A lot of exciting developments are happening in Cebu that you can hardly find elsewhere. This is partly attributed also to people who have experienced living in this part of the Philippines and decided to continue investing there.
One of them is Dennis Bacsafra, CEO and founder of Avatrian, LLC. He came up with the idea of a full-service metaverse development shop and formed Avatrian officially last October 2006 in the city of Emeryville.
The California office functions as the official headquarters and the hub for marketing and promoting the products and services of Avatrian. Design decisions originate from its California office as well.
Almost immediately after inception, Dennis thought of opening an operations base in the city of Cebu. "Content creation in Second Life and providing consulting services in the metaverse requires a range of skill sets such as communications, technical, and creative. Having lived there for several months in 2005, I know from direct experience that Cebu has a strong pool of talented individuals who are more than able to be competitive in the global market. This important factor, along with the incredible location and obvious cost savings, left no question in my mind to base the operations in the city of Cebu."
Avatrian’s Cebu office handles the bulk of the development and production for internal Avatrian projects as well as client work. Internal projects include the development of their website, the creation and of the company's presence in Second Life, graphic design for promotions, management of the company databases, organization of shared files as well as the accounting and human resources. Client work includes the content creation for Second Life, contracted projects, and customizations.
Like any company that runs a company in more than one country, there are challenges in running an offshore office in Cebu but Dennis tries to work around it. "The challenges I encounter are common across businesses that operate in multiple locations and time zones. For example, our schedules do not sync up sometimes. And, although there are several hours of the day that our work overlaps, we cannot all attend the same events on occasions. For more important events, we just make it a point to plan ahead of time and make notes on our calendars."
Avatrian currently has a total of 8 people in the team and revenues are modest according to Dennis. "Being a relatively new company, a big portion of our expenses for 2007 and 2008 went to the allocation of start up costs. However, we are meeting our financial targets and revenues are increasing at a regular pace."
In terms of service providers, Dennis considers Avatrian as a mid-sized company. "The large sized outfits are few and far between. Electric Sheep, Millions of Us, Anshe Chung Studios, and River Runs Red, for example, are the only ones who have over 30 or more employees. Other service providers have a staff of 10 or more but primarily contract their work on an as-needed basis. Then, on the other side of the spectrum, there are independent builders who work by themselves and offer their services freelance. So, Avatrian sits comfortably in the middle of this variation."
With few Filipinos playing in Virtual Worlds, that still is not a hindrance to make us competitive in doing work in this field according to Dennis.
"It is hard to get definitive statistics on the number of residents in Second Life and virtual worlds per country. And, it is true that the use of the most common virtual world platforms is still limited in the Philippines. However, the same can be said for many other countries in Asia. With the exception of Japan, many Asian countries still have to do a bit of catch up in terms of participation in the virtual world and economy."
"I think the high level of literacy, the English language proficiency, and our ability to integrate new technology into our lives make it possible and even advantageous for Filipinos to engage in businesses involving virtual worlds. There are already Filipinos in Second Life who are running successful companies in SL. Casa Del Shai by Shai Delacroix and HodgePodge by Isadora Fiddlesticks, for example, have garnered brand name recognition for their work in SL."
This year, Dennis shared that Avatrian Cebu is expanding its staff. "We are participating in local job fairs to meet and hopefully recruit new graduates who are a good fit for the company. In addition, we are looking for a permanent space in terms of our office. We are spending time researching locations that will be comfortable and at the same time, will give us room to grow for the near future. In regards to our projects, Avatrian Cebu is concentrating on in-world events and researching other avenues for promotion in Second Life. Then, the company is branching out our operations to other metaverses. However, we are still keeping our primary focus in the Second Life platform. Finally, Avatrian Cebu is going to design and redevelop the look, feel, and interactivity of our simulator in Second Life - Avatrian Central. It is a bit on the ambitious side. But we are hoping to accomplish all of these within 2008. "
Despite the modes success Avatrian has achieved, Dennis does not necessarily want to encourage everyone to start a business in the virtual world and Second Life. "Instead, I would advise not to look at it as a get-rich-quick scheme. It is important to know that, like any other real world business, it is not easy. But, if you have the passion for it, feel that there is a niche that you can fulfill and you see a demand that is not currently provided to the market, then those are very good foundations for beginning a virtual enterprise."