SLentrepreneur Profile: Peter Stindberg – “SL is the logical step beyond YouTube and MySpace”

December 17th, 2009  |  Published in SL Entrepreneur Magazine, SL Entrepreneur Profiles  |  2 Comments

By Avarie Parker

Once again my old friend, Peter Stindberg, has been nominated for SLentrepreneur of the Year. He came very close to winning last year coming in a close 4th to the top three ladies that were chosen for the 2008 award. I have republished his original interview originally published February 20, 2008.  I thought it would be interesting to see if his predictions for the futer of Second Life have come true. I have invited Peter to add his own comments at the conclusion of this article, updating my readers on what the last few years has meant to his SL business.

Original Interview:

Several months ago I was fortunate enough to come across Peter in a Second Life Dublin club simulation. Through the course of our conversation, I learned of his impressive translation experience and further, that he’d applied these skills with his own online translation business, Babel Translations

( His company has been growing steadily and he has successfully channeled this growth into a profitable SL business. He was willing to answer a few questions about starting and running a business in Second Life.

How long have you been in SL? Why did you come?

I joined in October 2006, after having read about it several times on The blog mentioned several live events, and I even managed to download the viewer in early 2006, but I never got around to installing it. By that time I got involved with “real” 3D applications, so apart from the initial curiosity, there was also a professional interest as well. It quickly became apparent though, that the construction and design tools in SL were in no way comparable to regular 3D applications–so it took me almost 6 months to look into SL content creation again.

What gave you the idea of a translation business?

Funnily enough, I got the idea while listening to a live DJ in the Dublin Sim. I’m a “profile watcher,” so if I see a person that spikes my curiosity, I check into their profile to learn a bit more. Turned out I was dancing next to a resident who joined in October 2004–in SL terms that’s really old. We started to talk about how SL has changed since she joined, and she told me about her home decoration business and that she was wanting to attract a more international audience. I realized that translations might be an issue for SL companies. I’m used to deal in foreign languages from my RL job, and I have some experience in creating sales driven texts and ad copy. While there was some pre-existing competition, I figured my marketing background would allow me to make a difference and become a top player in translation services inside SL.
On a side note, the person who triggered all this never became a client of mine.

What is your Real Life profession?

I head the marketing team of a small software company based in Germany. We are the worldwide market leader in our highly technical and special niche. Due to the specialization, we tend to develop and acquire all of the necessary know-how in-house. My staff and I have to be highly versatile, covering everything from technical trainings to tradeshows, from 3D and video visualization to web design, from marketing concepts to search engine optimization.

Please discuss your SL Business, your business model, and your profit margin–who are your primary clients. And why no RL clients?

The predominant language in SL is English. If you look closely though, less than 40% of the active residents speak English as their native language. And while the majority of non-native speakers struggle more or less successfully with the language, you can already see language-based segregations. There are whole regions in SL used exclusively by Japanese, German or French speaking residents. As a business owner in Second Life, you are suffering in those markets if you can’t address them in their native language.
I started out offering only German and English translations, and managed to get the first jobs with virtually no hassle. Within one week, I received requests for other languages and started to sign up freelancers for those languages beyond my purview. Right now I have access to almost 30 freelancers from all over the world, covering many languages at least twice. Many of them are translators, language teachers, or copywriters in their RL jobs.

Apart from doing most of the German and English jobs myself, I cover the complete sales and marketing side. Considering that some competitors have their offices in residential areas or even on top of an SL red light district, I figured that a professional and businesslike attitude was not only necessary, but would also set me apart from the others. A potential client has a single point of contact – he never gets in touch with the translator. This allows me to maintain a level of quality, and share the load among my freelancers. The freelancers get a fixed rate per word. I charge a premium to the client which covers my expenses and some revenue too.

The majority of clients consists of fashion designers and real estate management, but we also get jobs from product designers and people offering services. I also maintain friendly relations with other translation agencies, doing jobs for them. We even have regular residents as clients. The most touching job thus far was for a French resident, who wanted to have a French love song translated into German for his girlfriend, with whom he only speaks English otherwise. That’s SL for you!

I often get approached for RL translation work as well, but I generally decline those offers– however lucrative they may be. This is because I don’t want to erode RL pricing, and I don’t like the idea of SL being perceived as a third world, cheap labour, country. A translation job that would cost the client 1000 L$, would be charged at 20 US$ by a regular translator. No company in SL would pay the equivalent of 6000 L$ for a small translation. On the other hand, no RL translator would deliver his work for 3 US$. But as far as SL goes, 1000 L$ has a real value inside the game. It would buy you a great new outfit (or two), or pay two weeks of rent on a medium sized parcel. So since the work required to make the translation is the same, it only makes sense if the compensation stays in-world. Neither myself nor my freelancers expect to get rich from this. But in the context of the game, it is a valid job with just compensation.

Is your business growing?

Since I started in July last year, I’ve seen constant growth, but I also notice anti-cyclic tendencies. From mid December on, we had almost no jobs at all, while the fashion and product designers reported record sales. My best guess is that business owners only start to look into areas of marketing and PR when sales are low.
Recently I handed over some responsibility to an associate and started to give German jobs to freelancers as well, so that I have more resources myself to actively approach business owners and present my concept to them.

Does your SL business impact or influence your real life?

No, not at all. I recently spoke to a designer, and she reported her fashion collection generates sales of almost 300 US$ per month. I am far from those numbers, so cashing out isn’t really an option. And to be honest, it’s not really something I even hope to achieve.
There is an effect on a psychological level though. Being employed in RL and being an entrepreneur in SL creates an interesting tension.

Any RL skills translate into SL biz?

Creating English texts is an important part of my RL work, and my talent is not only to create punchy, convincing, and if necessary, sales driven texts, but to also explain technical matters in an immediately comprehensible language. I am also strong at developing concepts. Both skills work very well with my chosen SL business and give me a competitive edge.

Most promising industry for businesses in SL?

A cynic recently commented that SL is like Barbie dolls–only with better clothing. Indeed the fashion industry is probably the largest industry in SL and there are a lot of great designers here–some of whom could certainly translate their SL abilities into RL careers. For what it’s worth, the adult industry is very strong in SL too. And word on the street is that the RL adult industry is on the verge of getting massively into SL.
I also see a lot of potential in “social” applications, starting with staff and workgroup meetings, to product presentations and trainings and even architectural visualizations. Art and entertainment will also flourish. We already now have live concerts in SL on an almost daily basis. If you add in a technology leap of 3-5 years, it might very well be that smaller or even larger bands or theatre groups do concerts and performances inside SL to a worldwide audience, instead of making costly tours. Not only can smaller bands gather larger audiences in SL, but from an economic and an ecologic point of view, this would be quite interesting.

Who shouldn’t come into SL and why not?

Some businesses simply do not translate into SL. Apart from the obvious like dentists or car mechanics, there are a lot of businesses who will probably fail. Only a few businesses can make a direct link between their RL activities and their SL activities. That is one of the reasons American Apparel failed. SL is not simply an extension of RL. Different rules apply, and the community aspect is much larger, so you need to give to the community. What RL businesses can achieve is mostly PR value, but even then you need to adapt instead of porting 1:1 what works or worked in RL.

One of my clients is a carpenter in RL. He built a 1:1 replica of his workshop in SL, showing his designs in a virtual showroom. He recognized the differences, so he started to offer custom doors and decorative elements for SL buildings. This way he could translate his RL knowledge into SL, offering a unique service to residents, while at the same time promoting his RL carpentry.

What is your opinion on RL business in SL? How will it effect the community?

We will inevitably see a commercialization in SL. This is OK as long as the RL companies respect the community of SL, try to understand and to cooperate. I would not mind test-driving a new car in SL. Of course it would not be my SOLE source in decision making, but one of many pieces. I wouldn’t mind comparing espresso machines in SL. Of course, I wouldn’t buy one simply because I saw its SL replica. But it would certainly impel me to investigate further. Of course this brings certain professionalization into play. Once I can buy exact replicas of a Senseo or Nespresso coffemaker, less sophisticated items to furnish my SL office would need to drastically drop in price or vanish. While this might be seen as a good sign – there are a lot of incredibly ugly builds and items in SL – it also limits creativity in a way. However for brand building, SL might be a great place.

What are some of the biggest mistakes SL entrepreneurs make?

To think SL can have a direct and massive impact on their revenue. To be honest, I think a lot of smaller companies–or one-man-shows–trying to find the goldrush in SL simply do not realize that L$ is not US$. Revenue in SL can be neglected. The designer I mentioned earlier virtually works her butt off and generates 300 US$ a month. I assume there are less than 500 persons in SL who could actually make a living from it. And where 300 US$ for a one-man-show might be nice extra revenue, it will certainly not cover the expenses of a larger company assigning a team to their SL presence.

Any predictions about the future for SL? New technology? Growth? New potential uses?

A massive technological leap for SL is imminent. Today’s SL software architecture is not really scalable and the whole system is slowing down day by day. Also, competitors are emerging, so SL needs to dramatically improve to maintain pole position. We’ll also see a massive lowering of barriers for new users. The interface has to become simpler–the invisible but steep learning curve which new residents face today will go away. This will lead to a social revolution in SL. But these changes are inevitable.

What does having a second life give you?

Most importantly, friendship. Through SL, I’ve made great friends all over the globe. I might be a naive dreamer, but a place like SL does more for peace and understanding among nations than most politicians. It’s hard to have prejudices when your best friends are from the US, France, the UK, Norway, and Canada; your partner is half Dutch and half Italian; your business associate is from France; and your most reliable freelancers are from Japan, Spain and Portugal.

Is there an element of fantasy or escape?

Oh absolutely! You can be whomever you want in SL, you can do whatever you want in SL. Escapism has always been an aspect of human life and culture, and in a way SL is the perfect escape. There’s a potential for addiction–particularly when you have issues and problems in the RL. You need to pay attention so that you don’t lose yourself in SL. However, the people I’ve met thus far seem to have a good grip on things and use SL as a place to hang out, have fun, and live dreams and phantasies.

Will SL change the landscape of business as we know it today? Will it change any landscape, i.e. cultural, social, etc?

We’re already aware that the hype is over. In due course, SL will become a business tool for many companies in the way corporate websites are today (taking into account that companies have already realized a website is actually high maintenance too). There will be a fair deal of SL/RL business interactions, and just as the web in the late 90s spawned a lot of purely web-focused companies, we will eventually see purely SL or VW content companies.
However I see a massive impact on cultural and social interaction. SL is the logical step beyond YouTube and MySpace. Both allowed me to discover bands I never would had heard before (and consequently buy their CD’s). SL may eventually give me the opportunity to actually “see” them “live.”


  1. SLENTRE.COM» SL Entrepreneur 2009: And the nominees are… says:

    January 27th, 2010at 2:43 pm(#)

    […] Firefly Patty Cores Honour McMillan Peter Stindberg Ayesha Lytton John Zelnik Steve Cropper Xion Hax Lissa Maertens Truman Laryukov, aka Professor […]

  2. Peter Stindberg says:

    January 28th, 2010at 10:24 am(#)

    Thank you very much for nominating me again. Babel has experienced tremendous growth in 2009, with nearly a doubling of translated words compared to 2008. I have incorporated two competing agencies into Babel, making Babel the by now oldest and without doubt largest translation and copywriting agency. Also in 2009 Babel was selected as official SL Solution Provider by Linden Lab, giving our work and quality a seal of approval. So it is only consequent that we were part of the 6th SL Birthday celebrations, which also marked Babel’s 2nd birthday. Finally 2009 saw the introduction of new services, for example the “Business Document” service for covenants, license agreements or terms of service.