Linden Lab and Tilia Inc. – speculations on the Lab’s new subsidiary

Linden TreeFriend and fellow blogger, Vick Forcella contacted me at the end of October concerning some interesting items related to Linden Lab he’d uncovered in digging around a few places.

The first comes in the form of documents relating to a relatively new Linden Lab subsidiary company, and the second in a partially filed trademark.

The subsidiary company is called Tilia Inc., and at first glance it seems to be completely unrelated to the Lab, being referred to as being involved with ” Packaging Machinery”. However, an examination of the company’s papers will reveal it is registered at 945 Battery Street – the Lab’s headquarters, as a check on Buzzfile confirmed to me.

Tilia Inc appears to be a defunct corporate entity, first registered in 2002, which has been acquired by the Lab. This, and the further registrations of the name across several US states  as a “foreign” entity (meaning the filing is by an existing corporate entity registered in another US state), tended to suggest the Lab might be using the company to leverage certain tax advantages – a common practice among corporations around the world. Further support for this appeared to come from the names of the directors: the Lab’s CFO, Malcolm Dunne, their Legal Counsel, Kelly Conway and, from outside of the Lab, Benjamin Duranske, founder of PayCom Consulting, and LeAnne Hoang, the Lab’s former Chief Compliance and AML Officer (remember that name).

Companies registered at 945 Battery Street, the Lab's HQ, via Buzzfile. Note Philip Rosedale's "Coffee and Power" sitting in the middle - and its associated industry description!
Companies registered at 945 Battery Street, the Lab’s HQ, via Buzzfile. Note Philip Rosedale’s “Coffee and Power” sitting in the middle – and its associated industry description!

Obviously one way to get more of a clue was to ask the Lab directly. So I did.

“Tilia is a subsidiary of Linden Lab, focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies,” Peter Gray, the Lab’s director of Global Communications said in answer to my initial questions, “and it will provide services for both Second Life and Project Sansar.”

Following my initial enquiry (which is not to say it is related to it), the list of senior personal at Tilia Inc., dramatically increased. The additional appointees  comprise: Bjorn Laurin (Bjorn Linden), Vice President of Product (Blocksworld, Second Life and Sansar), Landon McDowell (Brandon Linden), Vice President of Operations and Platform Engineering, Jeff Peterson (Bagman Linden), Vice President of Engineering, Pam Beyazit, Senior Director of HR, and Peter Gray.

"Tailia" and Tilia Inc appear to be geared to providing virtual currency and related services to both "Project Sansar" and Second Life
Tilia Inc is said by the Lab to be focused on the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies, and will provide services to “Project Sansar” and Second Life

The trademark, USTPO document 86374264, originally filed on August 22nd 2014, relates to the name of “Tilia”, which is described as, “Computer software, namely, electronic financial platform that accommodates multiple types of payment and debit transactions and the transfer of funds to and from others, in an integrated mobile phone, PDA, and web-based environment.” A further document located by Vick pertaining to the trademark application reveals even more information, and makes for interesting reading on its own.

What this all adds up to is still hard to determine. “Tilia” and Tilia Inc., might be totally coincidental. What follows is pure speculation, which should not be taken to mean it’s what I believe to be the case; rather it is a collection of thoughts which have been bouncing around. complaince quote

As indicated in June 2012 by Ebbe Altberg, the Lab has been focused on four areas of activity, one of which has been that of compliance (see the quote on the right).

This work appears to have been overseen by LeAnne Hoang, prior to her departure from the Lab in July 2015. More recently, the Lab has also transitioned to a new payment processor for credit and debit card payments, which may be related to this work.

Again the two – the compliance work and the new payment processor – could be entirely unrelated. However, given that “Project Sansar” and SL will both operate virtual economies possibly based on the same virtual currency, it would make sense for the Lab to develop a central transaction and payment system capable of supporting both. Doing so could reduce the complexities of managing two payment / transaction systems (or any least manage any exchange mechanisms between two separate currencies) and in managing updates to match evolving compliance and anti-fraud regulations and requirements. If so, could “Tilia” be the proposed name for this new service? But why run it under a separate entity? Why not simply run it under the “Linden Lab” umbrella? Is it a matter of compliance, as stated be Peter Gray in his response to my initial questions? Perhaps so.

Another option might be that the Lab be considering making the Linden Dollar and all its attendant services a pre-packaged solution / service they can offer to other companies wishing to operate a virtual currency, with Tilia Inc., as the nominal operating company for the service. After all, they have made much of their leadership in matters of virtual economies and compliance, so spinning it out and offering it to others might be a means of generating additional revenue, although admittedly, given the complexities potentially involved, this might be seen as a bit of a stretch.

Continue reading “Linden Lab and Tilia Inc. – speculations on the Lab’s new subsidiary”

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Linden Lab launches new look to corporate website

LL logoOn Wednesday, November 4th, Linden Lab launched a new look to its corporate website.

The new design has much in common with other tech-related (and some purely blog) sites, offers a fresh, clean and scrollable home page which introduces the company’s products: Project Sansar (at the rate that name is being used and gaining familiarity, it’s liable to become the de facto name for the new platform!), Second Life and Blockworld, each with buttons specific to them – the Second Life section, for example will launch secondlife.com. At the bottom of the page is a link to the Lab’s careers page.

An image from the top of the redesigned Linden Lab corporate home page possibly showing a scene from "Project Sansar"
An image from the top of the redesigned Linden Lab corporate home page possibly showing a scene from “Project Sansar”

The home page offers one of two different images at any given time (you might be able to swap between them by clicking). One of these appears to be taken from within “Project Sansar”, showing as it does a model of the Golden Gate Bridge, which the Lab has indicated to be one of the major initial scenes built within that platform.

The main pages for the site include a simple, clean menu at the top right, and all have had a similar facelift to the home page, and some nice refinements. The About page, for example, has a much more refined approach to presenting the management team which helps keep the page clean and tidy, although the fact that the images are clickable isn’t entirely clear when hovering the mouse over them.

The corporate home page introduction to Second Life includes a button to take interested parties directly to secondlife.com, while the Blocksworld intro has a link to the Apple Apps store, both offering a no nonsense link to the products
The corporate home page introduction to Second Life includes a button to take interested parties directly to secondlife.com, while the Blocksworld intro has a link to the Apple Apps store, both offering a no-nonsense link to the products

All told, a simple, clean and fast redesign of the website which, to me at least, is a lot more contemporary than previous looks, and which somewhat matches the approach taken with the Second Life landing pages.