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Why representation now means a much better metaverse-to-come



Building out the metaverse, where users interact in a virtual world in real time, raises many big questions, including, will this metaverse or new reality reflect our highest aspirations? Will it serve as a model for healthy, inclusive ecosystems?

“It depends on who’s designing it,” said Anastasia Staten, executive director of the ESA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the video game industry during the second day of the GamesBeat Summit.

She was joined by a panel of industry experts who are knee-deep in designing and developing the metaverse-to-come right now, to talk about what’s needed to design and build the metaverse so we can deliver diversity, equity, and inclusion that fosters a sense of belonging.

The conversation began with a discussion of the current tech landscape, which cannot be talked about without also mentioning the pandemic, and how it has affected the way people interact with all technology.


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Joanna Popper, global head of XR, go-to-market, at HP pointed out that while the pandemic has had devastating economic and health care impacts on the world, the technology industry has been pushed light-years ahead, as has readiness for it.

“A big part of that, too, is making sure that technology is more evenly distributed,” Popper said. “For example, when schools were sent home, many people didn’t have access to laptops. Companies like HP and many others focused heavily on how we could make sure people have computers that are able to connect to take people back to school, and make sure we didn’t continue to increase the digital divide.”

Parallel to that, some of the key building blocks of the metaverse have also made some leaps forward, including spatial computing, virtual worlds, and 3D gaming engines, which, among other benefits, has improved how folks are able to combine entertainment with community, and play games as well as chat with friends. But perhaps even more significant is the ways identity can be embodied in these increasingly social virtual worlds.

They let gamers “bring themselves and their self-expression, whatever way they feel they want to represent themselves on a specific day, being able to own that persona and change it depending on their view of themselves on a particular day or a particular platform,” Camera said. “That has greatly helped show the difference between the internet as it is right now and the vision of where the metaverse is going in the future.”

Beyond gaming: The metaverse as culture

The metaverse will improve game playing and interactive entertainment, but it can go so much further than fancy game platforms. While Oculus’ focus has very much been on gaming platforms, they’re starting to look beyond that, said Clorama Dorvilias, product manager, at Meta/Oculus VR.

“With the next iteration of the headset, we’ll start looking at how we can enable productivity and leverage VR as a utility in our culture and society,” she said. Education and the workplace will be powerfully impacted by VR in the future, she predicted.

“With the emergence of the internet, that’s given us opportunities to be able to access a lot of these core needs that we have as humans — to play, to socialize, to learn, to work — without the need for having to travel physically a certain distance,” she said. “With the pandemic, we were accelerated into that futuristic world. Over the last 20 years of the internet, we’ve become a global economy because these physical barriers have been reduced or broken down. We’re now interacting with people around the world in ways we wouldn’t have been able to, with so much more ease and access.”

Some of the biggest barriers to education around the world are simply access to a physical school, Dorvilias said. But VR can make experiential learning and social learning, as a group, and as a community available to everyone.

Inclusion now impacts the future

Many of the technology use cases pushed forward by the pandemic are based on communication, connection, and community, said Jasmine Roberts, software engineer, augmented reality, at Google. The next step in creating a more inclusive world is simply by providing that access to everyone.

“The fact is that our education model is centered around people having to pay,” Roberts. “In the future there should be more scholarships specifically for people in marginalized groups attempting to get into this. There’s not adequate representation, not just in terms of underrepresented minorities, but also not representation of women in these rooms and spaces.”

In terms of engineering, the best we can do as individuals is to provide mentorship to people, she said, and it takes a lot of effort and willingness.

“We also have to be willing to push back on people who think that marginalized groups are getting unfair advantages by being given unfair opportunities,” Roberts added. “Realistically speaking, if the metaverse does parallel the real world, it needs to have the same demographics and same demographic considerations. It’s as much about pursuing the work, continuing to do the work, and also trying to educate people — politely — who don’t understand why certain groups are in certain positions.”

While there are many companies focusing on how to create a more representative workforce, there’s a really long way to go before the workforce in these spaces is representative of the population at large, Popper added.

For companies, there are three key areas: recruiting, retention, and rewarding, she explained. You need to be proactively, thoughtfully recruiting the best talent from all different backgrounds and identities around the world into your workforce, with the ultimate goal of creating a fully representative team. And then once people are in jobs, you need to retain them by paying them fairly, rewarding them, promoting them, and giving them opportunities to shine.

“The other important thing is for companies to understand why they’re doing this,” she continued. “It’s not checking a box. It’s to actually make the best product. It’s to have the best financial returns. It’s to have the best stock price, to have the best leadership, to have the best decision-making. There’s been study after study showing that when you have a representative workforce, a representative leadership, all of those things are stronger and better. If your company is not actively pursuing this, doesn’t actively have this at the center of its values, you’re not doing your fiduciary duty for your company.”

But conventional companies won’t be the only way to have a stable, long-term career — the metaverse is unlocking the potential for a creator economy, Dorvilias pointed out. People around the world will be able to create their own businesses, express themselves, share their passion, and find ways to connect with other people around the world who also have those unique passions.

“That, to me, is the most exciting part about inclusivity in the metaverse,” she said. “People are starting to be able to have more access and empowerment, to have more control over their own economic opportunities that they didn’t have pre-internet.”

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Amazon may lay off 20,000 employees, including managers: Report



Amazonmay lay off about 20,000 employees across divisions as the company reevaluates its pandemic-induced hiring spree, according to a media report.

A Computerworld report stated that the tech giant could lay off employees across the company, including distribution centre workers, technology staff, and corporate executives. Staff at all levels will likely be affected, it found.

Last month, the New York Times reported that Amazon plans to lay off approximately 10,000 people, and “the cuts will focus on Amazon’s devices organisation, including the voice-assistant Alexa, as well as at its retail division and in human resources”.

However, according to Computerworld, the layoffs could impact nearly double the number of employees– roughly 6% of the company’s corporate employees and about 1.3% of its global workforce of more than 1.5 million composed primarily of hourly workers.

YourStory could not independently verify the report.

Corporate staff have been told that employees will receive a 24-hour notice and severance pay, in accordance with their company contracts, the Computerworld report noted. “There is a sense of fear among employees in the company as the news has come out,” the report added, quoting a source who was informed directly about the layoff effort.

The layoffs would be the largest staff reduction in Amazon’s history.

“There is no specific department or location mentioned for the cuts; it is across the business. We were told this is as a result of over-hiring during the pandemic and the need for cost-cutting as the company’s financials have been on a declining trend,” the source told Computerworld.

After the New York Times report, Amazon Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy shared some information about role eliminations in a note. Jassy confirmed that layoffs were occurring, though he did not specify the planned number of employees to be laid off.

“Our annual planning process extends into the new year, which means there will be more role reductions as leaders continue to make adjustments. Those decisions will be shared with impacted employees and organisations early in 2023,” Jassy wrote in the message, noting that Amazon had already communicated that layoffs would occur in the Devices and Books businesses, and would be extending a voluntary reduction offer for some employees in the People, Experience, and Technology (PXT) organisation. 

“We haven’t concluded yet exactly how many other roles will be impacted (we know that there will be reductions in our Stores and PXT organisations), but each leader will communicate to their respective teams when we have the details nailed down,” Jassy noted.

Meanwhile, the Computerworld report noted that employees on Amazon’s robotics team have been laid off.

Amazon’s muted third-quarter earnings as well as disappointing fourth-quarter projections led the company’s stock to plummet. Its third-quarter earnings were severely impacted by unpredictable consumer shopping habits and inflation. 

Amazon is likely to lay off several employees in India across divisions, according to media reports. Last month, Amazon confirmed that it will shut down its wholesale unit Amazon Distribution. This is the third business unit to be closed after the e-commerce giant announced the wrapping up of Amazon Academy and the food delivery business in India.

Globally, tech companies have announced layoffs as part of their cost-cutting efforts. In November, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company had decided to reduce the size of its team by about 13%, cutting over 11,000 jobs. In the same month, Elon Musk reduced half of Twitter’s workforce or about 3,700 jobs at the social media firm.

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Unlock The Entrepreneurial Potential Of Your Team With Employee-Ownership



A strong team of many outperforms even the most hardworking of entrepreneurs on their own. But when hiring employees, freelancers and contractors, how do you ensure they have the same entrepreneurial skills and drive that you do as your company’s owner? Is it unrealistic to expect employees to be motivated and committed to an organisation they didn’t found?

Nicki Sprinz thinks she has cracked the code of unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of your team, and the answer lies in employee ownership. Sprinz is managing director of B-Corp certified ustwo London, a company of over 200 employees, and cofounder of Ada’s List, an 8000-strong community designed to support women working in the tech industry. ustwo has recently become employee-owned and has already seen the benefits of breaking down the distinction between owners and employees.

According to the Employee Ownership Association, this way of working can improve productivity, support more resilient regional economies and empower team members, resulting in them being far more engaged. Sprinz explained the main benefit for entrepreneurs of this model along with practical tips for managing directors and company founders to make the transition to becoming employee-owned.

Employee ownership protects the company

“Being employee-owned means existing team members, who are now partners, feel empowered as owners,” said Sprinz. She believes that this encourages everyone to put in the work to uphold a strong company culture and course-correct if they see anything awry.

Whilst this might not happen automatically, a founder can make it more likely that their team upholds the vision. Sprinz has put frameworks in place to ensure everyone has a voice. “We hold open firesides, have elected partner representatives on the board, and ensure there are regular channels of communication for all team members to be part of growing the culture and living the values,” she said.

Keeping the team on board means protecting the company. “There are no surprises about the direction we are taking with the business,” explained Sprinz. “We involve everyone in the decisions we make on our projects and ensure we are accountable, both commercially and ethically.”

Attract and retain top talent

In a competitive market, how does your company attract and retain the best talent in the world for the benefit of your clients? Employee-ownership could be the solution. Not only does it make job listings stand out, but it attracts individuals who are like-minded and think long term. They are committed to a future with whichever company they choose to join and are prepared to push themselves to make it happen.

“High quality potential recruits and employees are interested in values and purpose,” said Sprinz. “Being able to talk about employee ownership helps you stand out in a tough hiring market. We have several interview stages so a candidate can get to know us as well as we’d like to know them.”

Sprinz’ interview stages aim to weed out “cultural and value mismatches that ultimately lead to an unfulfilled team.” They ask candidates multiple questions about their values and examples of them in practice, and they encourage candidates to probe with questions about ustwo. They also “publicise the salary for all open roles and candidates have the opportunity to meet other members of the team,” she added.

Control quality

When scaling a business, ambitious entrepreneurs cannot afford to let quality slip. Growth at all costs is a false economy that ends with the business back at square one and having to work harder to undo reputational damage. “A more entrepreneurial team ensures quality stays high,” explained Sprinz. Not only do your team members care deeply about the work they do, they also know they benefit from company growth, so they are incentivised to keep raising the bar.

“If your team is invested in the long term financial success of the company, they also feel pride that their work contributes to overall success,” said Sprinz. “They respond by raising the bar on their work.” Sprinz also believes that, “Regular transparent sharing of financial results and metrics maintains dialogue on personal and company impact.”

Direct the future

An employee-owned company has options for the future. The owner might one day want to step aside or sell, and the company’s succession plan will already be in place. In the meantime, the company has hit new heights and progressed with new ideas because its foundations are solid.

Like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you cannot reach self-actualisation without warmth and shelter, and a company cannot break through ceilings with constant recruitment issues. When team members are bought into the company, they are bought into its future too, making more certain outcomes for everyone involved.

“The partner representatives on the board surface the priorities of the rest of the team and ensure the conversations of the board are directed accordingly,” explained Sprinz. “The representatives are actively part of the bigger picture and playing a huge part in shaping the company’s future.”

Unlock the entrepreneurial potential of your team by exploring employee ownership, advised Sprinz. The best people will be proud to tell their friends that they are part-owners of the place they work. They will feel valued and listened to and respond with their effort and devotion. Could employee ownership be the right step forward for you?

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With $3M new funding, Egyptian startup OneOrder sets out on growth drive • TechCrunch



OneOrder, Egypt’s supply chain solutions provider for restaurants, has raised $3 million seed funding led by Nclude with participation from A15, and Delivery Hero Ventures. The latest funding brings the total funding raised by the startup to $10.5
million, including $6.5 million working capital financing from financial institutions.

Launched in March this year, OneOrder makes it possible for restaurants to order food supplies through its online platform, solving the fragmented supply chain challenges that lead to erratic prices, waste, quality issues, and storage cost.

By using its platform, restaurants no longer have to deal with tens of suppliers, and can order only what they need, for next day delivery, stemming wastage and doing away with the need for warehouses. The platform also ensures operational efficiency and helps restaurants save money by leveraging OneOrder’s economies of scale.

The startup plans to use the funding to scale its operations in Egypt including increasing its warehouse footprint, and to explore growth opportunities within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, and Africa.

“We are exploring Saudi Arabia and expanding south into our continent. I think Africa has a lot of markets that feel the same pain points that Egypt does,” said OneOrder co-founder and CEO, Tamer Amer, who co-founded OneOrder with Karim Maurice (CTO), also founder Cube, an online restaurant-reservation service.

“The solution that we’re providing has shown that this industry is ready for tech solutions…[and] we are working on a more substantial operating system for the restaurants not just the supply chain and inventory management system, rather the full cycle that would turn their operations automatic by using AI and machine learning capabilities to drive the supply chain,” said Amer, a restaurateur for over two decades, initially in the U.S before settling in Egypt from 2008.

Amer, told TechCrunch that the sourcing challenges he experienced operating two restaurants in Egypt — Fuego, a sushi bar, and Longhord Texas Barbeque — inspired the launch of OneOrder, to serve the country’s total addressable market of 400,000 restaurants.

“I had always taken the supply chain in the U.S for-granted; we would order and get the supplies all the time. We didn’t have to worry about shortages or price changes. I realized that Egypt is so underserved and the industry is really doing a lot of things that we shouldn’t be doing,” he said.

“… restaurants should not have a full-time job monitoring the supply chain and procuring products because it takes away focus on the core business, which is serving customers. So that’s where the idea really started,” he said.

OneOrder plans to, through its partners and backed by its extensive data, begin extending working capital financing options to restaurants as a way of helping them scale their operations.

Basil Moftah, the managing partner at Nclude, said: “The product-market fit of the OneOrder solution is very impressive, along with the positive impact it is delivering to all stakeholders in the value chain. Through the use of technology and alternative data, OneOrder’s embedded financing will help underserved clients who are unable to secure traditional financing. This aligns perfectly with our investing philosophy and we are glad to be embarking on this journey with the team.”

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