Boomers. Millennials. Gen Z. No matter what age, I believe we all possess infinite, invaluable wisdom waiting to be revealed—and few reinforce this insight like 21-year-old Mark Metry.
With a resumé that would impress even the most veteran entrepreneurs, Mark ran his own company and made well over six figures before leaving his teen years behind. But rather than cash out to live the stereotypical young man’s fantasy, he founded VU Dream, a virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) marketing company. He’s also a frequent speaker and host of the five-star podcast Humans 2.0.
However, it’s not just Mark’s early business success that inspires me—it’s also his incredible insight on carving out his own path, embracing authenticity and learning what makes us all truly human.
Mark’s also consumed with the fascinating, fast-growing intersection between humanity and technology. He’s committed to proving that technology can positively advance our world and passionately shares what he’s learned with contagious enthusiasm.
Early Lessons as the Son of Immigrants
Born and raised in Boston, Mark was far from the student most people would’ve picked to achieve such early success. A shy, insecure child of Egyptian immigrants, Mark suffered through multiple autoimmune disorders and a weak sense of self. Luckily, he had parents with inspiring values and insights—ideal characteristics for a young entrepreneur waiting to bloom.
Shortly before Mark was born, his father arrived in the U.S. after winning a green card lottery. With just $200 in his pocket, he left behind an engineering career in Egypt and “hustled” until establishing enough footing to bring over his wife and daughter. Soon, the family members were supporting themselves through a pizza restaurant
Though risky, moving to the U.S. gave his family the chance for a new, bright future. Mark says his parents’ understanding of this opportunity is “the main thing that drives me.” He remembers his father wisely stating, “If you’re not growing, then you’re dying,” and Mark clearly takes this idea to heart.
In Mark’s family, however, growth was never about money. Instead, it was about progressing forward. Because Mark consistently heard this lesson from birth, it was no surprise that he began applying them to his teenage passions. What was shocking was the money that quickly started flowing in.
Seizing Success Though Opportunity
“I wasn’t a wunderkind. I was a kid that got unbelievably lucky.”
Before achieving business success, most entrepreneurs face years—if not decades—of perpetual trial and error. But for 14-year-old Mark Metry, all he needed was passion, opportunity and a great game.
It all started with video games, a typical hobby among many 14-year-olds. Looking to show off his skills to a larger audience, Mark began recording YouTube videos of himself narrating games in real time. Nowadays, these types of videos are among the most popular online. But back in 2011, he was one of the first. Soon, he had over 45,000 subscribers and substantial ad revenue—especially for a young teen—streaming in.
But the biggest vision into his future entrepreneurship happened when Mark was introduced to the game Minecraft. Initially less than impressed by a game where users build their own virtual worlds, he quickly became obsessed. To enhance his play, he joined an external Minecraft server.
In case you don’t what a Minecraft server is (note: I didn’t), they’re computers or programs that let users modify their gameplay (such as allowing for multiplayer modes or character customization). But when Mark first logged on, he noticed the huge potential for improvement.
“The next day I decided to start my own server because I thought I could do better.” Rather than waiting for someone else to fix the slow server, then 15-year-old Mark jumped at the opportunity to do it himself and launched a new Minecraft server named PPMC. It quickly took off. Soon, PPMC boasted over 10 million users, and forty people eventually worked under his leadership.
By simply doing something he loved and finding ways to take it to the next level, Mark earned his first substantial entrepreneurial victory—all while still attending high school.
Mark’s server drew an enthusiastic audience, and Mark soon began making serious money. Initially, hundreds of dollars trickled in thanks to paid server subscriptions. Those hundreds eventually grew to thousands, and the thousands skyrocketed to hundreds of thousands. To sum up his lucrative enterprise, Mark says, “it was a great time.”
Though this journey, Mark also gained an immense appreciation for “the power of technology and the power of community,” a sentiment that still propels him today. It also unlocked insight into the human side of technology and its ability to open up previously impossible opportunities.
“Let’s say you were a super, super talented, curious, positive person [before the internet],” says Mark, “but if you’re just stuck in your home and you have no way to communicate with the world, that limits the possibility compared to now.” He began seeing infinite promise in future technologies, including those that didn’t—and still don’t—exist.
But as many successful entrepreneurs learn, all the money in the world won’t fix what’s wrong within. Behind that “great time” was still an insecure kid without direction. “In my mind I thought, ‘If I capture this six-figure salary or make this amount of money, [I’ll] make it!’” Mark says. But “I still felt like a loser.”
Mark soon found himself overeating and gaining weight. He hit a new emotional low as his autoimmune disorders spiked and energy levels dwindled. He knew it was time for a serious refresh and decided to shut down PPMC.
“I [didn’t] know what just happened,” says Mark, “but I [didn’t] want it to happen again.”
Finding Himself After Success
It was just after the New Year, and Mark was still waiting to find a resolution. Shortly after awakening from a nap, Mark was hit with the sudden desire to explore a Target about a mile away. Still in a dreamy post-nap haze, Mark walked through busy streets until he reached the store. While wandering the aisles, Mark soon noticed the last, lonely journal on a rack standing out like a premonition. Its cover read: “Ideas Become Things.” He picked up the journal, and his transformation to Mark 2.0 began.
He went home with a new resolution: to prioritize his mind, body and soul. Soon, Mark was scribbling quotes from Steve Jobs, new company concepts and career goals for the upcoming year such as “make a million dollars.” Not every proclamation actually came to fruition—including that million-dollar goal—but by visualizing and physically putting his thoughts out into the universe, he ignited a breakthrough to charge into his next life chapter.
Reinvigorated, Mark established new habits that eventually evolved into his current healthy lifestyle. He focused on his diet and living a cleaner life. Within a month and a half, he’d lost the excess weight and noticed a clearer head.
He also dove into practicing mindfulness, which further revealed to him his true purpose of using “technology to give us more power to do good and improve the world.” Mark became enthralled with virtual and augmented reality, although he found that explaining all the possibilities to a layman was “like explaining colors to a colorblind person.”
By recognizing this significant gap in understanding VR/AR, Mark discovered a niche. Why not provide exposure for these complex products, while also helping companies market and explain them to the average person? He founded VU Dream as a bridge between VR/AR companies and the people who might not even know what these technologies might mean for our futures.
Focusing on the Future
“The battleground, the entire game, is over your identity—you versus you.”
Today, Mark runs VU Dream, records Humans 2.0, a weekly podcast with thought, science and technology leaders and regularly speaks at events.
He’s also a proud believer that VR/AR “is the next wave of technology. It’s not this gimmicky, toy fad thing.” Between Instagram filters and Pokemon Go, VR/AR sounds fun enough. But can it really change lives? Absolutely. The military is currently using VR/AR to treat veterans with PTSD. Walmart is testing these technologies as an immersive, cost-effective training tool. Who knows what tomorrow will offer? Thanks to the next generation of future-focused, optimistic and human-centric leaders, we can look forward to a world where new technology will improve lives around the globe.
Mark wants to be at the forefront of it all—and I’m confident he will be.