Humour me a little, and try to think back to the time when you were 21. What were your longterm dreams and goals, and how close are you now to actually reaching them? For me, I'd say that I'm in the right track but there's much more to go before I can even taste the fruits of my labour. I digress, but this little exercise was to give context to this Monocan trailblazer who has made her dreams of turning virtual worlds into reality (pun not intended, these worlds live on the Metaverse).
21-year-old Manila Di Giovanni has already gotten herself into the Forbes Monaco’s 30 Under 30 list through her work in a start up she founded, called DWorld. DWorld is essentially a multiplayer virtual reality platform that hopes to create virtual economies through generating twins of real countries on the Metaverse—this could potentially allow for jobs, exchange programmes, and even tourism to flourish in the time of Web3.
We chat with her on DWorld, her idea of success, and the potential Singapore has as a virtual city.
ESQUIRE: There are misconceptions surrounding Gen Zs and their approach to the workforce. How would you dispel them?
Manila Di Giovanni (MDG): It's the same thing that they said before about Millennials! I don't think that the new generation, especially Gen Zs, are trying to find a way to just work smarter than harder, because actually, everyone is very hardworking. When it comes to their studies, when it comes to their activities, when it comes to trying to make an idea come alive. I feel that our generation is following more of their personal dreams and their own passions. And that's why I think that they're actually working more than ever before.
ESQ: Why pick the Metaverse as your destination for these virtual cities?
MDG: This idea actually came alive from my own passion. Which actually is a bit funny, because I didn't study technology. I didn't study computer science, or any of these kinds of things. I don't have a technical background, but I have always loved Japanese culture. I was always watching a lot of anime that touched on virtual realities and worlds, albeit more dystopic than utopic.
I discovered the actual power of 3d modelling technology and virtual reality when I was in my exchange programme during university in Shanghai. So at the beginning of 2018, I was a bit scared to start what I wanted to do because I didn't know if it would have really been the future. I had no idea but it worked out.
ESQ: What gave you that little push in the right direction to start DWorld?
MDG: I think it's really because of the fact that I had the experience with that startup when I was in Shanghai, working closely with the CEO. Many young people just try to settle because they need to make some money to live up, and she wanted to turn this issue of the younger generation struggling to find the jobs of their dreams, into a natural solution and believed that artificial intelligence could help.
ESQ: What is the impact that you hope these virtual cities and economies will bring to us?
MDG: I think that it will interconnect cities even more, because our goal is not to just create the beautiful terrain of Monaco and the chateau, it's more actually to expand globally to create as many cities as possible, and, create actual exchanges between the people with different cultural backgrounds, and different expertise as well.
Also in terms of tourism levels, you will have more people actually visiting your city, especially in a carbon-neutral way, and this is also one point that I want to touch on because everything that is digital doesn't mean that it's carbon-neutral and sustainable.
ESQ: What potential do you think Singapore has as a virtual city?
MDG: The potential is actually super huge for Singapore. They are really thinking green, they're thinking about the benefit of the people, and serving as a role model to all enterprises locally and internationally. In addition to all of this, what they can do is also to involve local communities in the decision making of the development of their city.
For example, if they wanted to renew the park, or start constructing schools, etc, they could vote, and then, the decision could be taken into consideration by the government and then be implemented. I think that cities like Singapore that care a lot about their communities can actually use it as an additional tool to enhance the level of happiness of the general population.
ESQ: So let's talk about your role model, who would you say is someone that you look up to, as a very young CEO?
MDG: Honestly, it's always my dad. My dad and my mom have always been my role models, because they always taught me to really do what I like, they never forced anything on me.
ESQ: What's one piece of valuable advice that your parents gave you to get through any hurdle you faced?
MDG: I think it'll have to be the one about 'following your dreams'. There was once I remember, I was doing my internship in China and sometimes I was working until almost midnight, then I had to wake up early in the morning to go to university to do the Chinese courses—studying and going back to work, etc. One day I called my dad, and I said 'please tell me something that's gonna make me want to leave the bed every morning'. He said, 'think about where you want to go in the future'. 'What do you want to do? Why is today important for you to go and do your internship?'. And I thought, yeah right.
So everything that I do, I do it because I really think that it's relevant for achieving my future goals, my future vision.
ESQ: The theme of our upcoming October issue is 'Success'. What does success mean to you?
MDG: When I can see that I am truly making a real impact for society and changing lives. I'm trying to start with one or two things. But my goal is to change the lives of an actual population. So that will be the one day I will see myself as being successful because I will have achieved my long term dream.
Find out more about Manila's work at DWorld here.