1 month ago
Meet a Programmer Who Turned Down Microsoft's $10,000,000,000 Acquisition Offer
Failures inspire young developers
Jason citron created many products.
These products flopped.
Microsoft offered $10 billion for one of these products.
He rejected the offer since he was so confident in his success.
Let’s find out how he built a product that is currently valued at $15 billion.
Early in his youth, Jason began learning to code.
Jason's father taught him programming and IT.
His father wanted to help him earn money when he needed it.
Jason created video games and websites in high school.
Jason realized early on that his IT and programming skills could make him money.
Jason's parents misjudged his aptitude for programming.
Jason frequented online programming communities.
He looked for web developers. He created websites for those people.
His parents suspected Jason sold drugs online. When he said he used programming to make money, they were shocked.
They helped him set up a PayPal account.
Florida higher education to study video game creation
Jason never attended an expensive university.
He studied game design in Florida.
“Higher Education is an interesting part of society… When I work with people, the school they went to never comes up… only thing that matters is what can you do…At the end of the day, the beauty of silicon valley is that if you have a great idea and you can bring it to the life, you can convince a total stranger to give you money and join your project… This notion that you have to go to a great school didn’t end up being a thing for me.”
Jason's life was altered by Steve Jobs' keynote address.
After graduating, Jason joined an incubator.
Jason created a video-dating site first.
Nobody wanted to use it when it was released, so they shut it down.
He made a multiplayer game.
It was released on Bebo. 10,000 people played it.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple app store, he stopped playing.
The introduction of the app store resembled that of a new gaming console.
Jason's life altered after Steve Jobs' 2008 address.
“Whenever a new video game console is launched, that’s the opportunity for a new video game studio to get started, it’s because there aren’t too many games available…When a new PlayStation comes out, since it’s a new system, there’s only a handful of titles available… If you can be a launch title you can get a lot of distribution.”
Apple's app store provided a chance to start a video game company.
They released an app after 5 months of work.
Aurora Feint is the game.
Jason believed 1000 players in a week would be wonderful. A thousand players joined in the first hour.
Over time, Aurora Feints' game didn't gain traction. They don't make enough money to keep playing.
They could only make enough for one month.
Instead of buying video games, buy technology
Jason saw that they established a leaderboard, chat rooms, and multiplayer capabilities and believed other developers would want to use these.
They opted to sell the prior game's technology.
Assisting other game developers
They had no money in the bank to create everything needed to make the technology user-friendly.
Jason and Daniel designed a website saying:
“If you’re making a video game and want to have a drop in multiplayer support, you can use our system”
TechCrunch covered their website launch, and they gained a few hundred mailing list subscribers.
They raised seed funding with the mailing list.
Nearly all iPhone game developers started adopting the Open Feint logo.
“It was pretty wild… It was really like a whole social platform for people to play with their friends.”
What kind of a business model was it?
OpenFeint originally planned to make the software free for all games. As the game gained popularity, they demanded payment.
They later concluded it wasn't a good business concept.
It became free eventually.
Acquired for $104 million
Open Feint's users and employees grew tremendously.
GREE bought OpenFeint for $104 million in April 2011.
GREE initially committed to helping Jason and his team build a fantastic company.
Three or four months after the acquisition, Jason recognized they had a different vision.
Jason's Original Vision for the iPad
Jason focused on distribution in 2012 to help businesses stand out.
The iPad market and user base were growing tremendously.
Jason said the iPad may replace mobile gadgets.
iPad gamers behaved differently than mobile gamers.
People sat longer and experienced more using an iPad.
“The idea I had was what if we built a gaming business that was more like traditional video games but played on tablets as opposed to some kind of mobile game that I’ve been doing before.”
Unexpected insight after researching the video game industry
Jason learned from studying the gaming industry that long-standing companies had advantages beyond a single release.
Previously, long-standing video game firms had their own distribution system. This distribution strategy could buffer time between successful titles.
Sony, Microsoft, and Valve all have gaming consoles and online stores.
So he built a distribution system.
He created a group chat app for gamers.
He envisioned a team-based multiplayer game with text and voice interaction.
His objective was to develop a communication network, release more games, and start a game distribution business.
Remaking the video game League of Legends
Jason and his crew reimagined a League of Legends game mode for 12-inch glass.
They adapted the game for tablets.
League of Legends was PC-only.
So they rebuilt it.
They overhauled the game and included native mobile experiences to stand out.
Hammer and Chisel was the company's name.
18 people worked on the game.
The game was funded. The game took 2.5 years to make.
Was the game a success?
July 2014 marked the game's release. The team's hopes were dashed.
Critics initially praised the game.
Initial installation was widespread.
The game failed.
As time passed, the team realized iPad gaming wouldn't increase much and mobile would win.
Jason was given a fresh idea by Stan Vishnevskiy.
Stan Vishnevskiy was a corporate engineer.
He told Jason about his plan to design a communication app without a game.
This concept seeded modern strife.
“The insight that he really had was to put a couple of dots together… we’re seeing our customers communicating around our own game with all these different apps and also ourselves when we’re playing on PC… We should solve that problem directly rather than needing to build a new game…we should start making it on PC.”
So began Discord.
Online socializing with pals was the newest trend.
Jason grew up playing video games with his friends.
He never played outside.
Jason had many great moments playing video games with his closest buddy, wife, and brother.
Discord was about providing a location for you and your group to speak and hang out.
Like a private cafe, bedroom, or living room.
Discord was developed for you and your friends on computers and phones.
You can quickly call your buddies during a game to conduct a conference call. Put the call on speaker and talk while playing.
Discord wanted to give every player a unique experience. Because coordinating across apps was a headache.
The entire team started concentrating on Discord.
Jason decided Hammer and Chisel would focus on their chat app.
Jason didn't want to make a video game.
How Discord attracted the appropriate attention
During the first five months, the entire team worked on the game and got feedback from friends.
This ensures product improvement. As a result, some teammates' buddies started utilizing Discord.
The team knew it would become something, but the result was buggy. App occasionally crashed.
Jason persuaded a gamer friend to write on Reddit about the software.
New people would find Discord. Why not?
Reddit users discovered Discord and 50 started using it frequently.
Discord was launched.
Rejecting the $10 billion acquisition proposal
Discord has increased in recent years.
It sends billions of messages.
Discord's users aren't tracked. They're privacy-focused.
Covid boosted Discord's user base.
Weekly, billions of messages were transmitted.
Microsoft offered $10 billion for Discord in 2021.
Jason sold Open Feint for $104m in 2011.
This time, he believed in the product so much that he rejected Microsoft's offer.
“I was talking to some people in the team about which way we could go… The good thing was that most of the team wanted to continue building.”
Last time, Discord was valued at $15 billion.
Discord raised money on March 12, 2022.
The $15 billion corporation raised $500 million in 2021.
3 months 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.