Akbar Hamid has the notable distinction of founding two organizations with ties to Web3. The 5th Column is a creative consultancy he started eight years ago that has grown to include both a consumer and Web3 division. In 2022, Hamid and Simone Berry launched People of Crypto Lab (POC), a startup that promotes and develops diversity in metaverse spaces. The two organizations, while separate entities, work symbiotically and demand Hamid’s attention equally on a day-to-day basis.
Akbar Hamid is leading the push for an inclusive metaverse
POC’s 2022 was particularly impressive. Inspired by Hamid’s own journey with identity, POC launched “The Valley of Belonging,” a virtual game on The Sandbox that aimed to advance representation of the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month. The activation included a tie-up with NYX Cosmetics for a collection of diverse NFT avatars, featuring non-binary personas, cultural fashion and prosthetic limbs. The collection of 8,430 tokens sold out despite the crashing crypto market.
“It really showed the world that connectivity and diversity sells,” Hamid said.
What advice would you give to teens about using social media today?
Use social media to connect, don’t use it to compare and to try to live what many influencers embody as these perfect lives. Social media today extends beyond the filters of Instagram and the trends on TikTok—further than all the current active platforms. Social media is really evolving into digitized social engagement in virtual worlds and platforms—that is the new social media.
I urge the newer generations to utilize and harness these technologies with metaverse platforms like Roblox or The Sandbox, and find communities that you resonate with. These virtual worlds are global, allowing you to engage with your existing IRL [in real life] friends and meet people from all over the world.
Leverage social media to create a more interconnected, diverse and inclusive world that you can readily partake in. With Web3, you are a creator; you can monetize your time and creative vision. You can participate and engage in the creation of authentic communities and create lasting, genuine connections that result in impact on a global scale. Please, explore all that is out there in terms of your social media offerings.
How is new technology changing the way you work?
I hate to break it to everyone, but the metaverse and our future is not going to be behind some goggles in a dystopian world; the metaverse and Web3 is the evolution of the next phase of digital engagement and digital identity. Now that we do everything digital-first, how can we augment our digital experiences to make them much more immersive and impactful and connect in meaningful ways with one another and with brands we love?
Gen A and Gen Z—they are growing up in different times. You know, when we were young, you could just run around the neighborhood and disappear for hours to hang out with your friends, and it was just a much safer and different time. Now kids go home after school and they can’t just be freely roaming around and jumping between friends’ homes and the mall all the time, so what do they do? They go home and get onto platforms like Roblox and they hang out with their friends in Roblox. I know moms that meet their kids in Roblox games to check on them after school and say hello and interact if they are at work and still [want to] have a touch point—how awesome is that?!
These are incredible technological innovations and advancements. This is nothing to fear—we have to embrace this. Let’s lean into it, not away from it.
Web3 is a more free and open digital world where we can own our digital identities, where we can take the power back to the creators and also engage with creators and communities in much more meaningful and direct ways. Digital assets now have ownership and identity, you have avatars that represent who you are or who you want to be. This has all completely changed the way we market brands and launch products.
What’s your favorite blog, TikTok account, podcast or any must-follows in your media diet?
I love the Boston Consulting Group’s “The So What” podcast that explores ideas and trends that will transform and impact the future. Also, I’m obsessed with “On Purpose with Jay Shetty.” Wow, have I had some eye-opening and life-changing takeaways from his conversations. Brilliant. I have completely transformed the way I think utilizing his “Think like a Monk” strategies. I also religiously follow Maghan McDowell and her Vogue Business fashion-tech newsletters.
What is the biggest technical leap you’ve had to adjust to in your career and how did you do it?
I think it really was understanding the unending value and opportunity of the blockchain and how it applies to business and brands at every level. Four years ago I switched my “consumer brand only”-focused brain to adapting to and learning about cryptocurrency, blockchain, NFTs and the power of all this technology if it were to be applied to our everyday lives. It has transformed the way I think about everything.