What Shape Will His Role as CEO Take?
I always believe a good way to predict what someone’s going to do next is by looking at what they’ve done in the past – how they’ve done it and why.
If we use this principle, Ebbe Altberg’s history should give us an insight into what he’ll do in his latest role at Linden Lab.
Analysis of Mr Altberg’s Past Success
Mr Altberg’s work history is impressive and totally focused on customer facing product development. Not just any products, like shoes and bicycles, but typically technical products with consumers (like you and me) as the end users. Mr Altberg has worked for Microsoft, Ingenio, Yahoo!, BranchOut and now Linden Lab.
But maybe we should start at the beginning. Mr Altberg was born in Sweden and is a fellow European, like Rod Humble. It appears that Linden Lab has a soft spot for us ‘Euros’. He studied at Tärnaby Skidhemand then Middlebury College, where he graduated from in 1988.
From there he managed to secure a role in Microsoft – appearing to have successfully climbed the corporate ladder there. Then he joined Ingenio (Web-to-phone technology) – and stayed with them until it’s acquisition by AT&T in 2008.
He then joined Yahoo! – where he was seen as a visionary and inspirational leader and it appears from his LinkedIn profile that this move took him to the US in around October 2010. BranchOut was his next move – by the time he joined in October 2012 monthly active users had already dropped from 25 million to 3 million. This was before his time – but was writing on the wall of change was already there for this well funded Facebook app company ($49 million raised before Mr Altberg joined). They changed direction and have become a messaging platform for coworker teams.
– Now he’s joined Linden Lab.
Jed Smith of the Board of Directors is confident that “Ebbe is the perfect person to help lead our team as we continue to serve and grow our global audience of active users.” Let’s hope this will come true – only time will tell. However we can use his past career to predict what might happen with Linden Lab under his guidance.
What Is The Future Under Ebbe Altberg Management?
Given that claimed successful performances have come through building A-grade teams, developing robust products, developing media rich experiences and paying special attention to customers, all long-term projects and some with Fortune 500’s, are we to expect to see more of this from him?
After all, he is first and foremost, a product manager. Someone who takes care of a product, it’s team and it’s customers, and develops it all towards a strategic goal.
There are two camps of opinion here. Firstly the hopeful camp – who believe that Mr Altberg will spearhead a ‘buy us too’ campaign.
This could be targeted at Yahoo, who recently acquired CloudParty and then promptly shut it down, presumably for the technology – maybe with the intention of re-branding it under the Yahoo family? The unique thing about Cloud Party was that it was a virtual 3D experience which was accessed directly from the users’ browser. This wasn’t the first time they’ve done this – they also bought PlayerScale (a gaming infrastructure platform) in May of 2013. Add this cross-platform gaming infrastructure platform to the browser embedded front end using CloudParty and you have some magic coming alive in terms of 3D gaming without plug-ins.
Perhaps this option is a strong possibility, because Yahoo is Mr Altberg’s past employer – and where he spent 5 years advancing his career. LinkedIn recommendations indicate he was well thought of at Yahoo. If the shareholders at Linden Lab are looking for a sale, then he’s a good choice as a CEO to do this job. He would have old contacts at Yahoo who he could negotiate with. He may have regretted jumping the Yahoo ship for BranchOut in 2012, so it could mutually beneficial for both him and Linden Lab for him to bring this company to Yahoo – with himself, a old ‘Yahoo boy’ at the helm. The question to ask here is ‘What would Yahoo gain in buying Linden Lab?’
This appears to be a time of social media consolidation – with Facebook buying WhatsApp too – it looks like the big boys are also on buying sprees. Perhaps lines are be being drawn and territories are currently being carved up and mapped out for later claims.
All in all, there are a lot of already happy wealthy people buying up virtual assets in SecondLife – is this because there will be a huge inflow of new residents? I don’t truly believe so, certainly not in the short-term – and massive land grabs are usually for short term gain not long term investments. Maybe these people know something the general public don’t?
What’s noticeable since Mr Altberg’s appointment is the massive SecondLife ‘land-grab’ currently going on by so called ‘land barons’. This action is happening in Second Life land groups such as ‘Full Transfer – Private Regions’ and ‘For Sale By Owner’. Many are looking to acquire over 100 sims, including the now famous Ansche Cheung holdings who are offering up to $845 per sim.
Either they’ve got ‘insider knowledge’ or they’re anticipating a flurry of new users to SecondLife (where from though ?) – if they are looking for new tenants, ones to whom they can offer discounted properties, simply because they pay less for their virtual land than other users do (more on this in another post), they will be expecting rapid returns. 100 + sims will take a lot to fill for anyone. It seems that some high-end customers seem to be awfully keen to gain much more of a hold in SecondLife suddenly, after a very long, very quite ‘selling’ period. Why can this be?
Middle of the Road
Then there is the middle of the road, where – if we are given Mr Altberg’s previous history, we can draw from that and anticipate what he will do now. He has successfully managed many products and teams and seen them through many years of maintenance and growth.There are apparently no nasty surprises or sudden shocks. His management style appears to be one of a popular leader, who listens to people and acts accordingly. He seems to be well received by both the staff at Linden Lab, it’s shareholders and it’s customers (users).
For every up, there’s a down too. Others are looking at the hiring of Ebbe Altberg and suggesting that he’s the man who will be shutting it down. Most of the evidence I see doesn’t support that and Mr Altberg has been very fast acting to avoid any suggestion that this could be the case. There is of course also the press release stating he intends to grow the platform, alongside other platforms that Linden Lab will be maintaining. The land-rush is certainly an indication that it’ll be ‘business as usual’ and land barons will expect to see growth too.
For early customer appeasement, the JIRA (system to collect, track, and take action on bugs reported by users) is back and even has a “New Feature Request” option to make the customers who actively want to be involved in developing the platform feel more involved.
What of the Future?
Mr Altberg’s Twitter Feed is full of appreciation and requests from users in SecondLife. These are the early signs that this man is a guy who wants to keep his customers happy. Perhaps more to the point, to attract new customers and stimulate growth?
– Keep reading… Follow the next post on this topic
To Explore the London sims click here: http://slurl.com/secondlife/London%20England%20UK/212/17/3