via Linden Lab
- The following 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, together with 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 [where he met and became friends with J. Randall Waterfield, another of the Lab’s owners / board member].
Brad received his BS from Georgetown University, his MBA from the Wharton School and lives in San Francisco.
Philip Rosedale earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and computer science from the University of California, San Diego, and in 1985 he created a video conferencing product called “FreeVue”, which was ultimately purchased by Real Networks, for whom he went to work, rising to the positions vice president and chief technology officer.
Departing Real Networks at the end of the 1990s, he founded Linden Research Inc (functioning as Linden Lab), and commenced work on trying to develop both the hardware and software for an immersive virtual reality system. The company switched to focusing on the software – which it called Linden World -, launching it as a publicly-accessible platform under the name Second Life in 2003. As founder and CEO, Rosedale steered the company through until 2008, when he stepped back from the role of CEO to become chair of the board of directors.
In 2009, he founded LoveMachine Inc., with Ryan Downe, which later evolved into Coffer and Power (2011), with Rosedale briefly returning to Linden Lab in 2010 as interim CEO. After two years developing a mobile application called Workclub that helped bring contractors and those seeking them together, he and Downe announced Coffee & Power would become a new company, High Fidelity Inc. (2013), focused on building a fully decentralised virtual reality environments, and the required supporting applications / services. In 2019, High Fidelity ceased working on this platform to focus on one of the key supporting services: spatial audio, with their product subsequently being licensed by a number of companies.
In 2021, High Fidelity invested in Linden Research, brining in both staff and patents that might be used with the platform, and while High Fidelity still very much operates as an independent entity, Rosedale took the part-time position of Strategic Advisor to Linden Lab.
Back to top
Questions Specific to Brad Oberwager
Spending Time In-world
- Has been 18 months since taking over Linden Lab.
- Does spend a “tremendous” amount of time “on Second Life” – it is his primary business focus, and he is constantly working to ensure the resources needed to improve and grow the platform and its products and available.
- However, as a result, does not get to spend much time within Second Life as an avatar.
What Drew Him to Second Life, and How Does He Feel 18 Months On?
- Has known Philip for more than a decade and they are close friends, so has always been aware of SL.
- This awareness included knowing that the former investors – as venture capitalists – had reached a point where they wanted to sell LL as a going concern and move on. However, due to the complexities in running the platform as both a social experiment and an open-ended, creative platform for its users where they can engage in direct commerce with one another, make it it hard to find a buyer.
- After one opportunity fell through, Brad decided to get involved and make an offer to buy the company. As expertise on the financial side would be required, he contacted J. Randal Waterfield, and together they worked out a deal by which they could acquire Second Life and Tilia (the company’s money service business) and continue to move both forward
- 18 months on, feels that the acquisition of Linden Lab is more exciting. In purely monetary terms, sees running a business as having three options by which to add monetary value:
- By increasing revenue whilst keeping expenses the same.
- By keeping revenue the same and decreasing expenses.
- By increasing expenses [/outlay] in order to drive revenue higher, and try to ensure the latter outpaces the former – which tends to be the hardest, but most interesting, of the three options.
- Second Life is proving that it is capable of the third option: it is possible to invest (increase expenses) and grow revenue.
- Within the company, the mantra is, “give two dollars of value, but only charge a dollar” – the idea being LL might lose money as a result of something they introduce, but over time, that loss will be recoups and turned into a revenue gain.
- An example of this has been Linden Homes and Bellisseria, what have, and continue to cost LL to develop and maintain, but which has generated considerable excitement for users and a social investment that is hope to grow an eventual return on the investment made in the development.
- This is the core idea behind Premium Plus – to offer greater value to those wishing to use the capabilities offered, but at an overall lower cost than might be the case with raising Premium fees to cover the same, whilst still allowing those who do not wish to go Premium Plus to still have Premium.
Back to top
Questions Specific to Philip Rosedale
What Pleases Him the Most about Second Life?
- In the early days, felt it was the collaborative nature of design and building and the escalating designs.
- Has always appreciated travelling in SL and seeing the diverse region designs and all of the art and creativity.
- What he particularly appreciates about the platform today is that, despite the state of the physical world, it remains a place of hope in the way it brings people together who engage and communicate with one another, build communities, all in generally positive ways .
- Would love to see this positivity, love, and engagement transferred somehow into the physical world.
Back to top
What Drew Him Back to Virtual Reality?
- Opening the means for people to communicate and engage with one another through the use of technology / on-line has always been one of his driving passions.
- FreeVue was revolutionary in it time – if limited by the technology. By the time of SL, the technology allowed the ball to be moved much further forward.
- High Fidelity (HiFi) came about as a result of him purchasing one of the gyroscopic chips now used within VR headsets, experimenting with it and realising the potential it represented for VR – although admits he was wrong in his belief of how fast head-mounted displays (HMDs) would “change the world”.
- Ten years on from that point, recognises that HMDs have yet to reach that tipping-point, and understands that connecting people is harder than the technology alone.
- Does believe [as I’ve actually always stated as a layperson – please pardon the horn tooting] there are specific vertical markets for HMDs. One such vertical is education – which is also a market where Second Life has long proved its value, and is a market that will only grow as technologies such as HMDs mature.
Back to top
Second Life and “the Metaverse”
On SL and Upcoming “Metaverse Platforms”
- Philip Rosedale:
- Notes the origins of the term “metaverse” in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snowcrash, and notes that what we’re seeing now is the latest resurgence of interest in the idea.
- Believes this resurgence has been spurred by three things: COVID and the need for social isolation; the general rise in noise around crypto and web 3.0; and Facebook throwing a Hail Mary in trying to claim the “Meta” verse to recapture HMD hype.
- Notes that much of the noise around crypto and NFTs actually echoes what has been available in Second Life since its earliest days. However:
- Within Second Life, the concept of “the metaverse” was empowering people to create things together within a single space. This is what spurred everything else – you needed an economy not for “currency” speculation, but to enable people to engage in commerce.
- Much of the current thinking about “the metaverse” runs contrary to this, as it starts with exploitation: obtaining data from people in order to push them into consumer-based activities.
- Very much hopes SL can continue to grow as an example of what “the metaverse” can more positively be, and encourage others to move in the same direction.
- Does worry that the term “the metaverse” is being used to promote ideas very different to those found in SL, ideas that see personal data as the “currency”.
- Brad Oberwager:
- In terms of Meta and the rest, they have had zero impact on Second Life; Zuckerberg may try to usurp the term “metaverse” but the residents of Second Life just carry on.
- Where there is a broader impact, it is in consideration of where and what to invest in within Second Life, particularly in terms of rising above those environments that are being built around the crypto-currency / advertising model which could have the advantage of offering experiences for “free” where they’d have to be charged for within SL.
- However, LL is steadfastly against direct advertising intrusion as a means of leveraging “payment” for services to users. This means the focus is liable to remain on the precepts of creativity and social engagement, and trying to encourage social groups into the platform by offering unique opportunities and experiences.
- Touches on TOSL – The Office of Second Life and the management team of Grumpity, Mojo, Brett and Patch Linden, who are responsible for running the day-to-day Second Life operations – and their focus on attempting to bring richer, deeper experiences into Second Life.
- Notes that the resurgence interest in “the metaverse” from other companies offers LL the potential to pick and choose who they might want to partner / collaborate with in order to bring new experiences to SL residents.
Back to top
On SL’s Longevity Compared to Other Platforms?
- Philip Rosedale::
- Again, the collaborating, creative elements.
- A common critique of Second Life in the early years was the lack of polish to the viewer UI, and predictions that once “professional” designs stated work on a competitor, virtual worlds will take off. However, this wasn’t the case and polish to the UI wasn’t the key.
- Another point is that today, the big audience pullers of the world – Fortnite, Roblox, etc., – tend to cater to a younger demographic; but the reality is still that there is nothing that caters for “grown up” sensibilities and creativity in a manner that matches SL, and none of the alternatives – VR Chat, etc, – are close to offering the broad range of creative freedom or the audience reach to be seriously considered a core part of “the metaverse”.
- This ability to capture a more adult demographic is potentially the “secret sauce” any platform needs to feed it if is to grow to fulfil a vision of “the metaverse” – and it is something that is hard to find .
- Also feels that there are a lot of governance, technology and management hurdles that need to be cleared – and that’s going to take a lot of time for others to sort out and SL continue to build upon.
Back to top
Continue reading “SL19B MTL: Brad Oberwager and Philip Rosedale – summary” →