ISS founder in 3D venture in wake of buyout

Cybersecurity whiz and ISS founder talks about online virtual worlds

Whatever happened to Christopher Klaus, the cybersecurity whiz who founded Internet Security Systems and sold it to IBM last year for US$1.3 billion? Today, he's spending most of his time in a virtual world called Kaneva. He recently spoke with Senior Editor Carolyn Duffy Marsan about his latest venture.

What have you been doing since the ISS buyout in September?

We've been working on an entertainment virtual-world platform that's really started to come together in the last three months. It's a modern-day world, and it's completely online. What we've done that's innovative is brought social networking and media integration together. There's both a browser-based interface and a 3-D interface into the world. What that does is allow you to socialize and connect with others and get content purely with a browser. But if you want to get more engaged in an immersive experience, there is a 3-D interface.

We're in beta test mode right now. We've got more than 100,000 registered members with Kaneva, and they've all found out about us through word of mouth. We plan on being in live mode in the first half of this year.

What ongoing relationship do you have with IBM related to ISS?

Nothing directly. Obviously, I have a lot of connections with ISS, and I still keep in touch with a lot of people there. But on a day-to-day basis my 100% focus is on Kaneva.

What is your business model with Kaneva?

We have created an environment for people to come in and have fun. They can create their characters, visit theaters, go to the mall, hang out at coffee shops -- anything that you can do in the modern-day world.

Our business model has three components. First, we will offer 3-D e-commerce within the virtual environment. People can buy upgrades to their apartments and clothes. Second, this modern-day environment provides us an opportunity to bring in real-world brands. It's hard to kill a dragon and then drink a Coca-Cola afterward. Our third revenue stream is that we've designed our platform to be repurposeable, so that multiple virtual worlds can be built on it. Other organizations can build worlds for training, education or games on top of our platform.

How did you get the idea for Kaneva?

I wrote a video game [years ago.] That never took off, so I decided to go into security instead, which turned out to be a good idea. I've always been passionate about gaming technology. What always fascinated me was multiuser games that allow you to connect to people in a virtual environment, socialize and have fun. If people spend three or four hours per night with their virtual friends, they are actually spending more time with them than with their physical friends. The fact that the world is virtual doesn't take away that you're talking to real people. When you have a cell phone call, it's not a virtual call or a virtual person. It's very real. These virtual worlds will be very real like the cell phone call is very real. It's going to be one of the most powerful forms of communications in the future.

How much time per week do you spend in virtual worlds? Which are your favorites?

I spend most of my time in our own virtual world. Until now, there have been no modern-day worlds. In games like The Sims, you are in God mode where you are controlling everything. In our case, you are participating in a world, but you're not controlling it. We give people the ability to bring in their own pictures and decorate their homes. This gives you an insight into their psyches that has never been possible. We allow you to reveal who you are in a virtual way.

Am I on Kaneva for three hours every night? I try to log on, but I have the challenge of being the CEO trying to make sure the world is successful. On weekends, I am definitely in there.

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