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Starting Second Life

The creator of today's hottest virtual land offers a glimpse into his reality.

Vital Stats>> Philip Rosedale, 38, of Linden Lab in San Francisco

Company>> Creator of virtual world Second Life

Out of This World>> Within the walls of Linden Lab's 12,000-square-foot office space, more than 100 employees work together to ensure that life runs as usual in Second Life. These Lindeners are the reason the 3-D online world is even technologically possible, but it's the site's more than 250,000 users from all over the world who give soul to the virtual community. Linden Lab is run transparently, and employees are given the freedom to create and strategize. Says Rosedale, "The way we run and organize the company is a lot like Second Life."

Wild Imagination>> As a child, Rosedale was constantly building things. In the early '80s, computers set his imagination loose. "I was struck by the thought that you could use computers to simulate a digital world in which you could make things easier than [they are] in the real world," he says. In 1999, computer graphics became more sophisticated and broadband was more prevalent, giving Rosedale the green light to finally build his ultimate creation.

Reality Check>> Everything in Second Life was created by its residents--from houses to clothes to the background music. But this is no game. While they operate under their own economy and use Linden dollars, Second Life businesses are earning real U.S. dollars as well--$15 million worth of goods and services are sold per month. Second Life is also on the edge of profitability, following an investment of about $20 million. Meanwhile, Second Life is increasingly intersecting with real life, as universities offer virtual classes, engineers from companies like IBM convene for virtual meetings, and Congress promotes its agenda with a virtual version of the U.S. Capitol. "I came at it more as a creator," says Rosedale. "Now I'm more socially motivated by the positive impact it has on people's lives."

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This article was originally published in the March 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Unreal World.

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