Ondrej Bach of DIVR Labs studio tells us about experiencing an adventure that’s out of this world through virtual reality.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ondrej Bach: So far, so good. I’m lucky I can work from home and look after my daughter when she can’t attend school.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded DIVR Labs studio.
Ondrej Bach: Originally, I founded a digital agency during my studies at the Prague University of Economics and Business. After seven years, I started the mobile gaming studio, and then I jumped into virtual reality entertainment. I founded DIVR Labs studio with Jakub Kucera, our Creative Director, and Martin Tichota, who joined us as a CTO.
How does DIVR Labs studio innovate?
Ondrej Bach: We listen to our customers. Since 2018, more than 100k people play our experiences, and we see several trends on how to engage players and motivate them to come back. Also, VR technology is developing rapidly, so we have to do R&D continuously. For example, the possibility to stream the content directly to the VR headsets is coming, the inside-out tracking technology can replace external tracking systems, or the upcoming headsets can support 5G technology.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Ondrej Bach: As we are in the location-based entertainment (LBE) business, developing and operating free-roam VR experiences, the pandemic hit us severely with repeated lock-downs and closed branches. Fortunately, we managed to finish our new venue in Dubai right before the pandemic came to the Middle East and Europe, and it has been open since August 2020.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Ondrej Bach: We had to lay off a part of our development and operation team, which was a heart-breaking decision. Looking back to this decision, it helped us to survive. We also managed to keep all the know-how we have gained since 2016 to continue working on a brand-new content concept for our venues.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Ondrej Bach: Even before the pandemic, we already invested in a hygiene solution, which will play an essential part in post-pandemic customer communication. It is crucial for us that the customers will feel safe in our venues. So-called “hygiene theatre” will become a daily routine for location-based entertainment operators to maintain customers’ relationships.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Ondrej Bach: The government support in Czechia is slow and complicated, but we should be eligible to obtain rent compensation or partial loss coverage. The grants are definitely not helpful concerning cash flow management because they are received retrospectively. There is also individual support for employees and sole proprietors.
Your final thoughts?
Ondrej Bach: It has been a challenging year not for our studio only but for the entire LBE business. We have to believe the vaccination will help to ease the restriction soon.
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