldn't fit exactly.

Cyan Banister (27:57):
It can't be apples to apples. So I got a call from [Jonathon Triest 00:28:01]. I don't know if you know


James Currier (28:05): I do.

Cyan Banister (28:05):

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And it's one of these favorite calls that I get. I remember I was in Hawaii, and he said, "Cyan, I have this really weird company that only you are going to understand." And I was like, "Oh, I love where this is going." And that was bred Lil Miquela. And so I got on a call with Trevor, and it was so clear that what he was building-

James Currier (28:22): Trevor's the CEO?

Cyan Banister (28:23):

Yeah, he's the CEO and founder. And it was so clear that what he was building could be very big. One of his visions back then... I don't know what it is now. The founder's journey changes. He wanted to create a Marvel universe. And so what he saw bred in Lil Miquela being his Marvel.

Cyan Banister (28:39):

And so as you know, Marvel was a very valuable company, and it was based off of original IP. One of the things we've lost, the ability to do it seems, is to create original IP. We keep regurgitating and recycling these Marvel characters and Disney characters, and going back and reliving childhood, but there's very little new stuff coming out. And so I took a gamble on Lil Miquela because I thought, "This is so out of the box and so interesting, and it feels so right. And it feels like this is what is our Hatsune Miku. This is the American version of that."

Cyan Banister (29:17):

And I felt like it was the right time, and it still remains to be seen whether it is. There's a lot that goes into making Lil Miquela, and it's really, really difficult to do. So I also invested in SUPERPLASTIC. So SUPERPLASTIC also has a virtual being component to it. I invested in AI Foundation, which also does virtual beings. They do these photorealistic, real-time rendered talking heads, kind of like out of Futurama [crosstalk 00:00:29:45]-

James Currier (29:47): Yeah, right. Yeah, sure.

Cyan Banister (29:48):

And then Lucy. So Lucy is a little girl that you can go into VR space with, and she takes you on adventures. And she's really curious, and she's just really interested in her environment, and eventually you're going to be able to hang out with Lucy-

PART 3 OF 4 ENDS [00:30:04]

Cyan Banister (30:03):

Environment and eventually you're going to be able to hang out with Lucy and Lucy will watch movies with you. And imagine being a child and it's sort of having a make believe friend. You do have a make believe friend, but it looks really, really realistic and you can really get into [crosstalk 00:30:17]

James Currier (30:17):
Can we converse with Lucy yet, or is that not there?

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Not yet. So the last that I saw was that you could interact with her by reaching out to her and handing things and she hands things to you and you can be in her space. And what you do in her space drives the narrative, but I think that that's the next step, which is you interact and talk with Lucy. She remembers you and she remembers where you guys left off.

Cyan Banister (30:44):

So that's the most important thing here, is I saw all these attempts of people making these things, but they would have no memory. So you would fire up an app. You'd have a really good time with a dragon that flies around an AR or something like that. And you close the app, it doesn't remember you, right? And so in order for us to connect on a human level with anything that is driven by machines, it needs to behave in that way.

Cyan Banister (31:09):

For example, the other day I tried out an app where you can sext people, they're raising money and it responds too quickly. So immediately I was just like, "I'm not into this because you cannot suspend my disbelief that you're even human."

James Currier (31:27):
Right and the founders weren't sensitive enough to that.

Cyan Banister (31:31): Right.

James Currier (31:32):
That they had done it properly already and therefore not the team to back to do that.

Cyan Banister (31:37):

Yeah. So I think maybe they'll get there, they'll get that feedback. But that's one of the things I like about Lil Miquela. So when you messaged Lil Miquela on Facebook, she will respond sometimes a day later. And it gives you that sort of feeling of that she could be real. This person might, and some people, if you look in the comments are really confused or they want to be confused. They love this magical play that they're part of.

Cyan Banister (32:05):
Have you ever been to Sleep No More or Meow Wolf?

James Currier (32:09): No, not yet.

Cyan Banister (32:10):

Okay. So Sleep No More is in New York and it's wonderful. I highly recommended that you go in, you're not allowed to use your phone, you put on a mask and you're brought into this immersive theater experience that lasts about three or four hours, and you're encouraged to separate from your friends.

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So it's a solo experience in which you wander around this gigantic hotel, where a story is unfolding around you and you have to figure out what it is. And it's so magical that the show sells out every single night. It's a company called Punchdrunk and they're really creative.

Cyan Banister (32:49):

And then there's a company in Santa Fe called Meow Wolf. It's the same sort of thing. You basically go in, but this one you can do in groups. And you're in a house where a family once lived and they mysteriously disappeared, and you've got to figure out where they went. And so you're wondering around this house and there's nobody to guide you; there's nothing there. I think at some point, this is where AR and VR is going to go.

Cyan Banister (33:14):

There's no reason why we have to go to Santa Fe or New York. We could put on a headset or we can wander around our own town and transform our town into something really spectacular. There's no reason why you and I, we want to hang out, that we have the option of go to a movie, have dinner, go to a nightclub, have a phone call, have a cup of coffee, whatever. We have these seven or eight options, right? Why aren't there thousands of options. There should be so many.

Cyan Banister (33:41):
And that's why I think that founders need to think bigger. You don't need AR headsets to create this. We

have a phone and the phone is a lens to an invisible world that you can imagine.

James Currier (33:58):
As Pokemon Go showed us, so viscerally. Yeah.

Cyan Banister (34:03):
Exactly. And interestingly, a lot of people said, "Oh, there's going to be all these Pokemon Go clones.

Pokemon was easy to create. Someone will just create another one." It hasn't happened.

James Currier (34:12): Right.

Cyan Banister (34:12):

And it's because it was not a trivial problem. A lot of people thought it was incredibly trivial and it turns out it's not. And a lot of people have had a really hard time duplicating that. So I don't know. I've wandered all over the place, I'm sure.

James Currier (34:28):

Oh, it's great. It's great. I mean, no because this idea that there are going to be these artificial beings, that we're going to have both immersive spaces that we put ourselves into create enhanced states of mind, to sort of accelerate our own personal evolution, to accelerate our connection to other people. The technology is going to enable that. At the same time, the technology is going to enable us to create new people that will also accelerate our learning and accelerate our experience and enhance our minds.

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And that could be Lil Miquela or it could be Lucy, or it could be the next generation of those creations

and you're immersed in the middle of that.

James Currier (35:02):

I mean, if someone's nervous about that, I've had some people get tearful when they hear me talking about this future. What do you say to people who get scared that we're going to replace people with artificial beings or that we're going to walk around with headsets on and not really be the way we were in the 70s or whatever?

Cyan Banister (35:24):

Oh, I think that's impossible. I think at the end of the day, we're still human beings and we're still the animals we are and we know the difference. I don't think you're going to get so lost in it that you will forget unless you're on drugs or something, but it doesn't seem likely.

James Currier (35:40): Yeah. Yeah.

Cyan Banister (35:41):

I do think we always know that it's not real. We just want to believe it's real and we want to play for a little while. It's like a child. You want to go into that childlike zone and make believe for a while and have fun with it. And there's nothing wrong with that. I don't think you're going to get lost in it. I hear this all the time because with AI Foundation, a lot of people were really concerned about the dystopian nature of deep fakes, right?

James Currier (36:07): Right.

Cyan Banister (36:08):

And if you can create something that's as realistic as what they've done, why couldn't you create a Putin and basically create chaos, which you can. And unfortunately, we are heading towards a bright and also a dark future. And what's going to change is people need to become more skeptical. We need to technologically come up with tools that discover and detect fake media and videos and AI generated content, right?

Cyan Banister (36:41):

So I think that there's this whole frontier out there and we'll solve it the same way we solved spam and all of the other problems we've ever solved and to make sure that it keeps its humanity intact. So I think that AI and artificial beings will be such a huge compliment to us. I don't believe that they're dystopian or dark. I think that it'll help solve some loneliness that people experience, which I think is a very valuable thing.

Cyan Banister (37:08):

Right now, people solve that through Instagram, which I don't think is necessarily valuable. Looking like an Instagram person all the time and always looking like you're on vacation, and painting this picture that you're just crushing it and doing all this stuff, that's not real.

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Cyan Banister (37:27):
That's a fake reality already. So I think that [crosstalk 00:07:31].

James Currier (37:31):
Having a meaningful conversation with Lucy or Lil Miquela would be a lot more real in a way than all the

fakery that you see on this [inaudible 00:37:38].

Cyan Banister (37:38):

It would be. And also you could discover something about yourself that maybe you never thought possible and nothing that ... If you felt safe talking to an artificial being and not a human being, you might be able to confront things that you were never able to confront before or get things done that you never thought possible without judgment, because you're like, "That being can't judge me, they're not real."

James Currier (38:03): Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cyan Banister (38:05):

So again, I think a lot of people just immerse themselves, it's more a people cosplay too. So if you look at the cold cosplay universe, these people get dressed up and then they act out the scene for a day and they're Pokemon trainers or they're Dragon Ball Z people or whoever.

James Currier (38:23): Sure.

Cyan Banister (38:24):
It's a similar thing. They just want to play.

James Currier (38:29):
Sure. Or how they create their characters in Second Life or wherever else [crosstalk 00:00:38:32].

Cyan Banister (38:37):
I love Second Life, by the way.

James Currier (38:37):
Yeah. Yeah. That was 15, 20 years ahead of its time. It was incredible. Appreciate you spending the time

with me today and it's great to see you and great to hear you. And thanks so much.

Cyan Banister (38:46): Yeah. Thank you.

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