On Monday, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian held a live fireside chat with Topia CEO Daniel Liebeskind. The event took place to announce that Ohanian’s pre-seed VC firm Seven Seven Six would lead Topia’s seed round with an investment of $5M. Grit Daily attended the event and caught up with Liebeskind afterwards to discuss his thoughts on the investment and how he and Ohanian found common ground on responsibly shaping the future of virtual communication.
Topia is Liebeskind’s revolutionary spatial video conferencing software that hosted the virtual portion of last year’s Burning Man. It allows users to navigate a customizable “world,” and as they get closer to other user’s characters, they can see their video and join a conversation. Seven Seven Six seeks out pre-seed companies, and operates under the tag line, “a reminder to make great advancements but not to repeat great mistakes.” The firm has invested in Riverside.fm, which offers high quality remote podcast recording, Metafy, which matches gamers to instructors, and a host of other early stage startups. Ohanian expressed excitement at the opportunity for Seven Seven Six to lead Topia’s seed round.
Through Topia, Liebeskind wants to empower confluencers, whom he describes as those who create spaces for people to come together for authentic human connection. He avoids the word “influencer” because it applies to an individual rather than a community. Ohanian enthusiastically agrees, stating, “We’re still very communal or community based creatures, and the best of the internet is when you can bring people together around a shared interest, and they make connections they never would have made otherwise.”
The fireside chat took place in one of Topia’s many worlds. Participants sat in an arena while the hosts discussed the importance of Topia’s technology to the future of the creator economy. Topia users can graphically create worlds and invite people to join them. Liebeskind says, “It’s been a life mission of mine to make it possible for people to make a living creating things that they love creating. In Topia, you can create things that not only you love, but that actually bring people together for authentic human connection.”
In the hours preceding the event, Topia invited participants to explore the Seven Seven Six universe, complete with 3 custom-designed worlds with ten experiences on a “Quest for Greatness.” The universe, which will be open to the public starting today, was designed to showcase Topia’s new features, including the marketplace where creators can sell assets like templates and scenes to other users. The quest felt akin to an interactive computer game, with the option to choose various paths and click on objects like crystal balls for insights about life and community.
One of Ohanian’s favorite things about Reddit is that the best things have been created by the users—such as “Ask Me Anything” pages. He respects the creative opportunities that Topia offers its users, adding, “The rate at which you’re iterating and improving the product really has a big impact on your audience, it makes them feel like there’s progress happening.” Liebeskind elaborated on some of the unique worlds users have already created, including a collaborative theater troupe, NFT museum and an interactive WordPress.
The Reddit co-founder expressed that Topia’s timing is perfect because it offers a response to people’s feelings of disconnection after a yearlong quarantine. Even as people get vaccinated and back out into the physical world, Ohanian says, “Our digital lives are not going away at all, and this is going to be the gateway for people to have so many great experiences. We’re all grateful here at Seven Seven Six to be leading this round of funding.”