Second Life

Philip Rosedale, Once Back, Is Now Back Out at Linden Lab

Philip Rosedale has stepped down from his position as interim CEO of Linden Lab effective immediately, In one of the more bizarre turn of events in what has already been a bizarre year for Linden Lab.

The announcement comes with a relatively terse post to the Second Life blog:

After about four months as interim CEO, working closely with Bob Komin, the management team, and the board, we’ve decided we are ready to start the search for a new CEO. I’ll be leaving day-to-day management of the company and continuing in my role on the board, including helping in the search to find a great CEO. I will also be continuing my work with my new company, LoveMachine. Bob will lead Linden Lab while we conduct the search. It’s been an intense few months of transition, and we all feel like we are in a better place now, with a clearer sense of direction and more focus, and are ready to bring someone new into the mix as a leader.

Will we see the “new Philip” on the Grid? Or is it all about the Love Machine now? (At least the glitter crotch will work)

There is clearly a backdrop to this story. What it is we might never know. Whether board pressure, the pressure of the job, or truly feeling that he put the Lab on the right course – any one of these reasons are currently speculative.

The executive suite has been a bit of a revolving door, however, and while he did this once (leaving as CEO before a new CEO was found) it strikes me as unusual to do it a second time.

Have they ever Googled “succession planning” over at the Lab?

First, Mark Kingdon was brought in to “scale” Second Life by making it more consumer friendly, by revamping the Web site and by doing all the stuff he did, most of which was aimed at making a more friendly experience for new users.

Bringing his background in interactive advertising to the position, Kingdon moved to a more “product-oriented” way of thinking about Second Life. Releases of new software or features were heavily covered by NDAs and then launched with press releases and attendant noise only to often fall flat once the initial splash died down.

Second Life Enterprise was launched with press, a launch event, promotional materials – and then wasn’t supported with a long-term marketing campaign or back-up.

Likewise the “easier” Second Life Viewer (2.0) was developed in secrecy, launched with fanfare, and then landed with a thud in the face of Resident and market indifference.

Under Kingdon, the Lab was confidently predicting 100,000 concurrency and monthly repeat usage that never materialized. In the absence of growth, the increase in staff and overhead wasn’t sustainable and layoffs followed, with Kingdon being the last to go.

Rosedale’s return to the Lab at the helm was heralded by those with an interest in Second Life as a sort of Second Coming. He promised a whole new level of transparency and a new way of operating, based primarily on things like agile software development.

So while, under Kingdon, the Lab was starting to look a lot more like Adobe or Apple (or dreamed it was looking a lot more like them anyways, with top secret launches of new features and the rest of it), Rosedale was promising it would look more like Google, with open systems and initiative at the front lines and a technology-focused operational slant.

But his departure is sudden and sharp. After unveiling his new avatar only days ago – part of his “I’m back and I’m engaged in the world” campaign, the announcement has the mark of either immediate burn-out from the position or some background pressure in the board room.

There will be ample speculation in the coming days, and the often invisible Bob Kormin (who famously came out of silence via Twitter) will have a firmer hand on the tiller while the new CEO search begins, but the move in the meantime is bound to cause more turmoil at a time when the Lab was starting to trend back to positive with an improving Viewer, infrastructure and the successful launch of the mesh open beta.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.