August 24, 2022

The Metaverse and Cities - A Mayor’s perspective

By Elizabeth Haas

Our partner, The Conference of Mayors, joined forces with Shelley Zalis and FQ to highlight one mayor, and what she is doing with the Metaverse.  As you listen to Shelley Zalis and Mayor Hillary Shieve, of Reno discuss the Metaverse, why it matters to every city gets framed.

Watch it:

Or read an abbreviated transcript below:  

Shelley Zalis: LinkedIn live. Today, I am so excited to welcome this amazing girlfriend to unscripted who happens to be someone that I have loved from hello. I met her at the Conference of Mayors a couple of years ago. She just lit up the room. She is the first mayor ever on Unscripted. And she is a mayor of firsts in so many ways. So everyone, please give a warm welcome to Mayor Hillary, the mayor of Reno.

Politico magazine named you one of 11 most interesting mayors.  And I have to say, I love that you are the first female mayor in the metaverse, which is amazing and what you are doing is remarkable. We definitely don't want it to be the boys club. So tell us, first of all:  Why did you get into the metaverse?  And how did you get into the metaverse?

Mayor Schieve: That is such a good question. First of all, thank you for everything you do to elevate women.

I started getting really involved in about 2016 and investing in cryptocurrency and just really following the dynamics of Web3. And I mean, there are so many people today that are unbanked, (and Cryptocurrency will address that issue). I have been investing in the space for a while, and then I started to really think about how the Metaverse would be such a game changer, especially for businesses. I'm a business owner and I started to think about what if we got rid of these credit card fees that are a huge hindrance when it comes to the financial barriers that we see in this country? So I was a big fan of cryptocurrency.  I think it's a platform that is for the user, and by the user. Like honestly, it takes back the power. I think a lot of people don't realize—they look at platforms like Facebook and Twitter and think that they're free, but really they're taking a lot of our data and the things that we own. And so this is the time that we get to take our power back and what we share with people and what we own.

I dove into Web3 and started to work with a good friend of yours, Marc Beckman, on an NFT project, because I'm a huge believer in arts and culture. Arts and culture have transformed my city and made it vibrant. We diversified it with companies like Amazon, Apple. Tesla is a big player here now.

One of the things that we struggle with in government is always trying to figure out how do we fund something, and how we engage our community and especially communities that typically don't pay attention to government. I started to work on this NFT project. It's the Space Whale, an incredible whale sculpture from Burning Man. It's the stained glass whale. Android Jones worked on it, and he actually has done art at the Vatican. Very talented, but a whole bunch of artists worked on this whale. And I decided that it was so fantastic that we needed to put it into an NFT. And then we can raise money to continue to foster arts and culture in our city. And I worked on that with Marc Beckman, and if anyone wants to check it out, check out Citykey.Art.

And we're also looking at ways in which we can unlock experiences in cities that we can put together that are unique, one of a kind. So when you purchase our NFT of the Space Whale, that will unlock experiences. And I also think that this is going to be a huge game changer when we look at how we attract tourism.

An all encompassing goal now that we're starting to talk about at the United States Conference of Mayors is, how we can use the metaverse to interact with our communities and people across the world. And I mean, just think about what that would look like for someone to be able to come to Reno, Nevada, just through the metaverse and to understand the culture. But I want to bring in other cities that have these really prominent art sculptures, and then we can put them into the metaverse. And so I think there's a lot of ways in which governments can really transform the experience. That's something that we're working with through the United States Conference of Mayors that it's very exciting.

And that's what I think is so exciting about the metaverse…. So I'm really looking at the metaverse of how we can connect with different populations, but also how we can bring in people from all over the world, which I think is exciting. But think about it, if you could just go into the metaverse and even get a business license, those kinds of things, I think government, can really transform the experience for communities right here at home and all across the globe.

About 60 million users right now are in the metaverse. So that is a huge audience. And that's why companies and certainly governments always sort of lag behind. And that's why I'm really pushing companies and governments to think about what this future of our Internet looks like. We would be naive to think that we're not going to evolve, and this is going to be the next evolution. And I think that's what makes cities really relevant, like Austin, Texas. It makes those cities relevant and it makes people want to really feel connected with their city. Whenever you're being innovative and looking at ways in which you can transform their lives, whether it's with currency or through culture. So those are the kinds of ways I think that cities need to start looking at to be relevant and to stay relevant because we're all sort of in some ways competing with each other to be the best at this or the best at that. I also think technology is such a big part of our lives that we would be very remiss to dismiss it and especially in cities. So I think it's a great way for us to evolve but be better at service, and also be more accessible and more transparent.

I'm lucky. Like I said, we have a lot of technology companies that have moved here like Tesla, Panasonic, Unstoppable Domains—pretty incredible companies right here at home in my hometown. I love those guys. Reno is really embracing it. It's kind of created this buzz in my city. But it's also a great way to attract talent that wants to grow and build companies here in the space. And I think if you're a mayor that's very encompassing of web3, then you'll continue to foster sort of that ecosystem that happens around it. And we know that's also the future of our jobs. And I hope that I could be part of that process to onboard mayors with the United States Conference of Mayors. A lot of people are thinking about virtual reality. And it's going to be very much a part of our lives. And I think if we're going to make inroads, we've got to start educating ourselves about it.

Whenever I started to talk about the NFT project—and we also just rolled out putting our historical properties on blockchain— people all over the place have reached out to me and said, “How do I get my city involved?” And we're seeing a lot of this younger generation that understands technology saying, "Wow, this is the first time that I'm actually listening and paying attention to what my government is doing." And I think that's what changes the landscape for a city is whenever you start to pull in your innovators and you start to pull in those people like your creators. You know this in the NFT space: there are so many phenomenal artists that really want to be collaborating with their cities. So, so many of them have reached out to me and said, “How do I work with my city? So that's one of the things that I've been doing—putting them in touch with their mayors. We need to collaborate with people in Web3 and people that are creating NFTs and developers and really creating an ecosystem around it. It's important for cities to be at the forefront.

Again, it's collaborating with the United States Conference of Mayors and starting to look like “let's start to build city halls in the metaverse.” Right? And I think that can really be transformative. But again, think about how quickly we can start to scale those services. When you talk about business—especially if you are in business—you need to know your government. And I think, you know, we can do things on the metaverse that can make it so accessible. I think visually we can see it and understand it, too. For example, a lot of people will go out there and they might start a business, but they might not realize that that business is zoned for that area. Right. So those can be some really critical mistakes that people might make if they're not quite sure about starting a business in your city. And that's why we think putting a city in the metaverse will make a difference. And we can create a map of a city, and you can see it to where it would identify zoning. So we kind of think in the future that's what people will be able to look at exactly those kinds of ways in which we can help them foster much better in business.

Shelley Zalis: Tell us all. We have a huge community. How do we help you?

Mayor Schieve: If you are someone that is a creator or in business in your own city, reach out to me at MayorReno. gov. If you are a business or you are a creator or you have a great NFT project, because I think what I am best at is really connecting people with the right avenues to get their projects off the ground. So I would love to connect you with your mayor. Mayors love to collaborate with innovators, small business, big business. They're like your biggest champion in your city. And I think that people sort of shy away and think, oh, you know, government, it should be so distant. It's not really like that. Mayors are wonderful champions for people that are doing innovative projects. And so if you want to work with your mayor, reach out to me.

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