Looking ahead at 2022, the metaverse is a key trend that will change the way society and business operate. NFT platforms and blockchain technologies are also evolving at warp speed. Let's look at the latest developments, including examples of startups around the world that are capitalizing on these changes. 

The metaverse will shine

The metaverse is in the news, and I expect it to grow rapidly in the coming years. It's typically defined as a digital reality combining social media, online gaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and cryptocurrencies that allows users to interact virtually. The virtual space of the future describes the metaverse, providing access to all kinds of entertainment and projects, including the opportunity to work.

According to Bloomberg, the metaverse revenue opportunity will approach $800 billion in 2024 compared with $500 billion in 2020. The primary market for online game makers and gaming hardware may exceed $400 billion in 2024, while opportunities in live entertainment and social media make up the remainder. The metaverse is the next big technology platform, attracting online game makers, social networks, and technology leaders to capture this growing market. 

The metaverse will be immersive, ubiquitous, and free to access. It will be digitally focused and potentially involves entertainment, social connection, work productivity, and behavior modification at scale. I anticipate that we'll see the metaverse create an entire ecosystem for developers, apps, ads, and new digital innovations.  

A few companies today have a real stake in the metaverse. They include ByteDance, Tencent, Shopify, Zoom, Amazon (Twitch), Alibaba, Roblox, Bilibili, Snapchat, Kuaishou, and Huawei. Apple's wearables also point to the metaverse with AR glasses coming soon. Microsoft with Microsoft Teams and gaming is perhaps the most advanced company regarding the metaverse. WeChat's ability to facilitate payments and access to a variety of services is the start of the metaverse super-apps. Facebook made a high-profile name change to Meta and invested $10 billion on the metaverse in 2021.

Roblox is an online video game platform; since players are already connected in an online virtual space, the goal is to build a metaverse by developing this function. Nike has invested in building Nikeland inside the Roblox platform, a digital space that allows players to wear Nike's special products on their avatars. 

NFT platforms' impact grows

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a digital object: computer code and data that convey ownership. The property may be online, such as virtual real estate in the digital world or special equipment in a video game. Alternatively, it could be real: real estate, a painting, or a place at the concert. Sometimes an NFT is a hybrid; for example, the right to decide who can rent a room in a cooperative living space.

As physical and digital worlds continue to collide, investment bank Jefferies has increased its NFT forecast to more than $35 billion in 2022 and to over $80 billion in 2025. The bank considers digital assets an emerging technology and it advises clients to make wide-ranging investments, including video game, toy, and social media companies, among others. 

I expect that we'll see NFTs everywhere in 2022; this includes in movies, TV shows, and books. NFTs are part of the digital economy and are becoming mainstream because they allow people to own something that represents a part of something bigger than themselves. This might include a piece of art or a character, for example. The digital economy is made up of a variety of online markets -- including game economies, virtual real estate, and even social media platforms like Facebook. NFT momentum around the globe is unprecedented, setting the stage for a remarkable year.

Blockchain technology dominates

Blockchain, an innovative breed of distributed ledger, enables companies to track a transaction and do business with unverified parties -- even without the assistance of financial institutions. This new capability lessens business conflicts, and it adds other benefits such as append-only data structure, transparency, security, immutability, and decentralization.

Blockchains are best known for their crucial role in cryptocurrency systems, such as bitcoin, for maintaining a secure and decentralized record of transactions. The innovation behind a blockchain is that it guarantees the fidelity and security of a record of data, generating trust without a trusted third party.

Blockchain technology has enjoyed massive adoption and continues to disrupt many industries, from gaming and governance to finance. According to the International Data Corporation, companies spent almost $6.6 billion on blockchain solutions in 2021, a 50 percent growth from the previous year. This number is expected to grow beyond $15 billion in 2024. Amid the new rise of NFT and metaverse, blockchain will become more important in 2022. 

There's little doubt that blockchain technology will create significant business opportunities. Statista predicts that the market for blockchain technology will reach more than $23.3 billion by 2023. An interesting blockchain deployment is the Walmart supply-chain database application, allowing the monitoring of individual products directly to their very source, elevating food supply standards.

In the future, I expect we'll see increased efforts to make blockchain technology greener, offsetting its carbon footprint. Governments will likely get behind blockchain, and more countries will even embrace cryptocurrencies as legal tender. 

Keeping an eye on the future

The nature of Silicon Valley is that just as we understand today's trends, they change as technology evolves and businesses adapt. It's worth the effort for executives, founders, and investors to stay on top of the latest developments. This will help them -- and their companies -- succeed today and be prepared to attract more customers in the future.