Ari Meilich of Decentraland

Virtual reality platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain 

By Michael Karnjanaprakorn

Ari is the Project Lead at Decentraland, the first decentralized VR platform. He has worked as an Analyst at Charles River Ventures, a leading Silicon Valley venture fund, and as the founder and CEO of Benchrise, a big-data company. Before entering the world of tech, he spent two years as a National Institute of Health fellow, performing neuroscience research on human decision-making, while running a BPO agency that catered to clients such as Amazon and General Electric.

What's your story? Tell me about the first time you learned about the blockchain.

Back in 2011, I was an avid reader of "hacker news", the startup forum from YC. I remember hearing something about it but dismissing it as a curiosity. In 2012 I started reading more about it, even bought some BTC to play around from a friend, and started digging into the ideas of the community. By 2013 I knew I got the "Bitcoin bug" and that this fertile ground for innovation was going to be a field on which I will be working for a while.

From there on, I started meeting more and more interesting people and projects, and it's been an exciting adventure.

What do you believe that is true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Within 10 years, VR will become the platform on which we will be the most productive.

What does your project/company do? How did you come up with the idea? What problem does it solve?

Decentraland is a virtual reality world where users can own parcels of land, backed by a blockchain-based ledger of ownership.

We were heavily inspired by Snowcrash and Ready Player One. These ideas of an immersive, shared virtual reality, combined with open networks where no entity has control over the rules of this world, got together and converged on Decentraland.

Who's on the team?

We are leading a team of four developers, whom at this stage are actually wearing multiple hats. We are on boarding a full stack unicorn developers, of the designer/engineer type. We have a great board of advisors, that include Manu Araoz, with whom we originally conceived the idea of Decentraland, Yemel Jardi, who together with Ari infused more energy to the project and got it to bronze age, and other key experts like Luis Cuende, Jake Brukhman, Diego Doval, and many more.

What's your vision for the future of the project/company?

I envision Decentraland becoming the default social experience and platform when using VR. We want that future to be an open platform, not a siloed experience controlled by a single entity.

How does token network effects work? How does the token appreciate? 

Our mana token is a proxy for claiming a new parcel of land. We are making land in our world scarce to keep the exploration of the world a high quality experience -- infinite land would not keep user's attention for long. By allowing discovery of new experiences by adjacency, we allow users to come up with communities of shared interests, where exploring your land might bring you to an adjacent and similarly interesting experience. The scarce resource of the XXI century is not capital, it's user's attention and wants, and if your land and that of your neighbors manages to attract that attention, your land token will raise in value.

How can people get involved?

We are running a vision program to gather the valuable input of our strong community. We've seen a lot of high quality proposals that are helping us guide our product decisions in an open way.

What article or book have you shared the most recently?

Sapiens, from Yuval Noah Harari and The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, are longtime favorites of mine. But Snowcrash has been my recommendation for everyone recently.

What other projects are you excited about in the space?

Well, the Lightning Network is high on top of that list. The work by Elizabeth Stark, Ololuawa and their team is doing is amazing. And recently, Joseph Poon did it again with Plasma.

Decentraland will be running a token sale from August 17th to August 26th.