Rosedale steps down as Linden Lab CEO

Reuters has three articles up on today’s announcement that Philip Rosedale has stepped down as the CEO of Linden Lab and will assume the role of Chairman of the Board.

The first article covers the breaking news of the announcement:

Exclusive: Rosedale to step down as Linden Lab CEO 

The second article is an announcement of the decision and some background on Philip and the company, and how this decision was made:

Rosedale faces “founder’s dilemma” and steps aside

A quote from the article sums it up:

“By the accounts of all parties involved, the decision to find a new CEO was Rosedale’s own, and in that he may have been fortunate, especially given the sharp drop-off in Second Life’s growth rate over the past year amid persistent complaints about stability and usability. Wasserman’s research indicates that four out of five entrepreneurs are eventually forced out.”

Reuters also has a page up for reactions to the announcement:

Reactions to the Rosedale announcement

One of the more salient comments is this one posted by Robert Bloomfield (Beyers Sellers), Cornell University, host,

“Linden Lab’s unique business vision allows them to break plenty of rules, but they can’t ignore the basic economic forces governing corporate growth and ultimately access to capital markets. The search for a successor is going to lead to some real soul-searching about two key trade-offs in Linden Lab’s strategy. First is the tradeoff between stability of the software platform and feature-heavy construction that allows creators with tremendous freedom. Second is the tradeoff between catering to individual residents who want a new world full of fantastic possibilities for their personal lives, and enterprises who see virtual worlds (but perhaps not Second Life) as the future of electronic commerce and the virtual office. Without a tremendous influx of capital that would allow them to become all things to all people, Linden Lab’s new management will need to make some big decisions on which way to turn.”

It should be interesting to see how the search for a new CEO impacts the culture of Linden Lab over the next two years. Where will the platform move? Will the underlying issues with grid stability be addressed? Will the platform still move towards open source, or turn more proprietary? Will ties with companies like IBM be strengthened or strained?

What would be very interesting would be if a CEO from another company trying to enter this space were to take the reins at Linden Lab and try to steer the platform into a more mainstream business and consumer friendly endeavor. Someone like Sam Palmisano from IBM comes to mind (this is only intended as an example, and not a prediction of the future). Someone like this would have to be looking for a big challenge, with a potential large payoff (of possibly setting Second Life as the foundation for the coming Metaverse) to leave the comfort and security of a corporate job. Stranger things have happened. Remember John Scully?

John Scully left the relative comfort of a Vice President position with Pepsi-Cola in 1982 (having worked with Pepsi-Cola since 1967) to take the reins at the then new kid on the block, Apple Computer. Steve Jobs recruited John Scully with this question:

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Philip Rosedale has stated on many occasions that he wants to change the world, and I suspect this will also be the motivation of whoever takes the reins at Linden Lab. There has to be some sharing of the vision for the incoming CEO to succeed. The corporate culture of Linden Lab is deeply rooted in its employees, and any shift in direction will be a challenge at best.

And in the case of Apple, Steve Jobs eventually returned to take the reins again at Apple. The stunning return of Apple over the past few years with Steve Jobs back in the driver’s seat has surprised many analysts and consumers alike. So don’t count Philip out just yet. This may end up being one of his most important decisions to date related to the future of Second Life, and the viability of the platform moving towards an unknown future.


4 responses to “Rosedale steps down as Linden Lab CEO

  1. No offense, but Bloomfield has only been looking at the past. The future is uncharted, so I don’t believe his comment was as salient as you think it was.

    I’ll be writing a post on this soon enough… but not too soon. 😉

  2. It takes guts for a founding visionary entrepreneur to step aside and hand the reigns over to another. Ultimately the vision has to be more important than any individual, even the source of that vision. Of course the key now is getting just the right CEO. As a CEO myself (and no I won’t be putting my hand up!) my advice is to find someone who is not so much a visionary as a strategist. More of an organizational and strategic technician. The key to scaling an organization is in the deployment of resources: in particular creating the right environment and structures ready to meet the planned growth. So for me, I.T expertise is minor to this, what they need is a first class strategist.

  3. Pingback: Philip Rosedale to Step Down as CEO of Linden Lab — Update 3 « Around the Grid with Harper

  4. Pingback: Linden Lab Selects New CEO « PacificRim Exchange

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