Linden Lab, the makers of virtual world Second Life, have announced the appointment of a new CEO. Mark Kingdon, whose current post is CEO of online creative/marketing agency Organic (of dot com bubble fame), will take over from former CEO and current chairman Philip Rosedale as of May 15th to "lead the day-to-day management and operations of the company, working closely alongside... Rosedale".
Writing on the company's blog, Rosedale says of Kingdon: "He is a person with the rare and unusual combination of business leadership, creativity, and passion for Second Life that we were looking for." (Emphasis mine.)
In terms of history, he has a background in art, economics, and business. He has been in successful and highly regarded leadership roles at two companies that are bigger than Linden Lab: PricewaterhouseCoopers and Organic. He is a well-loved people leader who is fearless and can weather challenges and change.
Rosedale also notes that Linden Lab's recruitment strategy was a little different to the norm: Instead of purely relying on headhunting, Linden decided to make the search for a new CEO public in the hope that a number of additional candidates would put themselves forward. Kingdon was one such applicant.
So how well suited (on the face of it) is Kingdon for the post. And what does it say about the future of Second Life?
First, a few observations and tidbits about Kingdon:
- A background in online marketing.
- Worked with Fortune 500 clients.
- Lacks a technical background but has been "working with technology for my entire career.” (Reuters)
- An occasional Second Life user "who created the avatar Marcus Voom in January, 2007."
- As noted by Reuters, Kingdon wrote a widely-read column in August, 2006 touting Second Life as an attractive opportunity for marketers. In the months after his piece was published, numerous blue-chip real-world companies entered Second Life (see my previous post and gallery: brands in Second Life.) However, a subsequent backlash led many of them to pull back.
The fact that Kingdon is an occasional Second Life user makes him seem like most of us -- tried it a few times and then got bored. On the other hand, his background of working for a creative agency aligns himself with more hardcore users. In my experience of questioning users "in-world", many of them work in design or the arts (online or offline).
Interestingly, Kingdon says he doesn't see attracting major brands back to Second Life as a priority, which I think is a good thing. Instead, Second Life really needs to up its technology game by improving stability of the platform and user experience. And this is where Kingdon looks somewhat under qualified.
Moving forward, what does his appointment say about Second Life's future, and in particular the lofty ambition of open sourcing the platform's "grid" architecture to create a common standard for 3D worlds, whereby anybody could run a Second Life-compatible server that interoperates with the rest of the virtual world?
Not a lot.