SL18B Meet the Lindens: Lab Gab special 1: Brad Oberwager – summary

 
On Monday, June 21st Lab Gab and Strawberry Linden hosted a special Meet the Lindens show as a part of the SL18B celebrations.

This is the first of two summaries of the show, and focuses on the discussion with board member and Executive Chairman Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden).

Table of Contents

A second summary will follow, focusing on the Leadership team, and a link to it will be added to this summary when available .

Note that this is a summary, not a full transcript, and items have been grouped by topic, so may not be presented chronologically when compared to the video.

A Little Background

Brad Oberwager is one of the three investors who acquired Linden Lab in 2020, alongside of  J. Randall (Randy) Waterfield and Raj Date. Since the acquisition closed, he has been very hands-on at Linden Lab, working alongside members of the management team, and he has also brought-in long-time business associate Cammy Bergren as the company’s Chief of Staff.

His biography, as supplied by the Lab reads as follows:

Brad Oberwager has spent his entire career in technology and consumer focused companies as an entrepreneur and board member.
Currently, he sits on the board of two public companies, Asure Software (NASDAQ: ASUR) and Better World (NASDAQ: BWACU). He is the chairman of two companies he founded, Jyve and Sundia and is also on the board of TEGSCO (aka AutoReturn). He owned Bare Snacks, acquired by PepsiCo in 2018.
Brad was Vice-chair of YPO International, a global organization of 25,000 CEOs.
Brad received his BS from Georgetown University, his MBA from the Wharton School and lives in San Francisco.

[Video: 1:13-7:45]

  • He describes himself as a “very, very good friend” of Philip Rosedale – they go to Burning Man together, and he met Philip via Philip’s wife, whom Brad regards as his closest friend.
  • Their two families live 3 blocks away from one another, and they see one another socially around once a week, generally on a Friday. As such, he regards Philip as an unofficial advisor when it comes to decisions around Second Life.
  • Had enormous respect and liking for Ebbe Altberg, and admired Ebbe’s leadership and desire to be inclusive across the board and lead from the front.
  • Saw him as a fiercely loyal and incredibly open character, a gifted mentor and engaging leader.
  • Believes that Ebbe’s approach to Linden Lab and leadership has helped shaped the company, and will continue to do so, as Ebbe’s philosophy and ethos have become a part of the company and the platform.

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On Acquiring Linden Lab

[Video: 8:00-10:47]

  • Really four types of acquisition:
    • Venture capitalists tend to pump money into a company, build it up with the aim of generating very large returns, and are prepared to write the company off if it fails to realise their goal.
    • Private equity firms tend to buy a company with the aim of turning it around / trimming it down in order to sell it on for reasonable return.
    • Purchase by another company – which tends to see the absorption of the purchased entity in terms of culture, products and even brand.
    • Purchase by private investors – who are often involved for a wide variety of reasons, and while financial return tends to be one of them, it is not necessarily the central driver for their involvement.
  • For him, what was interesting about Second Life is the extension it offers to people’s lives and the freedoms it gives creativity and socially. He also admits that in being involved in LL / SL from a business perspective is the first time he’s understands the expression “it’s not just work, it’s fun” – he is enjoying being a part of SL / LL, which he regards as a passion as much as an investment.

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Who Owns Linden Lab and Who Makes the Business and Product Decisions?

[Video: 10:51-15:04]

  • Technically, Linden Research is now owned by a LLC (limited liability company) formed by Brad Oberwager and Randy Waterfield.
    • Randy Waterfield brings a huge amount of financial experience to LL that will be good for Second Life and Tilia.
    • Brad has the entrepreneurial  skillset that is important to the practical growth of Second Life and Tilia.
  • Company direction really comes down to two elements: business and product.
    • The business elements relates to corporate management, marketing, forging partnerships, and the outward facing decisions. These are the remit of the management team as a whole.
    • Product decisions lie with the Leadership Team  Office of Second Life – Grumpity, Patch and Brett – supported by the senior management (the Chief of Staff, Brad himself, the CFO, etc.).
  • He personally plays a role in both overall business direction and on product direction.
  • However, firmly believes that the real decision makers are the residents – simply because nothing works if the resident users don’t agree with it and end up cease or scale back using SL.
    • As such, has sought to feedback from residents at the heart of both the product and the business decision-making process.
    • Not necessarily feedback through forum comments or Jiras or long e-mails (although all have their place), but rather in terms of how users will benefit and whether they become more passionate and engaged and so help grow the platform by encouraging others to get involved either directly or indirectly.

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On Being In-World

[Video: 15:12-19:16]

  • Does go in-world, and actually has at least two accounts – his Oberwolf Linden account, which is uses for “business”, and alt accounts which he uses to engage directly in the platform in a variety of ways.
  • In  order to understand the on-boarding process, he went through it entirely on his own, refusing Lab assistance in order to understand the process and its pain-points and what needs to be addressed if the platform is to grow its user base.
  • Is proud of the fact he was able to work out how to apply a wolf tattoo to his alt and dress it with long hair, etc.
  • When “undercover” with an alt, he is always in character, and has stated he will *not* break character (i.e. reveal who he is) when engaging on the platform through an alt.

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On the Future of Second Life And What May Change / Remain the Same

[Video: 19:16-26:22]

  • Wants the community to be part of this – what are the communal goals for the platform, how can the synergy be developed such that users are a part of the drive to improve and grow the user base.
  • Uses the analogy of a party – an environment where people are having so much fun, they do not want it end, but rather have more people turn up, and taking actions that will encourage them to come along and engage.
  • Does not see change for change sake, but rather changes as a process of natural evolution that, again, grows interest in and engagement with the platform. But change will come over time.
  • Sees the shift to AWS very much a part of this approach: it was not made for purely financial reasons, it was made to allow SL to move into the future and continue to be grown and continue to be of value to users.
  • Currently feels the greatest way users can help shape Second Life is through feedback on and input into overall new user engagement and growing the user base, as this is the real driver for the long-term success of Second Life.
  • Supports the idea of the “four pillars” of decision making at the Lab:
    • What is going to bring in new users?
    • What is going to make existing users happier?
    • What is going to lead to more engagement among users as a whole?
    • What is going to offer the Lab’s personnel happier.
  • Asks residents to look on things the same way.

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On Tilia and Second Life

[Video: 28:03-33:56]

  • Tilia  / Tilia Pay is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Lab.
  • It is not in competition with Second Life – that is a misguided notion – but actually compliments Second Life.
  • SL is unique in that creators sell directly to users – it does not actually pass through Linden Lab’s own books, and allows in-world tokens to be directly converted to fiat money.
  • Both of these aspects require proper regulation in the United States and internationally (in the US, a company needs to be formally accredited as a money transmitter or money transfer service). This is what Tilia was set-up to be.
  • In effect, Tilia is to Second Life what PayPal was originally to e-bay. Without Paypal, e-bay would not be able to operate without itself going through all the requirements to become an MSB / money transmitter, and this would have been the case for LL.
  • Just as PayPal has grown beyond e-bay to become used by other platforms as a means of money payment / transfer, etc., so Tilia has the potential to become a money transmitter for other companies, thus allowing it to generate income and also help Second Life.
    • Currently ilia has two third-party customers: Sansar (operated by Wookey Technologies) and the virtual real estate game Upland.

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Closing Comments

[Video: 34:13-38:11]

  • Recognises that a change in ownership of LL can lead to fear, anxiety and potentially anger. Anger is something that is more difficult to deal with, an so would rather people do not get to that stage; anxiety is a more immediate response, and one that can be more directly dealt with.
  • Given that there is and has been anxiety among users, wants to stress he is devoted to reducing the anxiety and avoiding anger, and moving people towards a sense of joy, and understand this is not going to be achieved by him simply issuing directives and taking a top-down approach, but rather through engagement and through observing and listening and seeing how users respond.

 

 

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