Leaving Linden Lab

Friday, April 17, 2009 Friday, April 17, 2009

Last year at SLCC I had the pleasure of speaking at length with Robin Linden, one of the originals at Linden Lab. Sadly, she’s no longer with the company, having moved on to other pursuits. But she’s not alone. Several long-term Lindens have recently departed, most recently Ginsu Yoon and Zee Linden, the CFO. They were all pre-exited by CTO Cory Ondrejka some time ago. Today we hear a rumor that Lee Linden is about to exit stage left as well.

Is the sky falling?

By no means. I believe the universe is unfolding as it should - it is simply the transition of Linden Lab from small start-up company mode to a large-scale operation. Different types of people are needed for each mode.

In a startup company, you need highly creative, action oriented people who can quickly make useful things out of whatever they can get their hands on, making up things as they go. That’s quite different than a large-scale company that can’t do that when there are 100,000 times as many things to look after. You have to transform that creative energy into consistent business processes that can scale up to a much larger size.

It’s no different than any task you might have to do yourself. For example, It’s really easy to hang a picture on a wall once. But could you do it a million times? Nope, you’d need to hire people who could be trained to do it correctly and consistently each and every time. That’s quite different than just doing it yourself. That’s the transformation that’s happening now at Linden Lab.

We’ve all heard complaints about Linden Lab’s activities, but I read it to mean that the original organization’s approach simply reached it’s maximum capacity. The reaction by the shareholders was to begin transitioning the company to a configuration that would be able to handle large-scale activities. A new CEO appears, along with new people with new approaches. Existing staff departs. This always happens to successful companies; they grow until they need to modify their approach to handle larger and larger operations. Failed companies don’t make the transition, so I’m quite happy that Linden Lab is making all these changes.

Is this a bad thing for those who are leaving? Perhaps, but on the other hand people who like the wild ups and downs of a startup company might not enjoy working at a more regimented “larger company” that pursues consistency, so perhaps some of those leaving have gone seeking other new startups where their talents are are more suitable.

In the long run, what does this mean? I think it means that Linden Lab is getting themselves organized for a truly massive expansion in the future. You think 88,000 concurrent users is something? It is for now, but it’s nothing compared to what’s going to come.


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