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New innovation trumpets Africa’s growing interest in Metaverse

DJ Set JabnJaw SEt.
DJ Set JabnJaw SEt.

Touted as Africa’s first and only Metaverse venue, SodaWorld is a technology platform developed to serve as an entertainment emporium in the Metaverse- a resource through which artists can create new virtual worlds, customise fan engagement, as well as create and sell NFT and merchandise.

SodaWorld was founded by long-time technology and creative industry innovator Mic Balkind during lockdown in 2020. It recently secured investment by Switzerland-based CV VC and was selected as one of just two projects to be featured as a Special Project at the Venice Biennale, Venice VR programme, as part of the Venice Immersive 2022 event.

SodaWorld streams live from its SodaStudio in downtown Johannesburg. SodaStudio is an offline-to-Metaverse high-tech studio that serves as a connection point between creators and the Metaverse.

Developers say that to date, the platform has already produced over 60 virtual events in the Metaverse with top South African artists including Moonchild, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Sun El Musician, and Msaki, reaching over 6000 people on the beta platform, with an average watch time of 1h and 9m.

Balkind, CEO of SodaWorld, has worked within the technology and creative industries for over 20 years.

SodaWorld describes Balkind as “a fore-runner in the broadcast and entertainment industry” and the creator and owner of digital nightlife website JHBLive, an online community of over 120,000 active participants.

Digital twin

The project involves two phases. The first – and current phase – is centred around the construction of basic metaverse functionality, which includes the near-automated production SodaStudio to enable high-quality real time broadcast to the Metaverse.

“We are broadcasting to our Virtual Reality digital twin of the studio in VRCHAT. But in between is where things are interesting. We are busy developing a social layer that will interact between the real world and the virtual. Music and especially live performers represent the ability to filter through culture. If there is a band that you really like it is highly likely that if you go to their live performance you will meet like-minded people,” said Balkind.

Live Band Pops Mohamed.
Live Band Pops Mohamed.

“Our focus is on how to facilitate interaction between the fans be it in the real world, in VR or online. The social layer is a key to us. We have hacked together a version of this in the studio where we have been practicing what it is like for an artist to feel the people from the outside world in the studio. Phase one has been around experimentation and implementation of our blueprints.”

Phase two is a stand-alone tech stack that will represent the ability for artists and cultural institutions to create virtual worlds and the ability to perform inside of them.

“The system will also include the ability for artists to create tokenomics and for fans to get behind artists' projects by owning a slice of the initiatives proposed to SodaWorld community persons,” developers added.

SodaWorld said at the moment, artists can submit their band for review.

“We are going to select around up to thirty artists where we partner with them to launch a Metaverse strategy. We will enable the artist to build an audience and perform to them on a regular basis. Also the tools and expertise to develop digital assets and tokenomics,” the platform stated.

According to Balkind, SodaWorld performs the role of a new-world agency that partners with the artist. “Our model is to split proceeds with the artists from projects undertaken in our partnership. It is a sliding scale so the first year where we share 50% and then it slides down to 15%.By year four we take our standard fee of 15% ongoing for the duration of the relationship.Our aim is to raise significantly more investment and to build our tech stack and launch it as a stand-alone offering.”

Olaf Hannemann, Chief Investment Officer and Co-Founder of CV VC said: “CV VC is a blockchain tech early-stage VC headquartered in the world’s most mature blockchain hub, ‘Crypto Valley’, Switzerland. We invest in start-ups who demonstrate a capability to transform the way the world interacts and transacts using blockchain technology. The dynamic team at SodaWorld have shown an energy, determination, and industry expertise to do just that for artists and creators. Core to blockchain is its ability to build trust. The entertainment and performance sector need to rebuild trust especially from the creator’s perspective. The SodaWorld platform can achieve this and more, new revenue streams for creators.”

CV Labs Africa MD, Gideon Greaves added:“As the incubation business pillar of CV VC, we at CV Labs Africa are stoked to work with the team at SodaWorld who are building on blockchain to enable artists to monetise immersive fandom. Their enriching platform empowers African creators to connect with global audiences via the brave new world known as ’the metaverse’ which in simple terms is an interactive and augmented digital reality world, accessible by fans anytime and anywhere and where fans can actually interact with artists and visa-versa. The opportunities are endless. Africa is blessed - it has in its hands a facility - SodaWorld which can facilitate creators access this Metaverse!”

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