September 5, 2001

Cash-strapped Linux Island in limbo for now

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Linux Island is holding on for dear life, and its president is making payroll out of his own pocket while the company waits for more capital from the increasingly scrawny pool of investors willing to give it up for an Open Source-based business plan.Rob Walther, the president of Chicago-based Linux Island, had to ask 26 interns to stay home when the company -- which provides Linux certification classes, on-site support, and pre-configured Linux systems -- ran out of money. "We'd known August was going to be a short month," says Walther. "We told everyone to hold on, until financing comes through." Walther says that he also had to let go of "four or five" full-time staff.

Interns are those who successfully completed Linux Island's certification classes. Included in the $3,995 price tag for those who make it through the training is a six-month full-time internship working at Linux Island. Now those interns are without employment before the six-month period has expired.

Walther sounds earnest in his determination not to cheat any of the interns if at all possible. "It is our intention to restore their positions, including back pay for their inconvenience. The investors know of these plans," he says.

"Payroll was not available Friday," Walther says, "but they will all receive payroll this week." He says he is funding the payroll account from his own pocket, but would not share the dollar amount.

Walther is optimistic about the prospects for Linux Island, if the financing comes through. "The interns have been working very hard developing prototypes for our pre-configured systems, and they are in fact ready for sale. We have also scheduled seminars and are planning a free 'Introducing Linux' seminar at the ITEC show."

Walther believes these seminars will generate the service and support contracts the company is lacking. "Our priority was to get the pre-configured systems going, and get the seminars ready, knowing that once they were done, they would bring in the contracts. We have several proposals in the works for contracts."

"We've developed a project management system to run the projects," once they come in, he says.

Comparisons between Linux Island and its predecessor, Linuxgruven, are inevitable. Walther says his situation is different. "We're a small company. When Linuxgruven went under, they had 150 on the payroll. Not only did they not pay, their students showed up to locked doors.

"We've told everyone to hold on, there's a bump in the road, but we're not going to shut the doors. Just hang in there -- we're gonna get through this."


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