I grew up online. By the time I was 14 years old, I no longer thought in my native language, because I spent the vast majority of my time talking to my best friends online — people I had never met, but formed such deep and lasting relationships with that they fundamentally rewired my brain.

Digital identity has always been real to me. Digital friendships have always been real to me. I’ve had the great fortune of experiencing digital love.

But not all of my childhood digital friends were human. Growing up, I got to experience moving and memorable relationships with fictional characters in digital worlds that had a real impact on my life. I went out of my way to keep them safe, happy, and cared for — and I cried when our journey was over. I cried for Paul Denton, and that changed my life and made me dream of a career in digital entertainment. (If you know that reference, I want to talk to you.)

If you’ve ever read a book that you didn’t want to end, perhaps you couldn’t even bring yourself to finish it, then you know the power of these emotional bonds.

And if anything positive has come out of the Coronavirus crisis, it’s that many of us have opened our eyes, changed our minds, and opened our hearts to new kinds of relationships. For every story of Zoom fatigue, there is one of newfound companionship. Coronavirus has acted as a cultural reset that has made many of us rethink the way we interact with the world.

I want to bring your attention to some statistics that I hope you’ll find illuminating.

As a result of the coronavirus, the price of many popular dog breeds has more than doubled. This is the real doge story. At many of my favorite cafes, you can now order a meal for your pet, and more than a third of American pet owners admit to buying birthday gifts for their companions.

Not only that, but consider also that here in Hong Kong, the food delivery company Deliveroo reported more than a doubling of vegan orders since the start of the pandemic.

We are really starting to care for animals.

The global pet care market is at 240 billion dollars. By comparison, the massive gaming market sums up at just 160 billion.

The game market is growing very rapidly, but did you know that half of the people who don’t own pets today wish they did? Urbanization, smaller living conditions, busier work hours — these are things that conspire to prevent us from keeping pets.

Matterless’s vision for the future is to democratize the access to companionship through AI embodied in the augmented reality metaverse and secured by NFTs — each AI pet a unique companion with its own personality, traits, and quirks. But this is not an invisible, imaginary friend, an app, or a Tamagotchi — this is an AI embodied in augmented reality, visible to you and everyone else in the metaverse. It is a social experience and something that can be part of your identity and how you’re perceived by others.

Where the gaming industry is focused on creating and managing digital dopamine, Matterless is on a mission to corner digital oxytocin. Love, connection, peace of mind. The world doesn’t need more addictive Skinner Boxes — we need to love.

Keeping in mind that as many as half of non-owners report wishing they had a pet if ten years from now 1/1000 pets are matterless and the average owner only spends half of what they would spend on a real pet — that’d still be over 150 million dollars a year in virtual pet care alone — excluding the revenue of actual sales and trading.

If we can grow the global pet care market by a fraction of a percent — we are already talking billions of dollars.

The global pet care market is at 240bn dollars today, and Matterless is on a mission to grow that pie by democratizing access to companionship.

-Nils Pihl, CEO of Matterless

Digital life. Real connections. Matterless Studios is creating animal companions for the metaverse.