1 month ago
A 19-year-old dropped out of college to build a $2,300,000,000 company in 2 years.
His success was unforeseeable.
2014 saw Facebook's $2.3 billion purchase of Oculus VR.
19-year-old Palmer Luckey founded Oculus. He quit journalism school. His parents worried about his college dropout.
Facebook bought Oculus VR in less than 2 years.
Palmer Luckey started Anduril Industries. Palmer has raised $385 million with Anduril.
The Oculus journey began in a trailer
Palmer Luckey, 19, owned the trailer.
Luckey had his trailer customized. The trailer had all six of Luckey's screens. In the trailer's remaining area, Luckey conducted hardware tests.
At 16, he became obsessed with virtual reality. Virtual reality was rare at the time.
Luckey didn't know about VR when he started.
Previously, he liked "portabilizing" mods. Hacking ancient game consoles into handhelds.
In his city, fewer portabilizers actively traded.
Luckey started "ModRetro" for other portabilizers. Luckey was exposed to VR headsets online.
“Man, ModRetro days were the best.”
Palmer Luckey used VR headsets for three years. His design had 50 prototypes.
Luckey used to work at the Long Beach Sailing Center for minimum salary, servicing diesel engines and cleaning boats.
Luckey worked in a USC Institute for Creative Technologies mixed reality lab in July 2011. (ICT).
Luckey cleaned the lab, did reports, and helped other students with VR projects.
Luckey's lab job was dull.
Luckey chose to work in the lab because he wanted to engage with like-minded folks.
By 2012, Luckey had a prototype he hoped to share globally. He made cheaper headsets than others.
Luckey wanted to sell an easy-to-assemble virtual reality kit on Kickstarter.
He realized he needed a corporation to do these sales legally. He started looking for names. "Virtuality," "virtual," and "VR" are all taken.
If Luckey sold a hundred prototypes, he would be thrilled since it would boost his future possibilities.
John Carmack, legendary game designer
Carmack has liked sci-fi and fantasy since infancy.
Carmack loved imagining intricate gaming worlds.
His interest in programming and computer science grew with age.
He liked graphics. He liked how mismatching 0 and 1 might create new colors and visuals.
Carmack played computer games as a teen. He created Shadowforge in high school.
He founded Id software in 1991. When Carmack created id software, console games were the best-sellers.
Old computer games have weak graphics. John Carmack and id software developed "adaptive tile refresh."
This technique smoothed PC game scrolling. id software launched 3-D, Quake, and Doom using "adaptive tile refresh."
These games made John Carmack a gaming star. Later, he sold Id software to ZeniMax Media.
How Palmer Luckey met Carmack
In 2011, Carmack was thinking a lot about 3-D space and virtual reality.
He was underwhelmed by the greatest HMD on the market. Because of their flimsiness and latency.
His disappointment was partly due to the view (FOV). Best HMD had 40-degree field of view.
Poor. The best VR headset is useless with a 40-degree FOV.
Carmack intended to show the press Doom 3 in VR. He explored VR headsets and internet groups for this reason.
Carmack identified a VR enthusiast in the comments section of "LEEP on the Cheap." "PalmerTech" was the name.
Carmack approached PalmerTech about his prototype. He told Luckey about his VR demos, so he wanted to see his prototype.
Carmack got a Rift prototype. Here's his May 17 tweet.
John Carmack tweeted an evaluation of the Luckey prototype.
Dan Newell, a Valve engineer, and Mick Hocking, a Sony senior director, pre-ordered Oculus Rift prototypes with Carmack's help.
Everyone praised Luckey after Carmack demoed Rift.
Palmer Luckey received a job offer from Sony.
It was a full-time position at Sony Computer Europe.
He would run Sony’s R&D lab.
The salary would be $70k.
Who is Brendan Iribe?
Brendan Iribe started early with Startups. In 2004, he and Mike Antonov founded Scaleform.
Scaleform created high-performance middleware. This package allows 3D Flash games.
In 2011, Iribe sold Scaleform to Autodesk for $36 million.
How Brendan Iribe discovered Palmer Luckey.
Brendan Iribe's friend Laurent Scallie.
Laurent told Iribe about a potential opportunity.
Laurent promised Iribe VR will work this time. Laurent introduced Iribe to Luckey.
Iribe was doubtful after hearing Laurent's statements. He doubted Laurent's VR claims.
But since Laurent took the name John Carmack, Iribe thought he should look at Luckey Innovation. Iribe was hooked on virtual reality after reading Palmer Luckey stories.
He asked Scallie about Palmer Luckey.
Iribe convinced Luckey to start Oculus with him
First meeting between Palmer Luckey and Iribe.
The Iribe team wanted Luckey to feel comfortable.
Iribe sought to convince Luckey that launching a company was easy. Iribe told Luckey anyone could start a business.
Luckey told Iribe's staff he was homeschooled from childhood. Luckey took self-study courses.
Luckey had planned to launch a Kickstarter campaign and sell kits for his prototype. Many companies offered him jobs, nevertheless.
He's considering Sony's offer.
Iribe advised Luckey to stay independent and not join a firm. Iribe asked Luckey how he could raise his child better. No one sees your baby like you do?
Iribe's team pushed Luckey to stay independent and establish a software ecosystem around his device.
After conversing with Iribe, Luckey rejected every job offer and merger option.
Iribe convinced Luckey to provide an SDK for Oculus developers.
After a few months. Brendan Iribe co-founded Oculus with Palmer Luckey. Luckey trusted Iribe and his crew, so he started a corporation with him.
Brendan Iribe and Palmer Luckey launched a Kickstarter.
Gabe Newell endorsed Palmer's Kickstarter video.
Gabe Newell wants folks to trust Palmer Luckey since he's doing something fascinating and answering tough questions.
Mark Bolas and David Helgason backed Palmer Luckey's VR Kickstarter video.
Luckey introduced Oculus Rift during the Kickstarter campaign. He introduced virtual reality during press conferences.
Oculus' Kickstarter effort was a success. Palmer Luckey felt he could raise $250,000.
Oculus raised $2.4 million through Kickstarter. Palmer Luckey's virtual reality vision was well-received.
Mark Zuckerberg's Oculus discovery
Brendan Iribe and Palmer Luckey hired the right personnel after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Oculus needs a lot of money for engineers and hardware. They needed investors' money.
Series A raised $16M.
Next, Andreessen Horowitz partner Brain Cho approached Iribe.
Cho told Iribe that Andreessen Horowitz could invest in Oculus Series B if the company solved motion sickness.
Mark Andreessen was Iribe's dream client.
Marc Andreessen and his partners gave Oculus $75 million.
Andreessen introduced Iribe to Zukerberg. Iribe and Zukerberg discussed the future of games and virtual reality by phone.
Facebook's Oculus demo
Iribe showed Zuckerberg Oculus.
Mark was hooked after using Oculus. The headset impressed him.
The whole Facebook crew who saw the demo said only one thing.
This surprised them all.
Mark Zuckerberg was impressed by the team's response. Mark Zuckerberg met the Oculus team five days after the demo.
First meeting Palmer Luckey.
Palmer Luckey is one of Mark's biggest supporters and loves Facebook.
Zuckerberg wanted Oculus.
Brendan Iribe had requested for $4 billion, but Mark wasn't interested.
Facebook bought Oculus for $2.3 billion after months of drama.
After selling his company, how does Palmer view money?
Palmer loves the freedom money gives him. Money frees him from small worries.
Money has allowed him to pursue things he wouldn't have otherwise.
“If I didn’t have money I wouldn’t have a collection of vintage military vehicles…You can have nice hobbies that keep you relaxed when you have money.”
He didn't start Oculus to generate money. His virtual reality passion spanned years.
He didn't have to lie about how virtual reality will transform everything until he needed funding.
The company's success was an unexpected bonus. He was merely passionate about a good cause.
After Oculus' $2.3 billion exit, what changed?
Palmer didn't mind being rich. He did similar things.
After Facebook bought Oculus, he moved to Silicon Valley and lived in a 12-person shared house due to high rents.
Palmer might have afforded a big mansion, but he prefers stability and doing things because he wants to, not because he has to.
“Taco Bell is never tasted so good as when you know you could afford to never eat taco bell again.”
Palmer's leadership shifted.
Palmer changed his leadership after selling Oculus.
When he launched his second company, he couldn't work on his passions.
“When you start a tech company you do it because you want to work on a technology, that is why you are interested in that space in the first place. As the company has grown, he has realized that if he is still doing optical design in the company it’s because he is being negligent about the hiring process.”
Once his startup grows, the founder's responsibilities shift. He must recruit better firm managers.
Recruiting talented people becomes the top priority. The founder must convince others of their influence.
A book that helped me write this:
The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality — Blake Harris
*This post is a summary. Read the full article here.