Sniper Spotlight with Rania Ajami from Metropolis World

Credit: Metropolis World

Metropolis World is a rising 360° metaverse experience dedicated to commerce, SocialFi, gaming, art, and culture. With a focus on providing talented artists and creatives with a new platform to sell their work, the virtual world already boasts 3LAU, Dillon Francis, Diplo, FVCKRENDER, Steve Aoki and other top artists and musicians as residents.

Metropolis World’s sophisticated lore, built by a creative team dedicated to crafting powerful and compelling stories, is also helping to make the virtual world a popular destination in Web3. Last week, we caught up with Rania Ajami, the co-founder of Metropolis World to talk about the company’s journey, what makes it unique, and its plans for the future.

The following interview has been edited for concision and clarity.

To get started, can you introduce yourself and tell me about your role in Metropolis World?

I’m Rania Ajami. I’m one of the co-founders at Metropolis. I lead the creative vision, among other things like running the company. But I really lead the storytelling and the art. And I manage our different partners and collaborators.

What is Metropolis World and how did it begin?

Metropolis is an ecosystem that brings together commerce, gaming, and experiences in a world that is both virtual but also tied back to the physical, tangible real world.

I’ve always been into world building. I’ve created some films, as well as large-scale immersive experiences. I’m really interested in creating worlds that people can explore from the ground up. And worlds that have meaning, where people can follow stories, but also create and transact and have a marketplace and commerce.

Two years ago, my brother and I came together, and we were looking at the whole space and particularly NFTs. And we thought we could create a world that uses NFTs but makes it more dynamic and gives more meaning to what NFTs and the metaverse can offer.

What makes Metropolis World unique?

We looked at a lot of other metaverses and saw that they’re usually empty. There isn’t much in terms of meaningful content. And we’ve taken this approach where it’s really about onboarding amazing partners, amazing creators and collaborators and making it feel alive. So that’s one big thing. We can boast an amazing roster of cool people that are in this world creating cool stuff.

Secondly is the emphasis on having an amazing user interface that makes it super easy for anyone to enter the space. With our marketplace Metropolis X, if you’re a Web2 person, you don’t need to know anything about the blockchain. You can sign in using your email, and the interface, the journey, is really quite beautiful. One of the members of our team built Squarespace. So, you can see right away that it’s not complicated.

The third piece is an emphasis on art and storytelling. We go above and beyond to make the world feel wondrous and beautiful, so that you want to be there.

You have a lot of partnerships and creators on board. How does Metropolis World empower creators and how can they benefit from using the platform?

The way we empower creators is that we basically give them a new medium to showcase their art or products, and to connect with their fans in a more immersive way. So, an artist like a musician or DJ can have a digital fashion line where fans and other people can dress their avatar with different traits, and those traits can unlock gated content. For example, it could unlock a DJ mix.

There are certain things that creators don’t necessarily know how to monetize. For example, a DJ mix or some other piece of content. But they’re able to do so through Metropolis X and through this digital identity being linked to experiences, products, and content.

Do you guys help creators build their content?

For now, we’ve been the one creating the assets with the creators. They’ll come to us, say it’s a DJ, they’ll say, “My brand is like this, these are the logos, and this is the vibe I want.” And we create the digital assets for them. And then there’s a revenue split.

And the beauty is that we’re dropping different artists every week. We spotlight them. We show their other work. We often have them on for AMA’s. The whole platform is really about spotlighting and highlighting different artists and creators, and young brands that are doing cool work.

You were founded in 2022. So, you entered the space in the bear market. Are there any strategies or lessons you learned from that time?

Yes, we learned a lot because it was a very rough year. I think, being very lean and very focused on building. For us, we joke because we barely had any investment. You look at these companies that had tens of millions when they came out and they haven’t built anything. And we came out of the bear market, and we built an entire platform, Metropolis X, which you can see and which is an entire marketplace.

But for that to be achieved we had to be super lean. Everyone was working five or six different jobs within the company. We were hyper-focused on the product we were going to deliver, and making sure that it was going to be the best it could be. So that helped us get through those rocky times.

Tell me about your team.

We’re a really small team. A lot of people are surprised when they see how small the team is, given how much output there’s been. We’re about six people. Some of us are in the U.S. I’m in NY. Two other team members are in Texas. And the rest are in Europe, between the U.K. and Belgium.

Community is such a big thing in Web3 and metaverse building. What’s your strategy for building a community that lasts and is active?

We’re lucky. We have a fantastic community that’s been loyal to the project. I think with the community, we really learned a lot about communicating and how to bring people into the process. During the bear market, it was hard because people get nervous, they don’t know what’s up. As much as possible, we try to really let people know what we’re building and why.

The way we’ve empowered our community with our latest platform is there’s an entire community section where community members can have their own digital fashion line. A lot of them are tied to their properties as well, as terms of the lore, and they can make money off selling those digital collectibles. So that was really cool, to have them feel like they’re part of the platform. They’re included, and they also have a way to make money.

Tell me about your partnership with Unstoppable Domains.

They’re a great company. We’ve created a fashion line for them. We’re also adding a property; you can go to Metropolis X and mint an Unstoppable Domain there very easily. And we’ve created different digital collectibles associated with the different domains — like .crypto, .nft, and .polygon.

We are planning to activate the partnership with some more quests with them. But we really like them, and we feel that we both have the same ethos; we’re all about digital identity and they’re all about identity through your URL, so I feel like there’s a great synergy between Metropolis and Unstoppable.

Are there any other partnerships you want to talk about?

We have a lot. We have so many. We have a partnership with Lamina 1, which is a really interesting blockchain that’s very focused on creators and filmmakers. We have partnerships with Walkerworld right now, so we’re working on their fashion line and also discussing how our avatars can enter their world and vice-versa.

Another big one is Cointelegraph. We just got into their accelerator and they’re really helping us now with our media strategy, especially as we gear up to our token launch. But we have so many partnerships, and that’s one of our differentiators that we’ve always really believed in great partnerships.

What role do NFTs play in Metropolis World?

They’re like the bricks of the entire world. It first started with the Passport being your NFT key into the world. We always say they’re dynamic. So, with the Passport, for example, you earn $CLAY. You get exclusive airdrops as a holder. Then you have properties that are built to be dynamic, so you can add other NFTs to your property.

We don’t use NFTs on Metropolis X because we want it to be less Web3 and more universal.
But your avatar is essentially comprised of different NFTs, and you can customize your PFP with hundreds of different NFTs from different partners.

So, you can wear your Time Out hoodie and your Unstoppable Domain cap, and you can have a background by Bryan Brinkman. And you can really start using these NFTs, these assets, to form your digital identity… So yeah, I think NFTs are the building blocks of our world.

I’m curious about the team’s vision for the metaverse.

Our visions is that we want to make it easily accessible for people to enter. We always say we’re “digitally diverse.” Our city is in 2.5D. Then we’ll have 3D built out. But we didn’t rush to create these entire 3D worlds because we’ve seen many of them are empty and we don’t want that.

So, our emphasis for the metaverse is we’ll keep building, keep evolving with AR and VR. But we want people to feel like they have a purpose to go there. That’s what it’s really about. Is the purpose to meet up with friends? Is it to make money and have a brand where people go and buy your stuff? That’s why we have such a big emphasis on creators and brands coming in.

For us, it’s always been — “If we’re building it, why would someone come?” Because if we just build it, there’s not enough reason for people to enter. So, there’s always that hook of a market and commerce. And gaming is big deal right now, so “questing” and the idea that people want to go and get rewards, and maybe these rewards are real world products, too. Or maybe it’s more of our currency that they can spend. So that’s how we always visioned a more sustainable, ever-evolving ecosystem metaverse.

What are your plans for 2024?

Right now, all the focus is on our token launch which will hopefully happen at the end of May, beginning of June. After that, we’re really excited about this questing platform that we’re developing that we feel really ties together the city and Metropolis X.

And the third thing we’re excited about is we’re taking our avatars and IP and making them fully interoperable VRM files. One of our sayings is, “Build with us, take anywhere.” So, you can come and get an avatar with us and take it into another virtual world.

Thank you!

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