We aim to make metaverse technology accessible to all: Shaffra’s Alfred Manasseh

“Our goal is to democratize metaverse creation, similar to how platforms like WordPress simplified website development. We plan to support the gaming ecosystem and leverage AI tools for various applications. Ultimately, we aim to make metaverse technology accessible to all users, including SMEs, and expand our reach beyond the MENA region,” says Alfred Manasseh, Co-Founder and Chief Metaverse & Operating Officer of Shaffra, the first company in the MENA region offering Metaverse-as-a-Service, enabling companies to have metaverse strategies and presence. Shaffra provides its technology to organisations to be able to build their own metaverses and to empower businesses in various verticals. In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Alfred Manasseh shares insights into the company's mission to democratize metaverse technology, its unique position in the MENA region, and its vision for the future of the metaverse. From pioneering metaverse-as-a-service to transforming industries, Shaffra is at the forefront of reshaping how we interact with the digital world. Excerpts:Can you provide an overall idea about Shaffra’s metaverse-as-service offering, and how it differentiates itself in the MENA region? How receptive is the MENA region when it comes to the adoption of metaverse?Initially when we were at the ideation phase of our startup, Shaffra, our project goals were completely different. We were about to launch a crypto exchange geared for businesses, and that's where the name Shaffra comes from. In colloquial Arabic here in the region, it means code or crypto.Now, when we initially set out to launch our project, our primary goal was to develop a unique business model that would harness global talent. To achieve this, we envisioned running our operations entirely in a virtual environment. However, as we delved into the available options for making our operations completely virtual, we couldn't find anything that fully met our expectations. It was at this point that we made a crucial decision: let's create our own solution. With three co-founders on board, one of whom boasts technical expertise gained from working at Nintendo and developing gaming engines, as well as experience in handling large web data applications, we embarked on building our virtual world or proof of concept (POC), whichever term you prefer. During this process, we recognized that the potential for growth in the metaverse within our region far exceeded that of the crypto exchange industry.Can you name some of your major clients in the region?When we started, we were fortunate to participate in a challenge in Abu Dhabi, which led to our first client, Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism. I can't disclose specific projects, but we're working on about three to four different initiatives for them, scheduled to launch in January 2024. These projects cover areas such as employee interactions, resident interactions, marketing, and tourism. Another client we're currently working with is Omantel in Oman, a telecom company. Their initial focus is on enhancing customer service experiences. We're also in discussions with various banks, telecom companies, and government departments, although I can't provide details at this time.What industries or sectors do you see benefiting the most from Shaffra's metaverse solutions and what specific challenges do they face that your technology aims to address?The primary sector we target is the service aspect of the metaverse. For instance, our work with Omantel transforms how telecom companies serve customers. This concept can extend to police departments, where residents interact with law enforcement, or banks, where customers engage and learn in novel ways. We aim to enhance digital experiences and interactions, making them more engaging and dynamic compared to traditional websites. As for challenges, adoption remains a hurdle, but by working closely with corporations and governments, we aim to create experiences that benefit both organisations and users. We believe the metaverse is the future of the Internet, offering enhanced access to information and efficient interactions.How does Shaffra leverage blockchain technology to ensure the security and integrity of virtual assets within the metaverse?While blockchain can be part of the metaverse, it's not a requirement. We can use blockchain to facilitate transactions and experiences, and we are blockchain-agnostic. However, direct integration with blockchain systems can limit metaverse adoption since not everyone is familiar with crypto wallets like MetaMask. We believe in blockchain's potential but acknowledge that it can currently hinder widespread metaverse adoption. We prioritize accessibility for all users, including those who may not be well-versed in blockchain technology.Could you share some success stories or case studies where Shaffra solutions have had a transformative impact on organisations in various verticals?Certainly, one of our ongoing projects is with a telecom company in Oman. By transitioning their physical branches to virtual ones, we aim to save them significant overhead costs. Additionally, we're implementing AI-driven customer service tools, making the customer service journey seamless and efficient. We can integrate with various tools and APIs to personalize interactions based on customer data. This approach not only reduces costs but also boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.What trends do you foresee in the adoption and development of metaverse technology in the MENA region and globally?We believe the metaverse is the next evolution of the Internet. Just as websites evolved from static pages to dynamic platforms, the metaverse will transform how we interact with digital content. With remote work, accessibility, and changing social behaviours, the metaverse is poised to become integral to our lives. As technologies like VR, AR, and AI continue to advance, the metaverse will offer efficient and engaging digital experiences.How does Shaffra envision the future of metaverse interactions and experiences? And what role do you see your company playing in shaping this future?We anticipate multiple metaverses coexisting rather than a single dominant one. Companies and organisations will build their own metaverse experiences. Standardization in protocols, 3D standards, and AI will guide metaverse development. Shaffra aims to make this technology accessible, initially to large corporations and governments, and eventually to SMEs and the general population. We see ourselves as pioneers in shaping the metaverse's backbone and infrastructure, creating a framework for widespread adoption.Some say that the metaverse was hyped beyond its actual worth, leading to skepticism about its long-term viability. What is your perspective on this criticism, and where do you see the metaverse heading in the future?Hype often surrounds new technologies, but early applications may not fully reveal their potential. Similar skepticism existed during the early days of websites. Over time, the metaverse will evolve and become an integral part of our digital lives. With younger generations growing up in virtual environments, their expectations for engagement and interaction differ from static websites. The metaverse represents a natural progression of the Internet and social behaviours, and we believe it is here to stay.What is your vision for Shaffra, and where do you see yourself two years from now? Please elaborate on your expansion plans in the days ahead?Our vision involves a multi-phased roadmap. In the initial phases, we focus on onboarding large corporations and governments in the MENA region. We aim to create an ecosystem around these clients and simplify the journey for SMEs to join and create their own metaverse experiences. Our goal is to democratize metaverse creation, similar to how platforms like WordPress simplified website development. We plan to support the gaming ecosystem and leverage AI tools for various applications. Ultimately, we aim to make metaverse technology accessible to all users, including SMEs, and expand our reach beyond the MENA region. We envision a future where Shaffra plays a pivotal role in shaping metaverse development and adoption.