Neil Patel

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In the fast-evolving landscape of web3, where innovation meets the convergence of technology and user experiences, Aaron McDonald’s journey stands out as a testament to resilience, curiosity, and a relentless pursuit of transformation.

In this candid interview, we delve into the fascinating narrative of a founder who started in a small rural town in New Zealand and went on to shape the future of the internet.

Aaron also talks about ICOs, roll-ups, and the newly co-founded Readyverse Studios and their partnership with Warner Brothers Discovery.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Embracing Humble Origins

Born in New Zealand, Aaron McDonald’s early years were marked by the simplicity of a rural upbringing. Despite financial constraints, the McDonald family found joy in the outdoors, fostering a connection to the land that would later ground Aaron in his endeavors.

He remembers how his parents worked double shifts to buy the family a computer. Aaron and his brothers tinkered with it, learning to code and developing a keen interest in technology. That was the trigger for inventing and playing with electronics with friends.

Reflecting on his formative years, Aaron shares how growing up in a world seemingly opposite to the high-tech realms he now navigates shaped his perspective.

A Global Outlook Through Travel

Aaron’s worldview expanded through extensive travel, starting with a year in Southeast Asia, where his parents engaged in humanitarian work.

These experiences ignited a fascination with diverse cultures and fueled a commitment to helping others as they worked on teaching people how to be more effective in their farming practices, get higher yields, and be more successful.

Later, at 17, Aaron traveled to the USA and then at 19 to Russia for humanitarian efforts, gaining valuable insights into different societal structures and reinforcing his belief in the importance of understanding others’ perspectives.

Like most New Zealanders, he took off to travel overseas and followed in his father’s footsteps.

Aaron remembers helping build orphanages, running soup kitchens, and bringing in aid to poorer villages. He credits this time as developing his personality as he interacted with people.

He learned to put himself in other people’s shoes, which helped him understand the audiences he would connect with later in life.

The Pivotal Shift at 21

Life took a significant turn for Aaron at 21 when he learned he would soon be a father. This pivotal moment prompted a shift in focus from an outward-centric worldview to creating stability and a home for his growing family.

The transition led him to plunge into the technology sector, a realm he had explored as a child. From laying cables to eventually managing a billion-dollar portfolio in telecommunications,

Aaron’s career trajectory showcased a relentless hunger for learning and improving processes at every level. He recalls spending a lot of his career working in different parts of the business, on the ground level and in the field, to understand how they worked.

Aaron learned how to build the infrastructure of the internet and then moved to core network technology roles, including bringing VoIP and mobile networks.

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From Corporate Venture to Startup World

After a diverse career journey, including roles in sales, product development, and management, Aaron made the daring leap into the startup world. As he explains, the value proposition from the technology perspective is very thin competitively.

Basically, it’s about one network versus another. However, it is crucial to focus on the other parts of that value proposition, like understanding your customer segmentation, pricing, customer experience, and design–all of which really make the difference.

Aaron talks about getting a really great mindset for understanding how early-stage businesses should think about approaching customer value propositions and product-market fit, along with the core technology.

Transitioning from the structured environment and a business leadership role in corporate ventures to the unpredictable terrain of startups was both exciting and daunting. Aaron received support from a business mentor to spend time learning in a new corporate venture part of the business.

He then had to make the decision to go into the corporate executive track or start his own company. Armed with a wealth of experience, he embraced the challenge and set out to make a mark in the entrepreneurial landscape.

After spending time in corporate ventures, he then went to lead a portfolio company. He recalls the experience being “scary” since he was, up until then, used to supporting structures, the financial stability that comes with it, and the infrastructure that exists to get things done in the corporate world.

Aaron was now in the decision-making chair with the chance to put all of his training to the test.

The web3 Inflection Point

The advent of web3 marked a turning point in Aaron’s career. Intrigued by the possibilities presented by Ethereum and smart contracts, he envisioned a future where communities could own applications, transcending the limitations of traditional finance.

Aaron looks back at the pre-Cambridge Analytica era when transformation was happening in society as a result of two companies that were in control of the data and the processes on the internet.

His experiences with humanitarian causes and understanding of society’s role and social structures spurred a realization.

Recognizing the transformative potential of decentralized technologies, Aaron embarked on a mission to reshape the internet’s destiny, placing users back in control with a community-owned infrastructure.

Aaron saw the opportunity of being able to use a common platform that nobody owned to build businesses that could connect with each other on that platform.

He wanted to build a technology to allow businesses to leverage a common platform to connect to customers who are in control of their own destiny, data, and identity.

That’s how Aaron envisioned resolving the classic chicken and egg scaling problems and creating a more connected venture portfolio.

Navigating the Wild West of ICOs

As the web3 landscape unfolded, Aaron found himself in the midst of the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) frenzy. The early days were marked by skepticism and challenges, with investors and banks struggling to comprehend the revolutionary shift.

However, towards the end of 2017, the tides began to turn, and the value proposition of web3 started gaining widespread recognition. Aaron’s venture company successfully conducted a token-generating event, a landmark moment in the ever-evolving world of decentralized finance.

Aaron recounts how they ended up doing a roll-up of web3, AI and content studios now called Futureverse.

In 2016 Aaron had been incubating and accelerating companies focused on the usability of web3 infrastructure. In 2018 we began a second fund that was more focused on bringing consumers in to use that technology in that domain.

This was focused on content, which could be the key to bringing communities into use of this technology.

In that phase, Aaron was incubating and co-founded a company: the Altered State Machine, which was building AI technology and the intersection of AI with web3.

Aaron had a few conversations with potential investors, and they started to notice the rest of the ecosystem.

However, Aaron recalls how some of the investors were later-stage, growth investors who advised him to look into roll-ups to create a larger growth stage company that growth focused private equity could get behind.

As a result, Aaron spent the next two years acquiring 11 companies and doing a series A funding round to create Futureverse. Today, it is a world-leading media tech company building software for the entertainment and video games industry.

From Venture Portfolio to Media Tech Powerhouse

Aaron’s journey continued with the creation of Futureverse, a media tech company at the forefront of building the open Metaverse. With a mission to establish the foundation of a connected and immersive internet experience, Futureverse secured a series A funding of $54M.

Storytelling is everything which is something that Aaron McDonald was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.

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The company’s vision goes beyond traditional Metaverse concepts, aiming to empower users to traverse diverse applications while owning their identity, data, and content.

Aaron and his team focused on companies that were solving infrastructure, onboarding, and user experience problems around web3.

Lessons Learned and Words of Wisdom

Reflecting on his journey, Aaron offers insights for aspiring entrepreneurs. While acknowledging the toll entrepreneurship can take on personal and familial aspects of life, he emphasizes the joy derived from seeing envisioned products come to life.

Aaron advises future founders to prepare thoroughly for the journey, take time in decision-making, and keep core values and family support close. He reveals that their mission is to create the foundation of the open Metaverse.

Aaron quells the common misconception that the Metaverse is about Robox or Vision Pro. Instead, it is the internet evolving into something that is a more converged and more immersive customer experience.

For instance, in the early days of the internet, when they had vast silos of banking, finance, commerce, media, and communications, gamers had to go to separate places to play. That kind of interoperability changed as the internet progressed.

The Metaverse is just that trend continuing to bring more and more things into a cohesive customer experience. The next step is to create tools to make content interoperable, allowing people to own a piece of content.

Futureverse has a team of over 300 people in 16 countries including over 20 PHDs and technology researchers building at the edge of AI technology and content creation, creating novel models for AI music generation, 3D generation, and more.

As Aaron explains, it doesn’t have to be some big studio or big business anymore.

He foresees how tools can enable everyone to create immersive content to make it the default kind of content that people have on the internet.

Futureverse’s success lies in communities and users being at the heart and the owners of that infrastructure, which will change the way the internet structure works.


In conclusion, Aaron McDonald’s journey encapsulates the spirit of innovation, adaptability, and the unwavering pursuit of a transformative vision.

From a small town in New Zealand to the forefront of web3 innovation, his story serves as inspiration for those navigating the ever-changing landscape of technology and entrepreneurship.

The Open Metaverse is not just a concept for Aaron; it’s a mission to redefine the future of the internet.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • Aaron McDonald’s journey from a small New Zealand town to the forefront of web3 epitomizes the fusion of humble beginnings and technological innovation.
  • Extensive travel experiences, including humanitarian work in Southeast Asia and Russia, shaped Aaron’s global outlook and commitment to understanding diverse cultures.
  • Fatherhood at 21 prompted a shift from an outward-focused worldview to creating stability, leading Aaron to venture into the technology sector and ultimately shape a billion-dollar portfolio in telecommunications.
  • Enthralled by Ethereum and smart contracts, Aaron envisioned a web3 future where communities could own applications, challenging traditional finance structures and putting users back in control.
  • The early days of web3 were marked by ICO skepticism, but Aaron’s successful token-generating event in 2017 reflected a turning point, as the value proposition gained widespread recognition.
  • Futureverse’s $54 million series A funding underscores its mission to create the Open Metaverse, empowering users to traverse diverse applications while owning their identity, data, and content.
  • Aaron’s journey imparts valuable lessons to aspiring founders, emphasizing the importance of thorough preparation, careful decision-making, and maintaining core values and family support throughout the entrepreneurial odyssey.


For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

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Neil Patel

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