EXCLUSIVE - Rosedale to step down as Linden Lab CEO
By Adam Reuters
SECOND LIFE, March 14 (Reuters) - Linden Lab Chief Executive Philip Rosedale said on Friday the company he founded has begun a search for a new CEO with more operational and management expertise.
Rosedale will become chairman of the Linden Lab board when his successor is found, replacing Mitch Kapor, who will remain a board member and the company’s largest investor. Rosedale said he will also keep a full-time role at the company working on product development and strategy.
“This is my life’s work,” he told Reuters in an interview. “I’m not going anywhere, and I’m still full-time on this, probably for the rest of my life.”
Second Life’s growth has slowed after a period of rapid expansion. Rosedale’s replacement will face the difficult task of regaining that momentum, working within Linden Lab’s idiosyncratic corporate culture and winning over Second Life’s impassioned users.
The shift from a visionary founder to an operations-focused CEO is typical for technology start-ups, with eBay and Google as prominent examples. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that 50 percent of founders were no longer CEO by year three, 40 percent remained by year four, and fewer than 25 percent led their companies’ initial public offerings. Rosedale, a former chief technology officer at RealNetworks, has been CEO since founding Linden Lab in 1999.
“It was not precipitated by a crisis,” Kapor told Reuters. “We had always anticipated that there would be a time when he’d decide he no longer wanted to be a CEO.”
Kapor added that the management change is not a prelude to a sale of the company or an initial public offering, though he acknowledged that an IPO was an option under consideration.
“We always knew this was a long-term project, operating on a different time frame from (other) venture-backed startups. At some sense it will make sense to go public but there’s no rush to that,” he said. Linden’s venture backers include Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network.
“The company has the type of financial performance that if it wanted to it could become a public company,” said Benchmark’s Bill Gurley, who sits on the Linden Lab board. “I certainly think at some point in the future — and I’m certainly not announcing anything new here for the next 12 months — that’s on the company’s ambition plan.”