Kirthiga Reddy is building Virtualness to simplify Web3 for creators and brands
Kirthiga Reddy shares the game plan for Virtualness, which aims to help creators and brands tap the blockchain and Web3 opportunity.
Thursday February 16, 2023,
5 min Read
The world is unanimous about what’s the next big thing in the digital world: Web3.
In a space where the near-absence of female founders is conspicuous, Kirthiga Reddy, Co-founder and CEO of Virtualness, stands out with her mobile-first platform that makes it easy for creators and brands to capture the value-creation opportunity that blockchain and Web3 present, and scale business.
In a conversation with Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO, YourStory, Kirthiga shares the gameplan for her Web3 venture, along with her journey—the ambitious and determined schoolgirl from Aurangabad who made it to leadership roles in companies such as Meta and SoftBank.
“People don’t care about technology; they care about use cases,” says Kirthiga, highlighting why it is important to understand and deliver technology from the perspective of users.
Web1, or the earliest form of the internet, allowed brands to communicate their message through websites. Web2 empowered consumers to connect with creators and brands, enabling two-way communication and relationship building through social media platforms. However, creators and brands in the Web2 world had to operate across multiple platforms and tools to operationalise the entire experience value-chain—from content creation and content sharing to viewer engagement and monetisation.
Web3, the next progression of the digital world, will enable the use of blockchain technology to deliver a better and integrated experience for the audience, creators, and brands.
However, it can seem daunting to many creators. Currently, a minuscule percentage of creators and brands are able to leverage Web3. The next 20% who want to try, get overwhelmed with the complexity and eventually give up.
“We saw the opportunity in that complexity,” says Kirthiga, explaining the problem they are trying to solve through Virtualness.
Virtualness is being designed to provide an integrated platform that will facilitate content design, creation, and monetisation, along with integrating existing Web2 social media presence. “It provides a technology-enabled, end-to-end experience that lets them truly get the value of Web3 and blockchain,” Kirthiga says.
The platform is expected to go live in the first half of 2023. The team is spread across the United States, India, Dubai, and Singapore.
Virtualness’ pre-launch investment round was over-subscribed, revealing the importance of the domain and value of an integrated, simplified Web3 platform.
Kirthiga feels the team was a core reason for investor confidence. She worked with her co-founder, Saurabh Doshi, for several years at Meta, and the duo braved several business challenges together. The core engineering team members have also worked with each other earlier for five years.
The founder believes that the “working chemistry of the team along with a compelling vision” have worked as accelerators for Virtualness.
Interestingly, Kirthiga had no plans of becoming a founder till a year ago. However, destiny had other plans. She came across a Web3 company as an investor and the Web3 challenge played on her mind, catalysing her
entrepreneurial journey with Virtualness.
Reflecting on where it all began, she tells Shradha about learning the value of making the best of what was available early in her life, through her parents. Her mother, who was denied an education beyond a basic level due to typical gender stereotypes, wanted to provide the best opportunities for Kirthiga.
At the time of enrolling for an engineering course, Kirthiga was disappointed about having to study in a local college and not going to a higher-ranking college. Her father’s advice that a person may do nothing at a bigger college or could make the best use of a local college proved right in retrospect.
Kirthiga went on to become the university-wide second-rank holder. She talks about a recent moment of pride when her mother and daughter joined her virtually for the ringing of the bell at the NYSE, a testimony to how her values have stood her in good stead.
The importance of aspirations
A believer in dreaming big, Kirthiga’s advice for women is to “have high aspirations and write them down”. She emphasises the importance of seizing opportunities as women typically hesitate to raise their hands for a job unless they see themselves as a perfect fit, as opposed to their male counterparts who will take chance.
She says her role at Meta was the outcome of her making her interest in building Meta in India known to Sheryl Sandberg, to whom she was introduced by a mutual contact. After discussions spanning a year, Meta coincidentally decided to open an India office and Kirthiga got the opportunity she was looking for.
Kirthiga aims to create new benchmarks as one of the very few female founders in the Web3 space. “It’s so important for women to be there in equal number and quality from the very beginning. Otherwise, it will take us decades to get fix things, she says, adding that her goal is to grow Virtualness to at least a $10 million company so it can enable her social impact ventures and initiatives to empower other women.
She may have come a long way from Aurangabad, but Kirthiga says her best is “yet to come”.
Edited by Teja Lele