Linden Lab announces it is to be acquired

© and ®Linden Lab

On Tuesday, July 9th, 2020, linden Lab announced it is to be acquired by “an investment group led by Randy Waterfield and Brad Oberwager”.

The acquisition is currently pending approval by financial regulators in the U.S., due to the Lab’s subsidiary, Tilia Inc., which forms part and parcel of the acquisition.

The full statement on the matter, which can be read on the Lab’s corporate website, includes a statement from Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg:

We’re excited for this new chapter to begin. We see this as an opportunity to continue growth and expansion for Second Life and our money services business Tilia. We’re grateful for the ongoing support from our community, business partners and investors. Now more than ever, there is increased recognition of the value and utility of virtual worlds to bring people together for safe, shared, and social on-line experiences.

Once the acquisition is finalised, both Mr. Waterfield  and Mr. Oberwager will join the Lab’s Board of directors.

Bradford Oberwager has founded and/or run five tech/CPG companies—Jyve, Bare Snacks (acquired by PepsiCo), True & Good! Snacks, Acumins/more.com (acquired by HealthCentral), and Blue Tiger/Open Webs (acquired by CarParts).

J. Randall Waterfield is Chairman of The Board & Chief Executive Officer of Waterfield Group, one of the largest private financial organisations in the United State, and occupies board positions on a number of other companies and organisations.

J. Randall Waterfield (l) and Bradford Oberwager (via Waterfield.com and LinkedIn)

Also commenting on the acquisition, Brad Oberwager states:

Both the company and its virtual world community have a unique culture and creative energy that remain important to the long-term success of Second Life. There’s a bright future for both Second Life and Tilia and we’re excited to help fuel these growth opportunities.

With the news breaking on Twitter, Altberg responded to questions on what it means for Second Life with a simple “Continued Greatness!”

I reached out to linden Lab on finding out the news, but was informed the company has no further comment on the acquisition beyond the press release.

However, given that the acquisition will see Mr. Waterfield and Mr. Oberwager joining the board, I would anticipate that – given the nature of acquisitions – it is unlikely there will be any immediate visible changes to Linden Lab, Second Life or Tilia Inc., and, and the company will likely to continue to operate in a “business as usual” mode with regards to both Second Life operations and the community for the immediate future. That said, there will likely be a lot of speculation as to the future of SL, together with concerns / fears as to what the longer-term future might be.

While it is purely speculative on my part, I would hazard a guess that the acquisition will take into consideration the increased interest Second life has witnessed over the last year(ish), and particularly as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and will see in inflow of cash for the company that will allow it to (hopefully) meet its immediate goals with both Second Life and Tilia Inc., and allow both platforms to continue to be developed.

This is certainly the belief held by Linden Lab’s co-founder, Philip Rosedale, who now heads-up High Fidelity Inc. Also quoted in the press release, he states:

Since its inception 17 years ago, Second Life has been a pioneer in the concepts of virtual societies, land and economies. I’ve known Brad [Oberwager] for 14 years personally and professionally, and I’m confident he will bring his passion and proven strategies to help Linden Lab achieve new heights in distribution, scale, and quality while remaining true to the original vision, creativity, and community that makes Second Life unique and special.

Source:  Linden Research, Inc. to Be Acquired, Thursday, July 9th, 2020.

With thanks to Whirly Fizzle for the pointer.

17 thoughts on “Linden Lab announces it is to be acquired

  1. Uh-oh!

    At least this explains the three strategic decisions that LL made recently:
    – Dumping the toxic bottomless pit of wasting money that was Sansar;
    – Move all infrastructure to the cloud. ASAP. Make sure everything runs way faster and better at a fraction of the overall costs (as ’empty sims’ will not require any CPU/memory/disk resources);
    – Tilia, which was a clever idea to sidestep the complex international laws regulating financial transactions.

    Change is good, so long as it points in the right direction; it’s good to know that a) we’re talking about very serious investors here, not happy-go-crazy venture capitalists, business angels, and the ‘unicorn hunter’ crowd out there. It’s also nice to know that Philip is personally acquainted with them; maybe he’s willing to give up on High Fidelity (or let it be bought as well) and come back to the Lab…

    Oh, the endless possibilities!…

    Thanks for reporting this, Inara!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A couple of points in reply:

      “Make sure everything runs way faster and better at a fraction of the overall costs (as ’empty sims’ will not require any CPU/memory/disk resources);”

      – this only holds true if LL offer an on-demand capability (a-la Kitely). That’s currently not on the cards (although a possible future option, if there is a demand for such a product). Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the play is to continue to have simulators / regions spun-up regardless as to whether or not that have avatars.

      “Tilia, which was a clever idea to sidestep the complex international laws regulating financial transactions.”

      – Actually, no. Tilia was formed in order to ensure all financial activity within Second Life is in compliance with US regulatory requirements (and by extension, international requirements) relating to electronic money handling and transmission (e.g. anti-fraud, anti-money laundering requirements, etc.). As such, its value is in being able to allow US companies to utilise its services in support of their micro-currency / fiat exchange capabilities in compliance with regulatory requirements without have to go through the same compliance process (which can take years).

      Otherwise, I agree; this is potentially good in terms of inward investment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the answer is staring us in the face: Bradford Oberwager has founded and/or run five tech/CPG companies—Jyve, Bare Snacks (acquired by PepsiCo), True & Good! Snacks, Acumins/more.com (acquired by HealthCentral), and Blue Tiger/Open Webs (acquired by CarParts).

    Seems he goes into a tech company, and prepares it for sale to a bigger conglomerate

    Like

  3. I have a bad feeling about this…

    They will want return on investment and that will mean making SL more appealing to a boarder audience which may very well mean doing away with some of the more niche communities on the platform that lets face it have no where else to go.
    Not only that, I keep hearing about the “increased interest Second life has witnessed over the last year” but if you look at logged-in users at any given time of day is no more users than it was one or two years ago, although someone will point me to some other metrics no doubt.
    I’m sure a lot more new accounts were created and I have meet plenty of these new users first hand that just quit after a couple of hours because they can’t make heads with tails with the platform.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the biggest hurdle for new users is the new user experience, LL keeps changing the starting areas and playing around with them trying to translate that into better new user retention without addressing the real problem: STARTING AVATARS.

    While the basic SL avatars looked decent enough for 2003 when compared with games from that era, like GTA: Vice City which I always saw as fair comparison, trying to push these same avatars in 2020 is just not a good idea to say the least.
    So when a new user comes around and sticks around long enough to find some shops and starts asking others how they make an avatar look good and get told to use their credit card, they just run away, because why wouldn’t they?

    Mobile games have nailed this process, they lure users in with a good time on a free game to get them invested on their game, and then little by little micro transactions start to creep in, but since the user is having a good time, these micro payments seem like a good investment.

    Second Life on the other hand is free to start, but the enjoyment is highly dependable on the quality of the social interactions you can have, and no one can deny how your avatar looks will have a massive impact on the quality of the social interactions you have in SL.
    A starter looking avatar will either get no replies or will be the target of trolling, more than anything that is why, in my opinion, SL has such a big problem with new user retention, since people are not invested on the platform you cannot convince them to spend any money in order for them to enjoy themselves in it, and they just end up quitting and looking elsewhere for leisure. It’s a chicken and egg problem, you need a good avatar for a good experience but you are only gonna invest in a good avatar if you have a good experience.

    LL should have revised the started avatars long ago, they need a complete and I do mean complete overhaul sooner rather than later if they ever wanna have any hope to get any decent new user retention.

    For anyone that cares to read my particular opinion on the matter, I believe it is imperative that these new LL avatars would work like the third party options do in SL.
    That means Alpha HUDs, set up HUDs, animation HUDs, Omega Relay and so on.
    They should also be very VERY modular, currently starter avatars come with baked in hair for example, so you can’t even mix and match the starter hairs on the different starter skins, this would be a fundamental design change since right now the SL starter avatars are built too much to be presented “as is” in particular the outfits and the hair, which cannot even be resized and reposition for different shapes.

    A very long time ago LL collaborated with some SL content creators to have a generation of starter avatars, they could do the same now.
    They could hire some of the SL content creators today to make assets that would be used on the new starter avatars, since these people are already used to work on and for the platform it would be cheaper and faster than trying to get someone from the outside to produce this content, and before someone says “Moles are a thing already” with all due respect, no. Just look at the texture work on the SL starter clothes, it’s not even a matter of resolution and optimized content, it’s just plain flat, no pun intended.

    Having brands creating mesh, textures, photo-realistic skins, hair, hair bases and everything else in between used to create an avatar, including animations could produce a new generation of SL avatars that would actually look good.
    The clothes should very modular as I’ve mentioned, currently outfits are often made as 1 object, Dylan for example has a very cool jacket, but it comes stitched together with the pants and boots all in only one color.
    Not only clothes should be modular, they should come with texture changing HUDs too, and dev kits for injectors could be made available so the wide SL community could create even more textures for these starter clothes, further expanding on that starter pool.
    Think of it this way.
    Imagine if LL would commission 1 male mesh body, 5 bento heads, 20 shapes, 10 skins, 15 eyes, 8 tops each with 10 textures, 5 bottoms each with 5 textures each, 5 shoes each with 3 textures, 10 hairs each with 20 textures.
    All very doable I would say, specially if you commission those from large pool of different SL creators, yet you would have 90,000,000,000 possible combinations with those assets, and another 90,000,000,000 for the female avatars.
    Right now for some reason it seems every new male avatar is starting as Greg (the 1970s guy) imagine if a new SL account had an avatar generated with an algorithm that would randomly pick from that pool of assets, you would have a new user with an actually decent looking avatar without 5 others just like them on that starting area.
    If you spend any time in one of those starting areas, you will see that people spend a considerable amount of time trying to edit themselves and failing miserably, because not only they cannot find the starting assets, but the those aren’t even modular to begin with, leaving new users locked in a outdated looking avatar with a bunch of others that look just like them, and needless to say no one likes that feeling on any platform, so after all that initial frustration how is anyone gonna be compelled to spend any kind of money on a platform that hasn’t gave them a good experience?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You said it like it is!

      I heard some Lindens said that it was complicated, so they let the community do what they (for some reason they didn’t explained really) cannot do. So, it is a total mess now.

      You need to look trough tutorials just to get something right. And then, to know how to use other object, view some more. And chat to ask about it if it wasn’t enough. And maybe tomorrow you forget the way around the problem and you need to start al over again. Or the solution didn’t work the next day.
      No standard of anything. Every creator think they have it right.

      Thank you Genus Project for the free head, but all your heads have animation problems, so I take the free one, thank you very much, but no way I will spend 20 dollars in a full one. It is too much money!! or for catwa that 80% of them look alike with ducky lips… Or mesh bodies that have billions of polygons like belleza, so that i can be part of the mesh body puzzle that floats around my invisible skeleton (surrounded by naked bodies too)… so I stick with maitreya because most cloth are for it, even tho the anatomy is really not good.

      Maybe in the USA it is very common to have credit card and not having any savings, and spend it in everything, VG included.
      Outside USA, not everyone have credit cards or dollar salaries.. or a good economy. I will never consider to waste 20 dollars for digital stuff. And I’m in SL since 2007. If I spent money was doing odd jobs inside it.

      It is as you say.. I bet nowadays people see images of SL from residents (specially the ones with heavily photoshop on it, the ones that SL facebook page likes to present) and think “wow! I’ll start an account”. Then, they see the starter avatars and won’t get what they are being offered. And then: should I buy? what should I buy? where? why?

      Regarding your idea, it sounds really great, but SL is all about shopping… even from the time I started playing it. I read some of my old blog post and I couldn’t believe what I wrote: I was frustrated because I were a trash avie unless I buy stuff to make it pretty.. and I was in the dancing pads for 1L x 20 min. I wasn’t doing great. Not enjoyable. So, really, not everyone would want to do that.. or go from sploder to sploder…1 hour: 10L… HA!
      The starter avies that you propose are all well and good, but as I said, SL is full of overly dress digital dolls that look down on you if you didn’t buy something special with your money. Since this quarantine a lot of creators are giving stuff for free, so thank god (I remember Stiletto Moody shoes in 2007 as a luxury item)
      and I can dress my avatars deently.

      I just want to have good looking avies and wonder around this metaverse..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is wonderful news as SL is bound to expand and grow into a stable and more settled entity
    A bright future for SL !!!

    Like

  5. This news feels very good and has been met warmly in my neck of the SL woods .. the world is finally understanding virtual reality as a much better Reality Show than any television can provide .. once we users get our hardware up to speed [ you know many Boomers are still using 7 year old systems 🙂 ] … we should be flying as high as the imaginations will allow .. LeChaim .. May we all grow old and prosper together in the New Days of These Our Second Lives .. well done fellers, mazeltov!!! … oo is Governor Alt-berg soon opening the Mountain of Alts? or just a whimsical rumour?

    Like

    1. The idea that lower land tier will magically solve SL’s problems is somewhat incorrect.

      It won’t for example, necessarily increase active user numbers, because people don’t come to virtual spaces like Second Life to “own land”. Rather, they come – and remain – for a plethora of other reasons, but “owning” land doesn’t top the list (hence way, for example, the 2008/9 introduction of OpenSpace/Homesteads saw SL’s land mass almost double, but with little in the way of an increase in active user numbers).

      Of course, lower land tier will ease the burden of engaged users and potentially help more to become invested in the platform as they opt to obtain a virtual home. However, the fact is that land tier is the major source of income needed by LL to both remain profitable and to keep SL running; so changes to it must necessarily be made cautiously – as has been the case between 2015-2019, and will hopefully again occur in the future.

      But again, decreases in such a major income stream cannot simply be “absorbed” but the company; to be viable, there needs to be a degree of compensatory income inflow from elsewhere – Such as increases in MP fees, Premium fees, and so on. All of which have equally been seen over the same period – and which have caused they own share of angst and upset among users.

      So while calls to “decrease the rental cost of the lands” are easy to make, they are actually harder to implement in terms of a) allowing LL to continue to function; b) not unduly alienating the user base to a degree they simply stop using the platform. But, and while keeping (a) and (b) foremost in mind, lowering tier (and potentially restructuring or expanding the land product portfolio) in the future is something LL has indicated it is committed to trying to achieve.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not land cost that’s keeping people from joining SL. It’s a combination of antiquated graphics, perceived lack of “things to do”, and the stigma that surrounds SL because of some issues from the past which were paraded around by the news media like they’d captured the ultimate villain.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s the final hit before Labs goes bankrupt and SL abandonware. Not immediately. You don’t sell a profitable company, if you do then you have been offered the amount of money that you simply don’t make. It’s heads I win, tails you lose. R.I.P

    Like

    1. “You don’t sell a profitable company”.

      Actually, there are assorted reasons for selling a profitable private company. To name three:

      • The fact that it *is* profitable means that those acquiring it are able to see it as a viable business that will allow them to accumulate an acceptable ROI over time, rather than opting for asset stripping, etc., that may follow the sale of a loss making company.
      • It provides a means of generating a cash inflow when other routes have long since been exhausted (e.g. seeking venture capital), helping to accelerate plans and potentially bring-in board-level expertise that might assist the company in reaching broader audiences.
      • It could be because long-time board members (investors) have decided – again, without any actual reflection as to the overall health of a company – that they would like to exercise their exit strategy from the company, and move on and invest their funds elsewhere. Thus, a sale allows them to do so whilst ensuring the company can continue as a viable entity without them.

      This last point is perhaps the most common reason for a profitable private company putting itself up for acquisition, and it is why I’m interested in seeing how the Linden Research Inc., board shapes up after the acquisition has been formally completed.

      Of course, there are also risks involved as well – the most particular being a mix of the motivations of those coming into the board (e.g. their belief in the company and its vision / direction), and if they are willing to stay the course with the company over time. Thus far, and being fair, the professional and anecdotal information that is available on the incoming board members is somewhat mixed in how it might be interpreted.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “We see this as an opportunity to continue growth and expansion for Second Life and our money services business Tilia.”
    Tilia is something they want to cultivate as a service that can be offered elsewhere. I get the feeling that the primary emphasis for said “opportunity to continue growth and expansion” is Tilia, not SL.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tilia is already expanding independently of SL – see: A further look at Tilia and their new client, Upland. Plus the work in transitioning SL to cloud infrastructure / hardware offers it the potential for significant expansion and growth, providing the opportunities can be found (and some already have been, and are being leveraged) – so I wouldn’t say the focus is not on SL or exclusively on just the one platform.

      Liked by 1 person

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