Makers of The Metaverse: Mishi McDuff of Blueberry Entertainment On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Customer empathy — our customers are everything for us. They truly are more than buyers, but they build the communities in which we work and live. We need to know them and make sure to serve them where they are and with what they need.
The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Mishi McDuff.
Mishi McDuff is the CEO and Founder of Blueberry, the world’s leading digital fashion brand. Before Blueberry, Mishi was a senior executive at multiple digital media and gaming companies. She led marketing at Peanut Labs (exit in 2010) and Xuqa (exit in 2006). In 2018 she co-founded 1336 Studios, a multiplayer game studio focused on the sports market, where she currently remains as Chair Woman.
Born in Turkey, Mishi has always been a metaverse fanatic and prolific digital artists, with 300k+ followers on platforms like Flickr for her work in digital design. She is a strong believer in the potential for digital fashion to re-define the traditional fashion ecosystem, offering empowering, sustainable and endlessly creative products.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
Hi! Thank you for having me. I was born and raised in Turkey. At a pretty young age, I learned technology and found that I could launch and build companies that were heavily focused in the US. I was fortunate to co-found and exit two companies before the age of 20. So, I grew up as an entrepreneur.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
It was a video game! I played Dota 2 religiously. Admittedly, I spent quite a bit of money on the game, but purely on the cosmetic appearance of the characters I played. It became very clear that self expression is important in any social space — digital or physical.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the virtual reality/metaverse industry? We’d love to hear it.
I was a huge fan of the musical artist Skye Galaxy. When I lived in Turkey, I would listen to him on YouTube. I found out he did concerts on a platform called Second Life and I downloaded it immediately. I was able to join his concert and have an amazing time while meeting other people who attended the concert. Despite having such a good time, I realized my avatar looked very basic compared to others and I was determined to look just as dope as the rest of them. That night, I made myself a cute dress, and the next day other people were asking to buy my dress. That’s how Blueberry launched!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
I have hundreds of what I consider to be the most interesting stories! It’s hard to pick just one. In summing it up, the people I meet through metaverse worlds and even real-life people interested in metaverse worlds are fascinating and so interesting. They include people from all professions — creatives, students, journalists, doctors — and also from all nationalities, religions and cultures. Diversity of perspectives has always been interesting to me — both opening my eyes to ways I want to live and also inspiring me of who I want to design for.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Oh my gosh — it still makes me shake my head when I think about what I call my “hair fair despair.” I was donating 5 virtual wigs to a fundraiser to help children with cancer afford wigs. In preparation I was supposed to air-drop my designs to the influencers the night before the official drop. And then…. I inadvertently air dropped the designs to the entire distribution list. Instantly, none of the designs had value — because I gave them all away. So, I lost a night of sleep creating a whole new set of virtual hair.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Of course, I must credit my mom. While she wanted me to be a doctor, and I am not, she always knew that I was smart and ambitious, needing an outlet to put all of me into my career. Knowing that she believed in me was the foundation I needed. Her consistent support and love has given me the courage to become an entrepreneur — and also a mother!
The other person I want to call out is Prosper Nwankpa. He has been a 2-times co-founder with me. He moved to the US from Nigeria at the age of 12 and rigorously found his path to a myriad of successes. He proactively shares what he is learning with me, and vice versa. When I am with him I feel empowered. If I question myself, he is always quick to remind me that I can handle whatever comes my way.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Blueberry has done a collaboration with the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen. In honor of May’s Mental Health Awareness month, we are launching a metaverse fundraising event. Beginning Friday, May 13, 2022, a digital version of the show’s iconic blue striped polo will be available for purchase on Roblox, with 100% of the proceeds to benefit the Child Mind Institute, the not-for-profit dedicated to transforming the lives of children struggling with mental health disorders and learning disorders.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are a couple of things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?
First, the reach that these capabilities create is vast. Just from my own example growing up in Turkey, online communities gave me an eye for both the opportunities that existed beyond my day-to-day real life, as well as expanding the people I could meet as partners, collaborators and customers.
Second, VR, AR and MR give way to creative outlets for many people, and importantly many new creators. As cliche as it may sound, these new technologies are the blank canvases for new ideas.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
No matter what tools are created, there are always a few bad-actors that take those tools and misuse them. Our plan is to focus our attention on the positive people, players and capabilities in the space. There is no reason why these tools can’t make the world a better place.
There are 3 essential parts to the industry: the platforms, the creators, and the end users. The relationship between the platform and the creator is very open to exploitation. Protecting assets and copyright, fair compensation, and preserving equal opportunities should be taken very seriously by the platforms.
I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?
Covid was an eye-opening experience for the power of virtual work. Think if we had a global pandemic before we had video conferencing. VR, AR and MR will take the next step in helping people effectively work together no matter where they are IRL*.
(*in real life.)
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
I believe that fashion and art are making enormous strides today. In the future, I believe that healthcare and education are frontiers that will leverage these technologies to serve people in really powerful ways.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
It is no longer a field that is on the sidelines or niche. It is becoming, and has become, far more mainstream. I was laughing with a friend the other day, as her daughter lost a tooth and asked the Tooth Fairy to provide a gift in Robux. Kids use these metaverses and communities to connect and socialize in ways that can be really healthy!
What are your “4 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”
It’s really so much the same
- High-energy — we run 24×7 businesses with people around the world communicating with us and purchasing our products. You need to have a team that is responsive — which requires lots of energy.
- Open-mindedness — we are operating in a very new world and evolving marketplace. If you get too set in your ways, you won’t be able to evolve and change to stay relevant with our customers and within our community.
- Resilience — nothing about being an entrepreneur is easy. There are lots of “nos” for every “yes.” It takes resilience to keep coming back and working through the challenges to find success.
- Customer empathy — our customers are everything for us. They truly are more than buyers, but they build the communities in which we work and live. We need to know them and make sure to serve them where they are and with what they need.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I spent the last decade of my life building a community that empowers women in digital spaces. This is entirely what I want to do — even expanding the community to girls who will grow to be empowered women. The best part is that more and more girls and women want to participate in these virtual spaces — creating a world where they want to be.
We are very blessed that very prominent people read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Gavin Rossdale because Bush is my favorite band of all time. Let’s skip lunch and do a Roblox concert instead.
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!
Makers of The Metaverse: Mishi McDuff of Blueberry Entertainment On The Future Of The VR, AR &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.