A further look at Tilia and their new client, Upland

via Linden Lab / Tilia

In preparing my piece on Tilia Pay and the changes coming to US dollar transactions related to Second Life (see: Tilia Pay to handle all Second Life USD-related transactions), I had the opportunity to take a look at the updated website for Tilia Inc., Linden Lab’s wholly owned subsidiary.

For those who may not be familiar with it, Tilia Inc, was established by Linden Lab in 2014, focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies, including Second Life and Sansar. And now, as shown within the updated Tilia website, it is to provide its services to its first client not to have a direct link to Linden Lab, the property trading game Upland.

For those unfamiliar with Upland (I was until I looked them up), available via browsers and on Android and iOS, it is a trading game in which players buy, develop, sell and / or trade virtual properties that are based on real-world addresses.

The Upland… mascot(?)

Currently focused on the city of San Francisco, Upland is built on the EOS blockchain protocol. It entered a closed beta in June 2019, which ran through until the end of that year. During that period, the company added their own virtual currency – UPX – in August of that year, which users could collect as a reward and in return for collecting properties.

At the start of 2020, the game entered an open beta available to any wishing to play it, and added the ability for users to purchase UPX using selected cryptocurrencies.

The partnership with Tilia means that from later in 2020, Upland will be adding the ability for users to trade their virtual properties (and, I understand, goods associated with those properties) for fiat money (this is, US dollar values), through the Upland marketplace and to cash-out those US dollars, with Tilia Pay being the mechanism by which they do so.

In add the use of fiat money is seen as providing a further layer of value to the game, as Upland’s co-founder Dirk Lueth explained to VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi in an article that went to press while I was drafting this piece:

By using fiat currency, Upland can stay in compliance with money transmission regulations in the U.S. And in this way, players can actually own the digital goods and properties they buy in Upland … If the game ever shuts down, the players will theoretically be able to take their property and move it elsewhere, in contrast to other games where players don’t really own the objects that they build or trade.

It is Tilia’s ability to provide services fully in compliance with U.S. regulatory requirements, including anti-money laundering, sanctions monitoring, and fraud prevention that could well make it a popular potential partner among companies offering their users to buy / sell virtual goods, as it provides said companies with the ability for their users (and themselves ) to profit in real terms from such virtual transactions.

I’d actually first speculated on the potential for Tilia being used by companies other than the Lab itself back in November 2015. It was was a subject I returned to again in July 2019, again referencing comments made to me in 2015 by the Lab’s former Director of Global Communications, Peter Gray:

Peter’s [2015] statement struck me as interesting in that its structure seemed to suggest that supporting Second Life and Sansar (then still “Project Sansar”) was part of, but also separate to, the overall goal of presenting Tilia as an entity focused on providing a robust payments and compliance system for operating (and managing) virtual economies to third parties.

– This blog, July 2019

More recently, Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg made it clear we would be seeing a growing client list for Tilia at a couple of public events, include the 2020 VWBPE Above The Book session in commenting about Sansar’s future, he also referenced Tilia.

We’re partners with them [Wookey Project Corp] because they’re using Tilia for payments / payouts just like Second Life is doing, and Tilia will have more and more customers over time. We have several of them lined up to be integrated to get those payment services.

– Ebbe Altberg, March 2020

As such, it will be interesting to see who else opts to leverage Tilia / Tilia Pay in support of their platform / game / product in the coming months / year.

In terms of Tilia itself, the website offers a view of the management team – perhaps the first since Vick Forcella helped me with digging into the early days of the company as a Linden Lab subsidiary in November 2015.  Back then, Tilia’s management team was pretty broad, encompassing multiple members of the Lab’s management team, and a small board of three.

Today, the management team is down to three people – Aston Waldman (the Lab’s CFO), Emily Stonehouse (the Lab’s Chief Compliance Officer) and Ray Johnson (the Lab’s VP of Engineering). Aston Waldman is also a member of Tilia’s board, alongside of Kelly Conway (Linden Lab’s former General Council), and fintech compliance and product leader Ben Duranske (the only “non-Linden”, so to speak).

The Tilia Management team and board. Top: Aston Waldman (Tilia CEO and board member as well as Linden Lab’s CFO); Emily Stonehouse (Chief Compliance Officer at Tilia Inc and LL); Ray Johnson (VP Engineering for LL and Tilia) – the management team. Bottom: board members Kelly Conway and Ben Duranske

Also included on the site are a couple of press articles that cover the threat of money laundering through on-line games, helping to further explain the value of services such as those provided by Tilia, and both of which make for interesting reading.

I’ll continue to report on Tilia as news becomes available.

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Tilia Pay to handle all Second Life USD-related transactions

via Linden Lab

In July 2019, Tilia Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary of Linden Lab, officially took over the management of activities such as processing credit out of second Life (that is, withdrawing funds as US dollar balances the platform), and and US dollar balances held by Second Life users (see: Tilia has officially launched operations with Second Life*, August 2019).

Now, in an expansion of Tilia’s role with Second Life, Linden Lab has announced that as from Monday, May 26th, Tilia Inc, via its Tilia Pay platform, will be managing all US dollar transactions related to Second Life, including those involving conversion of funds to other currencies.

This means that, as from Monday, May 26th, anyone:

  • Making a payment through one of their indicated payment methods – credit card, debit card, PayPal, or Skrill (as indicated on their Second Life account), such as purchasing Linden dollars
  • Adding a new payment method to their Second Life account

Will be consenting to the Tilia Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

The change is being driven to both comply with regulatory requirements across a number of U.S. states and to leverage he enhanced fraud and money laundering safeguards that Tilia Pay provides.

The important things to note here are:

  • All Second Life users should be familiar with the Tilia Pay Terms of Service (and Not just those who have either a US dollar balance associated with their account and / or cash-out money from SL).
  • Users will not be explicitly asked to confirm their agreement with the Tilia ToS / Privacy Policy. Rather, when paying with a payment method (e.g. credit card) or adding a new payment method to an account, a users will see text stating that by proceeding with the transaction, they are agreeing to both the ToS and Privacy Policy.
  • This move does not:
    • Introduce any new fees.
    • Require users to submit any additional information to Tilia Incorporated or Linden Lab.
    • Change how L$ transactions are conducted in the Viewer or in the Marketplace.

Readers are asked to read the Lab’s official blog post on the change for further information relating to it. In addition, questions or concerns should be directed to the forum thread on the matter – questions cannot be officially answered through this blog.

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Tilia – a further look and a little more speculation

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Tilia Inc.

Note: this article is about Tilia Inc., as a business. It is not about the Tilia and how USD dollar balances and cashing-out from Second Life will be handled. If you wish to comment on those subject please refer to:  Linden Lab announce important Second Life account changes and comment there. Thank you.

On Monday, July 1st, Linden Lab announced important upcoming changes related to Second life accounts and credit processing, which linked to their subsidiary company, Tilia Inc. Full details of these changes can be found in the Lab’s official blog post: Important Changes to your Second Life Account – Introducing Tilia, which I also covered in my own post, Linden Lab announce important Second Life account changes, which includes additional links to the Lab’s comments posted in reply to questions on the forums.

But what exactly is Tilia Inc.?

Well, for a start, Tilia Inc isn’t actually something new – it’s been around in relation to the Lab since 2014 / 15; in fact, Second Life users might actually already be aware of it without realising it, as the Tilia Inc., logo appears on the SL web pages related to L$ account purchases (Tilia also drives elements of Sansar accounts as well).

In describing Tilia Inc., in the blog post noted above, the Lab give a fairly basic description of company’s function::

A subsidiary of Linden Lab that offers certain financial services to the Second Life community and helps Second Life comply with U.S. laws and regulations.

This is actually only a part of the story – the part that affects Second life users; there is more, some of which I speculated about when first writing about Tilia almost five years ago in November 2015 – see Linden Lab and Tilia Inc. – speculations on the Lab’s new subsidiary – and which would now seem to be correct.

That article came about as an extension of investigations fellow Second life user Vick Forcella, had started before punting things over to me to build on his work. In the course of my digging, I spoke with Peter Gray, who was then the Director of Global Communications at Linden Lab, and while he didn’t give too much away at that time, he did say something that resonated with me as I speculated about what Tilia Inc might hold for the future.

Tilia is a subsidiary of Linden Lab, focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies, and it will provide services for both Second Life and Project Sansar.

– Peter Gray, former Director of Global Communications, Linden Lab, November 2015

Back in November 2015, two things in particular struck me about Peter’s comment.

The first is pretty straightforward: Tilia Inc., was, and would remain, central to the Lab’s work in seeking federal and state registration as a US Money Transmitter and to comply with all US laws regarding the movement of money. This had been a stated goal within the Lab pretty much since Ebbe Altberg officially joined the company as CEO.

Secondly, Peter’s statement struck me as interesting in that its structure seemed to suggest that supporting Second Life and Sansar (then still “Project Sansar”) was part of, but also separate to, the overall goal of presenting Tilia as an entity focused on providing a robust payments and compliance system for operating (and managing) virtual economies to third parties.

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 that 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.

– Part of my speculations, November 2015

Reading the Tilia Inc website, it seems that this is what Linden Lab plans to do – the main difference being that Tilia is geared to work with any “virtual token”, not just the Linden Dollar. Not only does the home page promote the company as a “solution provider”, so to speak, but it also includes a form by interested companies / organisations can register their interest with the Lab.

The Tilia Inc., home page promoting the company as a virtual economy solution provider to other businesses

(I’ll only say in defence of my linking Tilia and the Linden Dollar as the hip in 2015 was in part due to the Lab at that time hoping to use the Linden Dollar with Sansar, so it seemed logical to present they would offer it to others as part of the overall package.)

Some may well be upset at the idea of LL spinning off a business entity “at the expense of Second Life” (even though Tilia does and will have a bearing for both SL and Sansar, as noted). However, as noted in the quote above, it does have potential. There is already much more talk today about virtual currencies and economies  – notably focused around blockchain systems (such as Etherium), and the Lab does – as noted – have 16 or so years of running a virtual economy at scale and with users cashing-out up to US $65 million a year. Combine this with Tilia’s US-wide certification as a recognised Money Transmitter, and the Lab could have a robust business platform to offer clients.

Of course there are risks involved, such as the realities of this new market and how long it might take to grow, how LL might fair in the face of competition like decentralised blockchain system should these reach a similar level of certification, how much of any potential market LL might corner, etc. However, none of these mean the company shouldn’t necessarily try. Were Tilia prove to be successful over time, it could provide Linden Lab with an alternative revenue stream, possibly allowing them to do something else Ebbe Altberg alluded to in his Meet the Lindens session at SL16B: reduce their margins around SL and possibly lower fees.

But even if this doesn’t pans out, Tilia Inc., still means that LL are in compliance with US laws regarding money handling across state lines and borders, and so can continue to offer users the ability to generate and cash-out their own revenue through Second Life (and Sansar).

Which perhaps -for now – just leaves the question, ‘Why “Tilia”’? Well, possibly because, as I also noted back in 2015, tilia is genus of trees that encompasses linden trees.

Tilia Inc., and forthcoming Second Life account changes

via Linden Lab

Update, July 12th: this article has been updated to reflect comments made at the July 12th ton hall meeting at which Tilia Inc., and its role with regards to Second Life. A summary of that event, with audio extracts and video will be available in this blog soon.

Update, July 2nd: Linden Lab have started a new forum thread designed to directly address questions. Answers to questions will be placed in the original post in the thread to save having to scroll through question. The new thread can be found here: Official Tilia Q&A Forum Thread.

Update: some 90 minutes after this article was published, Linden Lab issued a further forum post on the subject. Among other clarifications, this further reiterates that L$ purchases, L$ balances, use of L$ to pay tier or Premium fees will all not be affected by these changes. 

Also, as clarifications are still being given, some of the wording in this blog post may be revised to match LL’s feedback so as to maintain the accuracy of the information given here. However, do please keep an eye on Lab posts to the forum thread, as additional information, separate to the points I’ve highlighted below may also be given.

On Monday, July 1st, Linden Lab issued a blog post announcing important changes to how Second Life accounts are to be handled with regards to the Lab’s subsidiary, Tilia Inc (which the blog post officially introduces for the first time) and credit processing.

Tilia Inc is a wholly owned subsidiary of Linden Lab, which was established in 2014/15, and focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies. Since its formation, the company has been involved in becoming a registered Money Transmitter throughout the United States, and many SL and Sansar users may have had some awareness of its existence as the Tilia Inc., logo appears on both the SL and Sansar web pages related to L$ account purchases and Sansar account management.

The blog post issued by Linden Lab, Important Changes to your Second Life Account – Introducing Tilia, should in particular be read in full and carefully noted by anyone who currently withdraws funds from Second Life through the credit process mechanism. This following is merely a short summary of the key points:

  • On August 1st, 2019, Tilia Inc., will assume responsibility for managing users’ USD denominated accounts, which will be referred to as their Tilia Account.
  • This means that users with US Dollar accounts and / or who cash-out (“credit process”) money from Second Life, will be required to agree to the Tilia Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Doing so will automatically create a Tilia Account that will be associated with the user’s Second life account and use the same user name and password.
  • Most importantly: users wishing to process a credit – that is, withdraw money from Second Life via their US dollar account – after August 1st, 2019 must be prepared to supply the following information directly to Tilia Inc: name, address, date of birth, and social security number (or government-issued identification for non-US citizen).
    • Note that if you have previously supplied this information to Linden Lab, you may still have to re-supply it to Tilia Inc.
    • This information should only need to be supplied once, and will be retained on file by Tilia Inc., (as is currently the case through Second Life at the moment)
    • Some users may be required to provide additional information to complete a transaction.
    • Again, only those cashing out of their USD balance are required to meet the ID verification requirements.
  • These changes should not impact the average time it takes for credit to be processed (around 3-5 working days) for most SL users, once the required identification documentation has been verified.
  • The fees for inactivity mentioned in the blog post, etc., are still TBD, but again, they only apply in cases where USD have been cashed out, but the account has been dormant (i.e. no cash-out / no logging-in) for 12+ months. They do not affect L$ balances.
  • These changes do not impact or change the purchase and use of Linden Dollars with Second Life or on the Marketplace. So you do not need to provide personal information in order to buy L$.
  • Additional information can be found in the Lab’s official Tilia Inc FAQ.
From August 1st, 2019, US dollar balances associated with Second Life will be handled by Tilia Inc.

The blog post has already led to a growing forum thread on the matter, which voices some genuine confusion on matters, coupled with no small amount of misunderstanding. This prompted the Lab to add further clarification, and additional replies many be forthcoming from LL over the next day or so to try to address additional concerns / answer further questions. Note that I cannot address specific concerns or answer questions posted to this blog, as I do not represent Linden Lab.

As an aide, I first wrote about Tilia Inc., almost five years ago. At that time, I lot of what I had to say was highly speculative. However, there is now more to say and consider – but to avoid conflating my commentary about Tilia Inc., with news of this announcement, I’ll leave that to a separate blog post.

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