India's first 'Metaversity' seems to be imploding from within; here's what's going on

India's first 'Metaversity' seems to be imploding from within; here's what's going on

Founders Manish Maheshwari and Tanay Pratap of Invact Metaversity, the first university functioning from the metaverse, have taken to Twitter to talk about what went wrong.

Invact Metaversity founders Manish Maheshwari and Tanay Pratap Invact Metaversity founders Manish Maheshwari and Tanay Pratap

All’s not good at Invact Metaversity, the first university in the metaverse that was supposed to let people “experience the university campus from your couch” offering “application-based courses to land you a job. Starting with Product Management and Marketing metaMBA”.

Founder and CEO Manish Maheshwari shafted a whole thread of tweets on May 23, effectively explaining what had gone wrong for them and where he saw things going next for their plans and the unspent capital they had raised.

Maheshwari started off by saying that their vision for Invact Metaversity was to offer a “significantly differentiated learning experience for students, leveraging the metaverse’s potential”, but as they started testing the Metaversity platform with students, “it became apparent to us that the immersive classroom and community experience were not getting delivered at a level we had envisaged”.

Maheshwari added that they also ran into tech and ecosystem challenges as they tried to solve accessibility on devices that were currently being used by students which started “impending” them from delivering things as planned. As a result, the courses were cancelled before they could begin.

He added that they “wanted to use metaverse to make education accessible & interactive for students, but things didn't turn out as hoped”, and thus any fee paid by students have been fully refined along with “interest and unqualified apology”.

Maheshwari then went on to thank the team and co-founder Tanay Pratap for the work that was put in “relentlessly to explore the frontiers of user experience, curriculum, and technology over the last 3 months”.

“I would also like to express my gratitude to my fellow founder, @tanaypratap, who has worked tirelessly alongside me. As we progressed, the differences also emerged between us on the vision (are we an education company or a metaverse company) & approach to achieving that vision,” Maheshwari tweeted.

He explained that this difference of opinion has led them to a point where they must either cut the burn rate and pivot to another idea, let either founder take full charge, or return the unspent capital to investors.

“The return of unspent capital is also being considered because it sets an example of how to execute fast, learn fast, and not commit oneself to building an undifferentiated product just because one has capital. We plan to take a final decision shortly and will keep updating you,” Maheshwari said adding that despite their failures, they have managed to make significant progress in research and how he sees this as a glass “half-full”.

While Pratap did not tweet his opinion about the whole situation, his side of the story was, however, shared online as a screenshot by Ravi Handa, whose LinkedIn bio describes him as director of content sales at the edtech firm Unacademy. The post mentions that Pratap and Maheshwari had a disagreement on Invact’s “long-term vision and short-term tactical approach to day-to-day operations, across hiring, marketing, relative work split, and more”. The investors were informed and an all-party meet was called on April 26.

Maheshwari allegedly refused to attend this meeting in person initially and only did so when he was requested multiple times by both Pratap and the investors. “There was a breakdown in discussions between the two of us due to irreconcilable differences”, Pratap wrote.

A second meeting was scheduled for April 27 which Maheshwari attended via Zoom and refused to turn up in person. On April 28, Pratap sent an email highlighting the importance of students and how they had a “customer responsibility” and a “moral responsibility” towards them. The investors were in agreement and a third meeting happened on April 30 with the cohort being cancelled on May 2 “refunding students their fees with interest, and helping counsel and place them as well”.

Under what is described as a “Second attempt at a solution”, Pratap mentions that it was collectively decided that they “would look for potential buyers for Invact at cash value and explore placement/acqui-hire of employees (sic)”. He added the sale process was abandoned on May 18 as no buyer was willing at the above price on terms that were acceptable to all.

Pratap added that Maheshwari was supposed to share details on the company’s financial health and while he has done so with named investors, it has not been done in entirety and Pratap is not aware of what has been shared.

Metaversity has fired 20 employees already and reports suggest that the others are soon to follow suit. Maheshwari has been offered $100,000 in cash to leave the company. Just after raising $5 million, Invact Metaversity’s future is in a mess.

Investors believe that Maheshwari’s exit might fix things for the venture, but this remains to be seen.

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