$2 billion in 2 years? At 21? Is he just Luckey?
Actually, yes: Palmer Luckey. Luckey just sold his 18-month-old company, Oculus VR, to Facebook for $2 billion.
If you’re busy growing a business (for longer than 18 months, and you’re older than 21 years old) without $2 billion to show for it – you might ask what’s going on here…
Is the Luck in Luckey’s name more reality than virtual reality? Here’s my take on it: The rapid success Luckey has had IS down to Luck – but the kind of luck we can create.
I’ve always seen Luck as the product of four things, and here’s the journey Luckey had through all four:
L.U.C.K = Location, Understanding, Connection & Knowledge
Location is about being at the right place at the right time – where you try and solve a need that you have. Luckey’s need was finding a good pair of virtual reality goggles. He remembers when he was 16, in 2009, “My goal actually wasn’t to make something. It was actually just to buy something – I assumed there must be something out there that was really good that I could use for gaming.”
Luckey took odd jobs to buy all the virtual reality goggles he could find: “I started to collect them and bought a lot of them from government auctions and industry equipment liquidation sites and all kind of fun places. I took them apart, looked at how they worked, tried to learn what do they do right, what do they do wrong… and over time it became clear that the only way to make something that was really good would be to throw out the design book that everyone else had used and start from scratch.”
Like a lucky footballer knowing that luck starts when you get on the football pitch, Luckey decided to get on the pitch and play the game…
It’s one thing to get on the pitch. Another to kick the ball. It takes understanding to know where the flow is and where to kick it. Luckey had heard of Kickstarter and, at 19 years old decided to use crowdfunding to test his idea.
As he recalls, “My plan was to do a Kickstarter for about 100 of these things… I figured it would be a really cool thing to have a couple of VR nerds toying around with.” He posted a video and fundraising campaign for a prototype on Kickstarter in August 2012 to raise $250,000. By September, he had raised $2,437,429…
It was time to get serious, quit journalism college, and start a company…
You can get on the pitch and kick the ball, but you can’t win a game until you have a team to kick with. Luckey regularly posted in online forums with other Virtual Reality enthusiasts. It’s where he collected his team:
“I actually started the forum called ModRetro. It’s an electronics enthusiast community that focuses on modifying vintage game consoles. I started that site when I was 15. ModRetro was actually founded by myself and one of the people that currently works as an engineer at Oculus. So we’ve stuck together.”
Luckey got a big name supporter in a similar way. Game Developer, John Carmack (who’s behind games like Quake and Doom) met Luckey through these forums. As Luckey remembers, “He started posting because of his own virtual reality project… But he ended up seeing my head-mounted display work and asked me, ‘Hey – is there any chance I could buy one?’ He’s John Carmack! I just gave him one instead – you can’t turn him down.”
That led to Carmack demoing Luckey’s headset with a version of Doom 3 at the big E3 Electronics show in 2012. From there, interest took off and Luckey attracted a team and further funding. Today Carmack is CTO of Oculus VR.
Being on the pitch, kicking the ball and having the team to win with still doesn’t mean you’re going to win – Especially not at the $2 billion level. But when you build your knowledge and know how to play and the stakes you are playing for, things can rapidly multiply.
With the exponential growth in data flow online, it’s only a matter of time before the entire Internet becomes an immersive, intelligent, virtual 3D experience. The visionary companies with the deep pockets, like Google and Facebook, are already positioning for this. Luckey’s early start with virtual reality, with rave reviews of his prototype at recent shows, has made him an attractive buy.
Just 18 months after his Kickstarter campaign and before a working retail version of his VR goggles has even been launched, Mark Zuckerberg this week bought his company for $2 billion.
How can you grow your L.U.C.K. today, by investing more of your own time in growing your location, understanding, connections and knowledge?
That was Luckey’s success. He didn’t have any head start over you or me. As he says, “My dad was a car salesman, my mum was a stay-at-home mum. I was home-schooled for a long time. I’m a pretty regular Joe.”
He even sees his spectacular journey as being equally unspectacular: “There’s no Facebook-style story… No tales of parties and crazy stuff going on that was really a highlight. It was just kind of a slow plod towards making this thing a reality.”
And that’s how success becomes a reality.
Or, in his case, a virtual reality.