Sonya Seddarasan used her background in art and design in order to create the daring and creative new tech venture, UPWorlds. A portfolio marketplace for web3 and metaverse creators, UPWorlds was created by Sonya and her co-founder Jai in 2020. We chat to Sonya about the benefits of unique metaverse tech, why she never saw a traditional career in her future, and exactly how she sees the future of UPWorlds panning out.
Tell us about your work with UPWorlds.
UPWorlds is a portfolio marketplace for virtual worlds and metaverse creators. I launched it in early 2020 after doing a series of workshops on UX 3D virtual world through Patreon back in 2019. The idea for UPWorlds came from the many people I met during a session on how underprivileged creators are in the web3 space, and how there was no dedicated space for the creators to showcase themselves and their creations in this new-found industry. Based on these pain points, me and my co-founder Jai started building the product. Today, UPWorlds is an infant product, made by creators for creators (we call them builders), to be able to showcase themselves in this space.
What has been the most rewarding part of founding UPWorlds?
Definitely community building and seeing builders grow from newbie builders to professional builders to eventually being able to kick start creators' economies based on their credibility. I love meeting different people and talking about the new things in the industry, but mostly I love diving into different virtual worlds with these builders. Back in the day, a doctor could only be a doctor but today's dynamic world, our builders come from a range of backgrounds. They are doctors, designers, architects, IT workers and pianists. There’s an unconventional thing that is happening here and passionate people are making groundbreaking worlds every day. It excites me every time they walk me through their thought process.
How would you like to see the company grow in the future?
With more people on the server every day, we hear more about people's needs and we try to match those up with forthcoming industry trends. Currently, we are building UPWorlds 2.0 to meet some of those needs. One of our plans is to create an ecosystem for our early users to build the platform with us through the power of blockchain. Just like how UPWorlds started, I believe people with the same mission have great ideas when put together. Now is a good time to join us as users and commission builders to take advantage of what we are building early on. The other thing that excites us is using peer-to-peer power to support builders to build each other’s credibility and the creator's economy. This is something we learn as we go, but we truly believe that social currency is one of the most powerful currencies today and we really would like to be able to integrate it into the product experience.
What was your career experience before UPWorlds?
I graduated with a degree in Art and Design in 2012. Art and design have always been close to my heart since I was a child. I wanted to fight what's seen as the stereotypical career route for people from an Indian background, which often involves becoming a doctor or an engineer. When the tech period started, I grew my career from being an HCI designer to working in product design, working with various startup industries from smart cities, in fin-tech and marketplaces. Marketplaces have always been an exciting business model to me, but as a designer there were many business sides of it that I did not understand and wanted to learn about. Being an entrepreneur has always been my dream, so I took an extra course from Harvard on Disruptive Innovation and a Master’s Degree in Virtual Reality from IED Barcelona.
Do you have a personal career highlight?
I've had lots of career highlights! Each of the products I have worked on is like a baby to me and I continuously nurture them until I have to move on to different products. Everything that I do with UPWorlds is trial and error for me. I learn as I build them together with my co-founders and community. It can be very tough, but I’m learning to appreciate that trial and error is part of my strength.
What does the average day look like for you?
Being online for almost 18 hours in UPWorlds Discord would be an accurate expression of what my day-to-day looks like. You can find me within those hours in Discord – talking to builders, on-boarding builders, doing sprint planning with designers, researching for product needs, and talking to different communities for collaborations. That's as well as exploring virtual worlds with builders and being their consultant to help deliver better worlds. We are a small team of a couple of people, and most of the work is being shared by everyone together.
What's the one piece of career advice you'd give to your younger self?
No matter how difficult things get, always invent your way out of that box! Remember, that's what makes you you. I grew up in an environment where I never fit in and it was very easy to second guess myself. But when I follow my heart, the goal is to live life by design, not by default.