With the 27th Annual Webby Awards season kicking off this week, and Call For Entries now open, we wanted to shine a light on the jurors who make it all possible by highlighting a few Executive Webby Judges. Meet Matthew Ball, the CEO & Managing Partner at EpyllionCo.
Epyllion is a diversified holding company which makes angel investments, provides advisory services, and produces television, films, and video games. Matthew is also a Venture Partner at Makers Fund, Senior Advisor to KKR, Senior Advisor to McKinsey & Company, sits on the board of numerous start-ups, and co-founded the Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF. His first book, “The Metaverse and How it Will Revolutionize Everything”, was published in July 2022 and became an instant national and international bestseller.
For those who don’t know, tell us a little about your background.
I spent two years as a full-time wildfire fighter in Canada and five years selling boat operator licenses on behalf of the Canadian Coast Guard. Later, I moved to strategy consulting in New York at Accenture, focused on media and technology. Then venture capital and private equity at The Chernin Group’s Otter Media, before joining Amazon Studios, where I was the unit’s first Head of Strategy. I now run my own firm, which makes early stage media investments, provides advisory services, and produces television, film, and gaming content. Earlier this year, Norton published my first book, THE METAVERSE, which became a bestseller in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, and is being adapted into more than twenty languages.
What particular expertise are you bringing to the Academy?
I helped grow many of the first large-scale direct-to-consumer digital communities and content services. At Amazon, I was part of a team overseeing billions in content spend spanning film and TV, domestically and internationally, and for originals and licensed titles, as well as talent deals. Most of my time now is spent on virtual production, gaming, and the “metaverse”.
What emerging trend or technology are you most excited about in your industry?
I’m fascinated by virtual production. Historically, games and live action had opposite constraints. In TV/film, the technically easiest and financially cheapest content was two people in a room talking – you don’t need elaborate sets, large crews, permits, etc. What was hard and costly was shooting action in a city. In games, the reverse is true. A realistic scene of people talking is arduous and expensive, but there are lots of technically and financially inexpensive ways to produce large-scale action – and this investment can support hundreds of hours of entertainment per player. We’re nearly at the point where the technologies used for both TV/film and gaming have converged, simultaneously allowing each of be cheaper and more effective. Live performance can drive gaming, gaming engines can power live performances, and the investments in either side facilitate experiences in the other.
Do you think technology as a whole should have a “responsibility” to be responsible?
Yes. First, I think all creatives, inventors, executives, and operators have this responsibility – not just those in technology. I don’t subscribe to the view that driving economic value is a sufficient contribution to society – such a view presumes that no one else can might deliver that value, or more of it, or in a more broadly defined fashion. Second, while I believe almost all technology is inherently neutral, unlike the Heideggerian perspective, I do believe it strongly reflects the principles they’re designed around and the philosophies of their creators. This is why so many of today’s products feel hard to fix – they are fundamentally broken.
“ We’re nearly at the point where the technologies used for both TV/film and gaming have converged, simultaneously allowing each of be cheaper and more effective.”
What do you believe is the most pressing issue that technology can help solve right now?
Education. It’s the single sector of the US economy which has seen the greatest cost increase since the advent of the Internet – nearly 2x that of the healthcare system – because we’ve not found a way to teach faster, more effectively, or with fewer resources per student. Further, education inequality is only worsening. And our efforts to address it with digital products, both before and during the pandemic, proved ineffectual and often alienating. I’m hopeful 3D simulation, XR, and the Metaverse can help where linear playback video and e-textbooks have fallen short.
What does it take for technology to create real-world impact for social good?
There are classical measures – productivity improvements, for example, price decreases, and so on. I tend to focus more on expansion of access. Over time, technology has meant more people could create, distribute, and monetize video, audio, art, text, and so on. This is a positive force, even if it can also leads to ills (mis/disinformation, radicalization, online toxicity). But this is where we get to who leads the next frontier – what many term the Metaverse – under which business models, and which philosophies, all matters. I am hopeful that the next wave of leaders are more mindful of the problems with today’s social/cloud era, which for a decade have been downplayed, ignored, or considered a nuisance. I think these leaders are more mindful, but time will tell.