Say hello to Linden Lab’s New VP of Engineering, Mojo Linden, aka Andrew Kertesz

via Linden Lab

Some time between August 11th and August 19th, Linden Lab quietly slipped out a biography of their new Vice President of Operations, who has come aboard to take up the post vacated by Oz Linden at the end of February, when he retired from business after over a decade with Linden Lab.

The new VP of Engineering is Andrew Kertesz, a 20-year veteran of the gaming industry, who joined Linden Lab at the end of July 2021 from Level Ex Inc., a company creating “industry-leading medical video games that challenge physicians to perform at the top of their game”, and where he served as Principal Software Engineer / Principal Engineering Manager for a period of just over year.

The official biography for Mr. Kertesz posted by the Lab (and accessed via the About Linden Lab page on their corporate website) reads as follows:

Andrew Kertesz

WITH OVER TWENTY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN THE GAMES INDUSTRY, ANDREW IS AN EXPERT AT BUILDING TEAMS AND LAUNCHING GROUND-BREAKING GAMES ACROSS GENRES THAT PUSH THE LIMITS OF THEIR RESPECTIVE PLATFORMS. HIS PRODUCT AND TECHNICAL EXPERTISE SPANS ACROSS MULTIPLE MOBILE, PC AND CONSOLE GAMES, AS WELL AS PLATFORM AND SDK DEVELOPMENT, WEB APPLICATIONS AND CLOUD SERVICES.

PRIOR TO JOINING LINDEN LAB, ANDREW HELD SENIOR-LEVEL POSITIONS AT LEVEL EX, ZUME, DOUBLEDOWN INTERACTIVE, IGT, AND MICROSOFT. ANDREW HAS WORKED ON ICONIC FRANCHISES SUCH AS HALO, FORZA, MOTORSPORT, FABLE, CRACKDOWN, AND WHEEL OF FORTUNE. ANDREW HAS A DEGREE IN COMPUTER ENGINEERING FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON.

Like Oz Linden before him, Mr. Kertesz – who has taken the name of Mojo Linden – will have overall responsibility for managing both the viewer and the simulator engineering teams at the Lab.

As noted in his biography, he comes to the Lab with extensive experience in a range of games development environments, and perhaps most interestingly, he has experience in mobile app development and exposure in managing cloud-based services and applications, both of which are of considerable relevance to Linden Lab.

It is unclear whether he will be as directly hands-on as Oz Linden in terms of chairing in-world meetings such as the Open Source Developer and Third-Party Developer sessions – both of these were particularly within Oz’s sphere of interest, as he was originally brought into Linden Lab to manage the open-source side of viewer development, and so he directly formulated those meetings as we all came to know them. However, we will hopefully get to see Mojo active at least on occasion through the likes of these and sessions such as the Simulator User Group meetings over time. Currently, he’s likely focused on getting his feet firmly under the desk and getting up to speed on everything, and there will doubtless be other opportunities to get to meet him in the future beyond any of these particular meetings as well (Lab Gab, anyone?).

The updated Management Team page on the Linden Research corporate site, with Andrew Kertesz

In the meantime, here are some relevant links.

Oz Linden announces his forthcoming departure from Linden Lab

Oz Linden, circa 2014

On Tuesday, February 16th, 2021, and in a surprise to Second Life users, Linden Lab’s Vice President of Engineering, Oz Linden (aka Scott Lawrence in the physical world) announced his forthcoming departure from the Lab.

Oz joined Linden Lab in 2010, taking on the role of Director of Open Development. At that time, the viewer was in something of a state of flux; the “new” Viewer 2 had not long been launched, the development of which had largely excluded the user community and, particularly, developers who had long been associated with viewer development through the submission of code contributions.

As a result of this and other factors, users and developers alike were at the time feeling alienated and disenfranchised – facts that Oz immediately recognised and sought to address.

In the first instance this was done by replacing the open-source viewer Snowglobe project with a new Snowstorm project, intended to bring as much of the viewer development out into the open as possible – an approach Oz continued to push for throughout his time at the Lab, thus bringing order and surety out of a time that might be best described as having been “chaotic”.

The most obvious areas in which this was demonstrated was his adoption of weekly Open Source Meetings, initially held on Mondays before moving to their current Wednesday slot. These meetings continued alongside other technical in-world meetings such as the Server and Scripter meeting(now the weekly Simulator User Group), which took place even during the drought of other office hours meetings. He also implement the fortnightly Third Party Viewer Development meetings, allow Third Party Viewer developers to discuss all matters relating to the viewer directly with him and members of the Lab’s viewer engineering team.

In 2013, Oz oversaw the complete overhaul of the Lab’s internal viewer develop process, officially called the Viewer Integration and Release Process, which greatly simplified viewer update and viewer feature development. This project also brought me into my first direct contact with Oz when I offered a summary of the new process.  It marked the start of a long and informative acquaintance that I’ve continued to appreciate over the years.

As well as direct contributions to the viewer, Oz also helped open the door to user-led projects aimed at providing broader capabilities for the viewer. While constraints on what could / could not be accepted would always have to be enforced, this approach nevertheless resulted in the adoption of materials in Second Life, and helped to encourage project-based contributions to the viewer that have included capabilities such as the hover height slider, and graphics and camera presets. This approach also included major lab-led projects such as Project Bento also encompass direct user involvement pretty much from their outset.

While it has always been the Lab’s policy to try to recruit personnel from the ranks of users as and when there is a suitable “fit”, in his time at the Lab, Oz has become perhaps one of the most enthusiastic proponents of this approach, frequently seeking – and often succeeding – to recruit qualified users into technical positions under his management.

Oz in his human form. Credit: Linden Lab

As the Lab opted to start work on Project Sansar, Oz decided to pro-actively campaign to take on the work in continuing to develop Second Life, drawing to him those within the Lab who also wished to stay engaged in working on the platform. It is not unfair to say this resulted in one of the most intense periods of Second Life development we have seen, interrupted only be the need to focus on the work of transitioning all of Second Life and its services to run on AWS.

In 2019, Oz – together with Grumpity and Patch Linden – officially joined the Lab’s management team, taking on the role of Vice President of Engineering and putting an official seal on what Grumpity refers to as the Troika: the three of them being largely responsible for determining much of the product and feature direction for Second Life.

In announcing his departure, which sees his last day with the Lab being Friday, February 26th, 2021, Oz states that it has been something he’s been considering for a while:

Some time ago, I reached the point that I could afford to think about retiring but decided to stay to finish moving SL to its new cloud platform. I can’t imagine a better last act in my working life than ensuring that Second Life has this better platform for its future growth. Now that project is done (well, except for a few loose ends), and it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life.

He also emphasises – hopefully to prevent the rumour mill turning its wheels – that his decision to leave the Lab is not in any way connected to the company recently being acquired by new investors:

I want to emphasise in the strongest possible terms: my decision has nothing at all to do with the change in ownership of the Lab; the timing really is a coincidence. If anything, I regret that I have overlapped with them for only a few weeks; in that time (and in the time leading up to the change) I have come to respect and appreciate the skills and energy they bring to the company.

For my part, I cannot claim to know Oz as well as I would like to – but I’ve always found find his enthusiasm for Second Life never to be anything less than totally honest and infectious, and his high regard for users utterly genuine and sincere.

As such – and while his actual departure from the Lab is still more than a week away,  – I’d like to take this opportunity to offer him a personal and public “thank you” for all the times he’s provided me with insight and / or encouraged me to get involved in various projects, all of it has been greatly appreciated. I am, and will be, genuinely saddened to see him leave the Lab; we are all losing something in his departure, and the void left will not be easy for the management team to fill.

Linden Lab’s board of directors: snippets of news

Linden Lab’s new board of directors (l to r): Brad Oberwager, J. Randall Waterfield and Raj Date

Back in January, I provided a piece on the Lab’s new owners / board of directors, including their biographical notes as posted by the Lab (see: Meet Linden Lab’s new board of directors).

Since then, user interest in the new owners has remained fairly high in some areas, with questions being asked on social media, in-world, during user group meetings (the most recent being the Web User Group), etc.

Some of the more common questions that have been answered by Lab staff (and that I’m aware of) comprise:

  • Have they been in-world? – Yes, they were in-world prior to the deal being finalised, and still hop in as needed.
  • Do they understand SL? – Yes, they are enthusiastic about the platform and have already been contributing thoughts / ideas.
  • Have they seen any Adult regions? – Yes, they have.
  • Will they be talking directly with users (e.g. via a Town Hall)? – There have been no direct discussions as yet about this.
  • Do they have specific aspirations regarding SL / LL? – None that have been directly discussed; it’s been more a case of gaining a deeper familiarity with the platform and its potential.

For my part whilst writing Meet Linden Lab’s new board of directors I ruminated on Raj Date possibly being involved in Tilia Inc, the Lab’s micro-currency transaction management service, commenting:

His background with consumer affairs, finances, and his post-CFPB founding of Fenway Summer would appear to help lend significant weight to Linden Lab’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Tilia inc; while he is not currently listed as a member of Tilia’s board, his background and expertise could be used in an advisory capability, and his name certainly brings a further level of gravitas to Tilia.

Since then things have moved forward.

In particular, Tilia’s Meet the Team page has been updated to reveal that both Raj Date and Brad Oberwager have joined the board, whilst former “non-Linden” (so to speak) board member Ben Duranske is not longer listed as being directly involved in the company. Both Mr. Date and Mr. Oberwager now hold seats on the board alongside of the Lab’s Chief Financial Officer, Anton Waldman, who has held both the position of Tilia Inc., CEO and Director and Treasurer on the board since taking over as the Lab’s CFO some time ago.

This is a move that makes a lot of sense, as it ensures a continuity of board oversight across both Linden Research and Tilia  Inc., potentially helping with the growth of both entities.

Meet Linden Lab’s new board of directors

Linden Lab’s new board of directors (l to r): Brad Oberwager, J. Randall Waterfield and Raj Date

Following confirmation early this month that the the acquisition of Linden Research Inc., (to give Linden Lab its formal name) has been completed (see the second half of 2021 Update: Life in the Cloud from the Lab and also my own Linden Lab gives cloud migration update & new ownership announcement (updated)), the Lab has updated the Board of Directors section of the About page on the official Linden Research website.

The acquisition, sees three new board members replacing Jed Smith, Bill Gurley, Dina L. Evan and Bing Gordon. Two of them have been previously mentioned: Brad Oberwager and J. Randall (Randy) Waterfield (you can read my own notes on these two gentleman here: Linden Lab announces it is to be acquired). However, what may come as news is that there is a third member of the Lab’s new board: Raj Date.

The following are the biographies for all three as found on the Lab’s About web page:

Brad Oberwager

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. 

J. Randall (Randy) Waterfield

Mr. J. Randall (Randy) Waterfield, is the Chairman of Waterfield Holdings, which traces its origins to 1928. After selling the largest private mortgage company in the US and largest Indiana based bank in 2006 and 2007 respectively, he diversified into technology, manufacturing and other industries.
Randy holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and is a graduate of Harvard University. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Red Oak Partners, Waterfield Technologies, Linden Research, Inc. and has previously served on the boards of YPO (and was the 2017-2018 Chairman of YPO), Asure Software ( NASDAQ: ASUR), SMTC Corporation (NASDAQ: SMTX), RF Industries (NASDAQ: RFIL), among others. He is also the Co-Chairman of Missouri Cobalt, LLC, the largest cobalt mine in North America.
Randy supports various education, environmental and community development charitable causes through the nonprofit Waterfield Foundation and J. Randall Waterfield Foundation.

Raj Date

Raj Date was the first-ever Deputy Director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). As the Bureau’s second-ranking official, he helped steward the CFPB’s strategy, its operations, and its policy agenda. He also served on the senior staff committee of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, and as a statutory deputy to the FDIC Board.
Before being appointed Deputy Director, Raj acted as the interim leader of the new agency, serving as the Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury. He led the CFPB for most of the first six months after its launch.
Currently, Raj is the Managing Partner of Fenway Summer, an advisory and investment firm focused on financial services and financial technology. In that capacity, he chairs the investment committee of Fenway Summer Ventures, a fintech venture capital fund, and works with clients of FS Vector, the fintech advisory firm. He also serves as a Director for a number of innovative firms in financial services: Prosper, the marketplace lender; Green Dot, the bank holding company; Circle, the digital asset firm; Grasshopper, a de novo bank; and College Ave, a private student lender.
He is a graduate of the College of Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley (highest honors) and the Harvard Law School (magna cum laude).

Without wishing to take anything away from Mr. Oberwager and Mr. Waterfield, Raj Date’s credentials are especially impressive for a relatively small company like Linden Research; having joined the CFPB in February 2011, on what he thought would be a 2-3 month tenure, he was asked by Elizabeth Warren, who oversaw the establishment of the CFPB as a Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, to lead “the guts of the policy apparatus” within the Bureau. When Warren sought to (successfully) run for the U.S. Senate later in 2011,  Date was nominated to succeed her as the CFPB’s Special Advisor to Treasury, and (as the Lab notes), its first Deputy Director, under Richard Cordray.

His background with consumer affairs, finances, and his post-CFPB founding of Fenway Summer would appear to help lend significant weight to Linden Lab’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Tilia inc; while he is not currently listed as a member of Tilia’s board, his background and expertise could be used in an advisory capability, and his name certainly brings a further level of gravitas to Tilia.

Thus far, the acquisition and arrival of the new board has been handled in a relatively low-key manner. While some might be tempted to see the negative in this, it’s likely more a case of the Lab wishing to demonstrate that, from their perspective and that of the incoming board, things are very much “business as usual” rather than being indicative of any kind of radical change.

Linden Lab gives cloud migration update & new ownership announcement (updated)

The former co-location cage used to operate Second Life and its services. Credit: Linden Lab

Update: since this post was published, Linden Lab have clarified the fact that the acquisition process is in fact complete, revising their comment on the acquisition process.  I have therefore revised the end of this post to reflect the updated comment on  the acquisition. See also: Meet Linden Lab’s new board of directors.

On Tuesday, January 5th, Linden Lab provided a short update on the cloud migration work and on the current situation regarding the company’s acquisition.

The physical move to AWS services was completed at the end of 2020, and the blog post expands on some tweets made by April and Soft Linden over the Christmas period.

In her December 23rd tweet, April Linden confirmed that the last of the Lab’s services had been migrated to AWS services, and that the remaining systems within the Lab’s (now former) co-location facility in Arizona had been powered off.

April Linden confirming the migration of the last of the SL services to AWS

In discussing the fate of the data held on the old hardware in late 2020, Oz Linden had indicated that Linden Lab had arranged for all of the hard drives from  the co-location facility would be shredded – and on December 31st, 2020, Soft  Linden tweeted that the work had been completed by a professional data destruction company, with a total of 10,588  hard drives and solid state drives that had been contained within the Lab’s old hardware had indeed been shredded.

Soft Linden on the shredding of the Lab’s old disk drives

The January 5th blog post builds on both of these tweets by providing a photograph of the cleared-out cage at the Lab’s former co-location facility, and a short video of drives being shredded, both of which I’ve included here.

Linden Research Acquisition Complete

Turning to the July announcement that an agreement in principle had been reached with an investment group led by Randy Waterfield and Brad Oberwager to acquire Linden Research Inc., (as Linden Lab is formally known), the blog post confirmed the acquisition process has been completed, and Linden Lab is now under new ownership:

Another noteworthy development for the new year is that Linden Lab has new owners! As announced in mid-2020, an investment group led by Randy Waterfield and Brad Oberwager signed an agreement to acquire the company subject to regulatory approval by financial regulators in the U.S. related to Tilia Inc.’s status as a licensed money transmitter as well as other customary closing conditions. We are pleased to share that the regulatory review has been completed and Linden Lab is now under new ownership.

At the time of writing, the official About Linden Lab page had yet to show any changes in the board structure to reflect the acquisition completion – I expect that will come in due course.

Read the official blog post for more.

Related Links

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.