Update: February 20th: I was fortunate to attend a meet-and-greet with Ebbe Altberg in-world, and have published an article presenting his views on the Lab, You can read and listen to his comments by following this link.
So Ebbe Altberg is the new CEO at Linden Lab, and will formally take up his new position on Monday February 10th. But who is Ebbe Altberg?
You can read his official LL biography here, and I’m using that as a leaping-off point for a slightly deeper look at his career.
Mr. Altberg, Swedish by birth, graduated from Tärnaby Skidhem in 1983. This is categorised as a “general college / university” in Foursquare, but appears to (also?) be a ski school.
Tärnaby itself is a locality (“urban area”) situated in Storuman Municipality, Västerbotten County, northern Sweden. It is noted for being the home of several of the country’s top international skiers and is regarded as one of the country’s best ski resorts.
Following this, he attended Middlebury College, Vermont, USA, where he graduated with a BA (subject not clear). Founded in 1800, Middlebury is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the United States, and offers 44 majors in the arts, humanities, literature, foreign languages, social sciences, and natural sciences.
After eleven and a half years as Product Unit Manager at Microsoft, where he was involved in products such as Word, Office, Mac Office, and multimedia products, he moved on to Internet and Telecommunications company Ingenio in March 2000. Here he was responsible for managing the engineering, program management, operations, and quality teams. Interestingly, and as noted in the LL bio, he also served as the company’s interim CEO.
Joining Yahoo! in February 2008, he spent two years and nine months working as Vice President, Head of Audience for the company’s EMEA division, based in Rolle, Switzerland. Here he was responsible for consumer strategy, products and content throughout EMEA, including Search, Mail, Homepage, Media products, including News, Sports, Finance, Music, Movies, Autos, Travel, Games, Answers, Flickr etc. He ultimately managed all teams responsible for product management, design, editorial, programming, content, production, content business development and product marketing – some 180 people in total across six countries.
During this period, he also served on the board of Yahoo! SARL (Société à responsabilité limitée) – think the equivalent of a Pvt Ltd company in the UK or a limited liability partnership in the USA.
In October 2010, Mr. Altberg became the Senior Vice President for Media Engineering at Yahoo! with global responsibly for Media Engineering for all of Yahoo! Homepages, News, Sports, Finance, Movies, Music, TV, Games, OMG, Lifestyles, Weather, Screen, Livestand and IntoNow products, including related partner portals, publishing platforms and the Yahoo! Contributor Network, across all devices (PC, Tablet and Mobile). This position involved managing an organisation of more than 600 engineers, architects, program managers and quality engineering staff, as well as having dotted-line oversight of some 150 product managers and designers.
Thirteen months later, in October 2012, he moved to join BranchOut, based in San Francisco, as Chief Operations Officer. At the time of his joining, the company had already experienced something of a rough time.
Founded in 2010 by Rick Marini as an application designed for finding jobs, networking professionally, and recruiting employees, it proclaimed itself to be the “largest professional network on Facebook”.
The app attracted some $49 million in three rounds of funding between 2010 and 2012, and in March 2012 it boasted some 25 million users and was active in at least 60 countries. However, by August of that year, user numbers had fallen to some 3 million, and the company had indicated it would be working to pivot BranchOut into a workplace chat app, As COO, Mr. Altberg played a key role in this effort, which saw the development of Talk.co, a private messaging application. Launched in October 2013, Talk.co promotes itself as “a better way to communicate with those you work with”.
Mr. Altberg defines his key skills as:
Specialties: Team development, strategy, provide vision, software and business inventions, product design, engineering, product/program management, quality engineering, operations.
Manage teams that invent, create, define, spec, build, produce, test, ship, market and operate products.
Away from work, Mr. Altberg appears to have an interest in space exploration, particularly efforts from within the private sector. He’s also a follower of Formula 1 racing, and (obviously) a keen supporter of his son, Aleks, a former instructor at the Dirtfish Rally School and who is currently an instructor at the Lamborghini Driving Academy, as well as being a winning driver with APR Motorsport.
From his résumé, it’s fairly clear why Ebbe Altberg has been seen as a good fit for Linden Lab by the board of directors. He has considerable breadth and depth of experience in both product development and product management, as well as in multi-discipline team management and developing and operating software across multiple platforms and product categories.
A lot of Mr. Altberg’s background revolves around social media and the need to establish strong communities. Indeed, his lists his motivating factors as creating “fantastic and profitable experiences that positively impact millions of people.” This might actually bode well for Second Life, particularly if he has the freedom to ensure the company more broadly re-engages with the SL user base, and becomes more pro-active in key areas of communication (such as with changes to the ToS and better communications about legal and requirements which impact users, etc.). He has already received a number of Tweets from SL users (myself included) requesting he takes this into consideration while welcoming him to the company.
Time will obviously tell as to how well Mr. Altberg fits-in at Linden Lab, as well as revealing the direction in which the board would like him to take the company.; in this respect it is perhaps interesting to note how the press release announcing his appointment is directly focused on Second Life and Blocksworld (with a mention in passing of Desura). In the meantime, I’ll once again welcome him to Linden Lab. The hot seat awaits!