rosedale.jpg Linden Lab, maker of the online virtual world Second Life, is looking for someone to fill founder and chief executive Philip Rosedale’s shoes. Rosedale (pictured on the left) has announced that he plans to step down as CEO of the San Francisco-based company, although he will stay involved as the new chairman of the board and will also have a full-time role in Linden Lab’s product development and strategy.

Rosedale, a former chief technology officer at Real Networks, has been key in making Second Life a reality. (When he saw The Matrix, Rosedale was reportedly disappointed because the film portrayed exactly what he wanted to do with Second Life, minus the the enslavement of the human race.)  But as Linden Lab continues to grow, Rosedale says it’s time for someone with more operational and management experience to take over the company’s day-to-day workings.

Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital, who sits on Linden Lab’s board, tells us that this is a normal step for a company grappling with rapid growth, pointing to a number of other examples, including Google. (We’ve also wondered if it’s time for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to find himself a CEO.) In fact, Rosedale approached the board about possibly stepping down as much as nine months ago, Gurley says.

“(Rosedale’s) view was that he wasn’t enjoying the job as it reached that scale and that he could be more impactful on the company doing something else,” Gurley says.

secondlife2.jpgSecond Life is widely seen as the leading virtual world, but month-to-month registration growth has slowed in recent months, falling from a high of 50 percent in October 2006 to 4.6 percent in January of this year. Gurley, however, says that the change in leadership doesn’t mean Linden Lab is looking for a new direction. Revenue is “through the roof”, and Linden Lab could even go public now if it wanted to, he says.

There doesn’t seem to be a definite timeline for finding Rosedale’s replacement. Gurley says the board is hoping to hire someone who’s run a company of a similar size. And because Rosedale will remain deeply involved, compatibility with him will be a key requirement for the new CEO, Gurley adds.