Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Bad News for the Lab

A source which will remain anonymous has reported to me, and I have confirmed this, that Linden Lab CFO John Zdanowski is leaving the company as of April 15.

This marks the second major Officer of Linden Lab to leave this year, Robin Harper left recently, saying, "I’m planning to take some time to explore a few different avenues as I decide where, when and what the next chapter of my life will entail..."

Mr. Zdanowski started at Linden in September 2006 and has seen Linden Lab grow significantly from One Million a month in revenue billing to Six Million a month.

This will no doubt come as a surprise to everyone, especially those at Linden Lab, as Mr. Zdanowski believed strongly in Linden Lab, stating in a article concerning the future of Linden Lab, "I do believe that this is a very interesting company that can, in the long run, be a stand-alone public company." It seems a bit odd that a CFO, who believes his company will one day go public, would leave before that happens.

It has been rumored that Mitch Kapor has been dissatisfied with the profitability of Linden Lab and has started to replace people one by one . If this is true, one must wonder who's left to replace?

Not knowing Mr. Zdanowski myself, either personally or in-game, I will not comment on what he did or didn't do at Linden Lab for the Second Life Community. Many people I've spoke with said that Zee Linden (Mr. Zdanowski's in-world personality) was considerate and attentive to the needs of those he met. I will say this, I did invite Mr. Zdanowski to meet with me and he never replied. I of course I expect any Linden Lab employee to treat me in this manner, so it was no surprise to me.

The real question now is, just how stable is Linden Lab when their CFO is jumping ships? We, the Second Life Community, will probably never get to hear the insights Mr. Zdanowski has about operational stability, but I'm sure each of us would like to.

I do wish Mr. Zdanowski best wishes in his future endeavors, and can only hope that this isn't the start of a very dark age for Linden Lab and Second Life.

**So much for this just being a RUMOR. Gee, guess I was actually right....again....hmmm


Dusan Writer said...

Um - I'm not quite sure what the doom and gloom is about? Companies lose staff all the time....and on balance, losing one in the executive suite while gaining new talent from the likes of Adobe and Pixar and wherever seems like a sort of standard 'attrition' for a large corporation.

Maybe there's doom and gloom in the loss of some of the cultural memories - and on that note the loss of Robin in particular also meant the loss of cultural knowledge and insight into the community.

But a bit of staff turnover is hardly a harbinger of the fall of SL.

Bob Bunderfeld said...

You're right, whatever was I thinking.

Companies lose their CEO's all the time and things are just fine!

Silly no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Dusan Writer said...

HAHAHA. Well...I'm just saying Bob that there are a few ways this could be interpreted no?

First - did he resign, or was it an 'amicable parting of the ways' - as in, "hey, our philosophies don't match much anymore, time to think about moving on"....was it a gracious termination, as in "hey, our economic stats are a joke, no one understands them, they aren't useful, but rather than fire you we'll give you a good reference"....or was it really, as you imply, the CFO bailing because of issues with profitability?

It could be any of these, but you assign a 'rumor about mitch kapor' to the CFO jumping ship before the ship sinks, which would imply that the people who have JOINED from Pixar, Adobe and Washington as a combined group are unable to perform due diligence on their new employer.

So...just saying...the story is important but lots of ways to interpret.


P.S. I hear AIG has lost some people - now THAT is a case of jumping ship when the ship is listing.

Hiro Pendragon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Prokofy said...

Zee came from the online real estate sales sector, and none of that knowledge evidently carried over, even to our "virtual estate" driven world.

Zee is responsible for two really, really lousy decisions that he thought he could make with the kind of cut-throat, nasty brutality that ruthless Silicon Valley business people make decisions with -- but when they don't have to live with/see/be in surround-sound with the customers they do this to.

His first decision was to first tell people in the insiders' dev group that island prices were being hiked significantly, to give them a go at getting the last few left at a cheap price of $195 tier, and then he hiked the prices to $295. The uncovering of this insider deal (in the Herald, by me) led to the lab having to grandfather the price and make the sims available to a certain date to the public. Their sudden hike without much ramp-up led to losses and anger and it was all so needless. It could have been staged.

His second decision was to exhorbitantly and suddenly raise the price on openspace sims, a notoriously bad call which only led to riotious rebellions and some backing down by the Lab to a staged pricing over 6 months. LL lost credibility and money.

Zee is four-square behind those price hikes as a method both to make money quickly for LL and for a way to shake loose arbitrageurs that the Lab didn't want to encourage.

The several times I talked to him about this I realized he truly didn't realize the devastation of his decision and its effects on the inworld economy, which to him, wasn't of a lot of consequence.

Zee also got very whacked by the VAT issue, which I believe he was also responsible for announcing and then trying to clean up.

So the way I try to reconstruct it, when we have no hard data coming out of this black box, is that he proposed continuing with these kinds of sharp hikes and harsh tactics and other Lindens intervened, perhaps illustrating that they didn't work in the long term of even 6 months to either raise money or inspire trust.

Or perhaps, you could turn it around another way, and see Zee as a shrewd and practiced business man who merely wanted to raise the price of a valued product reasonable, and encountered all kinds of static from hippies who thought everything should be free, and the losers with no lives camping on their sims at discount prices.

Either way, he wasn't long for the company.

And the whole VW industry is big enough now that the Lindens don't have to get real estate guys to work at these positions, they can pick people from bigger and better companies.

We will know whether the Lab is really "in trouble" if we can see how quickly they fill this position, and with whom, from where.

Anonymous said...

I worked with Zee Linden at a RL job in the early part of this decade. He was a smart guy, but he was also an erratic hothead who's management style was screaming into a cell phone. I would bet the accounting department at LL is breathing a sigh of relief.

Hypatia Callisto said...

the question:

is it bad if he leaves?

Well, its a rumour. So I wont put much into it, but I'll try not to dance a jig :P

really tries not to dance a jig.

damnit, I am failing.

*dances if its true*

Prok is spot on about Zee. Nothing more for me to add that I haven't said on my own blog in the past. I'll repeat the jist though. If there's ever a person I wanted to see leave LL, its Zee. :D

Anonymous said...

hahaha there dropping like flys ever since that OS fiasco...I love it!