A Candid Moment of Introspection

Meow Wolf Co-Founder Vince Kadlubek shares a candid moment of introspection.

Wow. Life as Co-Founder/CEO of Meow Wolf has been absolutely unreal. I am proud of what I have accomplished in my role, and I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the incredible team that I have had the honor to lead and collaborate with on this journey. The viral phenomenon and rapid growth of Meow Wolf took us all by surprise, and I have done my best as CEO to manage and direct this energy towards success.

But today, I am excited to move into a new phase of my career with Meow Wolf. I have chosen to shift from the position of CEO in order to focus on developing a new toolset of skills, build key business development initiatives, and take care of my personal health. I will continue serving on our company’s Board of Directors and will serve as an executive advisor to our leadership team.

The role of the CEO will be assumed by our three Chief Officers: Ali Rubinstein (Chief Creative Officer), Carl Christensen (Chief Financial Officer), and Jim Ward (Chief of Content). The Officer group will join Meow Wolf founders, department heads, and project leadership in this execution phase as we focus on delivering two major projects in the next two years: Meow Wolf Vegas and Meow Wolf Denver. I have full confidence in our entire company, and we are all in good hands with the leadership of our founders and Officer team.

Five years ago, in the fall of 2014, I was making $50/day delivering food, living at my parents’ house on the south side of Santa Fe, and dreaming of becoming an accomplished playwright. I was 32 years old with no college education or formal business training, throwing underground dance parties at local dive bars and wondering what I was doing with my life.

At the Jean Cocteau Cinema in 2014

Only 14 months later I became CEO of New Mexico’s fastest growing startup company, and our team of artists unveiled one of the most impactful pieces of art in the 21st century. On March 16, 2016 Meow Wolf opened House of Eternal Return to the public and my life became forever and radically changed.

It happened in a split second. Within no time we were slung into the spotlight and carrying great responsibility. House of Eternal Return became an instant viral sensation. Thousands of people were visiting the exhibit on a daily basis. All of a sudden, I found myself in an entirely new existence with unreal momentum.

Just after the opening of House of Eternal Return in Spring 2016

And it didn’t stop. The momentum continued to grow, the virality spread, revenues and expenses increased, and after 5 years of running the company at full-speed we find ourselves at a key point of execution. Meow Wolf now employs 500+ people with full benefits, and our $17/hr entry wage is one of the highest in the country. We are in production in 4 major U.S. cities, expanding our reach to keep up with demand. We’ve launched entertainment initiatives, produced an amusement park ride, and have thrown music festivals. House of Eternal Return has become the #1 attraction in New Mexico, and to top it all off, in May we closed a round of financing which has been allocated towards the completion of our next two projects.

Wow. It is baffling how this has happened in 5 short years. And yet the answer is actually so obvious: It’s because of our exceptional team. We are privileged to work with some of the most amazing people in the world, from engineers to artists to accountants to designers to filmmakers to retail specialists to executives. Meow Wolf is an incredible team full of talent and dedication, with industry professionals and longstanding artists who are capable of taking on the world.

But even though this all seems like some crazy dream, it certainly hasn’t been a walk in the clouds. The growing pains of an art collective-turned-business were predictable and have certainly existed. We went from a group of friends operating an art warehouse together to a company with formal policies and much-needed process. That transition has been challenging, but absolutely necessary.

Giving a talk at the REMIX Summit in Sydney, Australia in 2019

My personal learning curve has oftentimes been steep, operating with unsophisticated leadership tools and learning concepts on the fly. I am proud of the work that I have performed and proud of the leadership I have provided, yet for the first time in my professional career I feel like I have reached a ceiling. The toolset I used to get the company to this point is no longer the toolset needed for further growth or solid execution. I recognize that I can become an even stronger asset for the company by choosing to learn more sophisticated techniques in hopeful preparation for returning as CEO in the future.

This was certainly a hard decision for me to make, but it also comes with great joy and celebration. This move would not be possible if the Meow Wolf team was not already filled with such solid leaders across the company. Our projects in Vegas and Denver and DC have great project leadership, the teams at House of Eternal Return are top-notch and will continue their world-class operation of that exhibition, our department heads are brilliant, our Board of Directors is brilliant, and our Officer group is brilliant and well-positioned to lead the company.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to clear my mind, recharge, and improve my skills as a leader and collaborator. I want to have the time and energy to volunteer for things outside of business that I am passionate about, like affordable housing policy, fighting the effects of climate change, and standing up for human rights. I look forward to spending time on personal health issues that I’ve been ignoring, and I look forward to spending more time with my parents and my family here in Santa Fe.

Family time at a Steelers game

As is true for the many founders of Meow Wolf, my commitment and contribution will never disappear. The big vision of the company is something I hold dearly and is something I will continue striving for no matter what my title is. The world is hungry for creativity and imagination, and this crazy entity known as Meow Wolf is somehow positioned to help usher in a new generation of radical, creative expression. The potential impact our company can have on the world is far greater than simply attractions inside of large buildings, and I am passionate about bringing those world-changing brand promises to fruition in collaboration with our incredible team.

Inside House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe in 2019

Thank you Santa Fe, New Mexico, and all of the amazing supporters and fans from around the world who are making Meow Wolf’s success possible. Since day one, Meow Wolf has been embraced by a community that has expanded wildly over the last 5 years. We have been unconditionally embraced, our growth occurring in real time and often in the public eye. I cannot thank our community enough for supporting and championing us as we continue to attempt the impossible. Just wait until you see the unreal projects we are building in Vegas and Denver. Your minds will be bent! Thank you for all the love and support. Our future is unlimited.