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Tech How Palmer Luckey, the tech CEO who sold his startup to Facebook for $2 billion, became the company's black sheep (FB)

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The creator of the Virtual Reality headset is out at Facebook after a series of events that drew controversial attention to him.

Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR. play

Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR.

(Oculus VR)
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Palmer Luckey isn't your average 24-year-old.

He founded Oculus VR, the headset company that's been described countless times as the future of virtual reality.

Facebook, which acquired Oculus for $2 billion in 2014, sees its software as the big computing platform of the next 10 years.

Luckey was on a path to greatness as the face of the social media company's VR business.

But after less than three years, Facebook has announced Luckey is leaving the company.

Here's how he went from tech darling to Facebook outcast:

Luckey was born in Long Beach, California on September, 19, 1992. His father Donald was a car salesman and his mother, Julie, a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled Luckey and his three younger sisters.

Luckey was born in Long Beach, California on September, 19, 1992. His father Donald was a car salesman and his mother, Julie, a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled Luckey and his three younger sisters. play

Luckey was born in Long Beach, California on September, 19, 1992. His father Donald was a car salesman and his mother, Julie, a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled Luckey and his three younger sisters.

(Google Maps)


Throughout his childhood Luckey loved to tinker with electronics, building his own computers or gaming devices.

As a child, Luckey loved to tinker with electronics, building his own computers or gaming devices. play

As a child, Luckey loved to tinker with electronics, building his own computers or gaming devices.

(Oculus screencap)

Source: Popular Mechanics



For a while, he became fascinated by lasers and burned a small blind-spot into one of his retinas while experimenting with them.

(Not actually Luckey's eye) play

(Not actually Luckey's eye)

(Flickr/Michael Gil)

Source: Vanity Fair



To help support his varied interests, a 16-year-old Luckey set up a business fixing iPhones and then selling them unlocked online. He made at least $36,000.

To help support his varied interests, a 16-year-old Luckey set up a business fixing iPhones and then selling them unlocked online. He made at least $36,000. play

To help support his varied interests, a 16-year-old Luckey set up a business fixing iPhones and then selling them unlocked online. He made at least $36,000.

(Flickr / Nathan Borror)

Source: LA Times



He became interested in virtual reality in particular thanks to his love of video games. He spent tens of thousands of dollars to build a six-monitored computer. But even that wasn't immersive enough for the kind of gameplay he envisioned, so he thought, "Why not just put a small screen directly on your face?"

Not actually Luckey's display, but a pretty sleek set-up. play

Not actually Luckey's display, but a pretty sleek set-up.

(Flickr / Willybepop)

Source: Vanity Fair



At 17, in his parents garage, Luckey started building the Oculus prototype that he eventually launched on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, where it raised an astounding $2.4 million.

At 17, in his parents garage, Luckey started building the Oculus headset prototype that he eventually launched on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, where it raised an astounding $2.4 million. play

At 17, in his parents garage, Luckey started building the Oculus headset prototype that he eventually launched on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter, where it raised an astounding $2.4 million.

(Kickstarter)


At that point, Luckey had already connected with a gaming entrepreneur named Brendan Iribe. Luckey had stopped using a cell phone because he felt paranoid about government surveillance, but agreed to meet Iribe at a steak house. The two hit it off, and Iribe and a few of his friends invested some of their own money to help Luckey launch the Kickstarter. They called the company Oculus VR and Iribe became CEO. It was a good bet to make.

At that point, Luckey had already connected with a gaming entrepreneur named Brendan Iribe. Luckey had stopped using a cell phone because he felt paranoid about government surveillance, but agreed to meet Iribe at a steak house. The two hit it off, and Iribe and a few of his friends invested some of their own money in helping Luckey launch the Kickstarter. They called the company Oculus VR and Iribe became CEO. play

At that point, Luckey had already connected with a gaming entrepreneur named Brendan Iribe. Luckey had stopped using a cell phone because he felt paranoid about government surveillance, but agreed to meet Iribe at a steak house. The two hit it off, and Iribe and a few of his friends invested some of their own money in helping Luckey launch the Kickstarter. They called the company Oculus VR and Iribe became CEO.

(Michael Seto/Business Insider)

Source: Vanity Fair



Luckey's vision for Oculus at the time reads quite ironically now, post-Facebook acquisition. "I won’t make a penny of profit off this project," he wrote at launch. "The goal is to pay for the costs of parts, manufacturing, shipping, and credit card/Kickstarter fees with about $10 left over for a celebratory pizza and beer."

Luckey's vision for Oculus at the time reads quite ironically now, post-Facebook acquisition. "I won’t make a penny of profit off this project," he wrote at launch. "The goal is to pay for the costs of parts, manufacturing, shipping, and credit card/Kickstarter fees with about $10 left over for a celebratory pizza and beer." play

Luckey's vision for Oculus at the time reads quite ironically now, post-Facebook acquisition. "I won’t make a penny of profit off this project," he wrote at launch. "The goal is to pay for the costs of parts, manufacturing, shipping, and credit card/Kickstarter fees with about $10 left over for a celebratory pizza and beer."

(Facebook/Pizza Hut)


The blockbuster campaign and subsequent demos of Oculus *really* put Luckey and his virtual reality headset on the map. The company started getting all sorts of inbound interest, including from Chris Dixon at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Posters and t-shirts that Luckey gave to Kickstarter supporters. play

Posters and t-shirts that Luckey gave to Kickstarter supporters.

(Kickstarter)

Source: Vanity Fair



Dixon passed on funding at the time — the headset still required duct-tape to function — but it didn't matter: Oculus VR scored $16 million in funding in June 2013.

Dixon passed on funding at the time — the headset still required duct-tape to function — but it didn't matter: Oculus VR scored $16 million in funding in June 2013. play

Dixon passed on funding at the time — the headset still required duct-tape to function — but it didn't matter: Oculus VR scored $16 million in funding in June 2013.

(Wikimedia Commons and Brian Ach/Getty)

Source: Vanity Fair and Crunchbase



Not six months later, the big bucks rolled in. After seeing an updated demo of the device, Dixon finally felt convinced and Andreessen Horowitz led a $75 million round of funding that December.

Chris Dixon play

Chris Dixon

(BI)


It was Dixon (who described his Oculus experience as like being teleported) who first connected Iribe and Facebook CEO Zuckerberg. Zuck loved his first demo in one of Facebook's offices so much that he flew over to the Oculus office to check out the latest version.

Zuckerberg (right) tests out Oculus' Rift headset and motion sensing Touch controllers. play

Zuckerberg (right) tests out Oculus' Rift headset and motion sensing Touch controllers.

(Facebook)

Source: Vanity Fair



The two companies signed a $2 billion acquisition deal in March 2014.

The two companies signed a whopping $2 billion acquisition deal in March 2014. play

The two companies signed a whopping $2 billion acquisition deal in March 2014.

(Business Insider)


The deal sky-rocketed Luckey's net-worth to about $500 million. He was only 21.

The deal immediately sky-rocketed Luckey's net worth to about $500 million. He was only 21. play

The deal immediately sky-rocketed Luckey's net worth to about $500 million. He was only 21.

(Facebook.com/oculusvr)

Source: Forbes



A chunk of Luckey’s newfound wealth went to buying a party house in the ritzy Silicon Valley town of Atherton. He lives with seven friends in a home he calls "The Commune," where they all spend hours playing video games. This is an example of a home you might find in Atherton.

A chunk of Luckey’s newfound wealth went to buying a large house in the ritzy Silicon Valley town of Atherton. He lives with seven friends in a home he calls "The Commune," where they all spend hours playing video games. This is an example of a home you might find in Atherton. play

A chunk of Luckey’s newfound wealth went to buying a large house in the ritzy Silicon Valley town of Atherton. He lives with seven friends in a home he calls "The Commune," where they all spend hours playing video games. This is an example of a home you might find in Atherton.

(Point2Homes)

Source: Forbes



Luckey spent a lot of his time in an executive-level suite at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, but he was still very laid-back. "There’s a lot of people here who know all about Oculus but don’t know who I am,” he told Forbes.

Luckey spent a lot of his time in an executive-level suite at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, but he was still very laid-back. "There’s a lot of people here who know all about Oculus but don’t know who I am,” he told Forbes. play

Luckey spent a lot of his time in an executive-level suite at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, but he was still very laid-back. "There’s a lot of people here who know all about Oculus but don’t know who I am,” he told Forbes.

(Kill Screen / Flickr)

Source: Forbes



Luckey is known for his casual look — he typically sports a Hawaiian shirt and sandals, but he has said that he'd prefer to be barefoot. "We invented shoes to protect our feet from the harsh environment," he told The Telegraph. "But I live in modern-day California. It’s pretty safe here. Nothing’s going to happen if I take them off."

Luckey is known for his casual look — he typically sports a Hawaiian shirt and sandals, but he has said that he'd prefer to be barefoot. "We invented shoes to protect our feet from the harsh environment," he told The Telegraph. "But I live in modern-day California. It’s pretty safe here. Nothing’s going to happen if I take them off." play

Luckey is known for his casual look — he typically sports a Hawaiian shirt and sandals, but he has said that he'd prefer to be barefoot. "We invented shoes to protect our feet from the harsh environment," he told The Telegraph. "But I live in modern-day California. It’s pretty safe here. Nothing’s going to happen if I take them off."

(Facebook.com/oculusvr)

Source: The Telegraph



Oculus has moved its headquarters to Silicon Valley, but there are still some departments housed in the company's old, street art-filled offices in Irvine.



Luckey's one splurge since the Facebook deal has been a $120,000 Tesla Model S. "[Elon Musk] is a cool guy who deserves my money," he told the Telegraph. He later told Forbes, "I figure you can buy a Tesla and not be too snooty."

One of Luckey's purchases since the Facebook deal has been a $120,000 Tesla Model S. "[Elon Musk] is a cool guy who deserves my money," he told the Telegraph. He later told Forbes, "I figure you can buy a Tesla and not be too snooty." play

One of Luckey's purchases since the Facebook deal has been a $120,000 Tesla Model S. "[Elon Musk] is a cool guy who deserves my money," he told the Telegraph. He later told Forbes, "I figure you can buy a Tesla and not be too snooty."

(Tesla)

Source: The Telegraph, Forbes



He also drives a 1986 GMC van that reportedly has a red shag carpet inside.

He also drives a 1986 GMC van that reportedly has a red shag carpet inside. play

He also drives a 1986 GMC van that reportedly has a red shag carpet inside.

(free photos / Flickr)

Source: Forbes



The 24-year-old has a good sense of humor and is known for being a bit of a showman. He once threw out t-shirts during Oculus' mixer at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

The 24-year-old has a good sense of humor and is known for being a bit of a showman. He once threw out t-shirts during Oculus' mixer at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. play

The 24-year-old has a good sense of humor and is known for being a bit of a showman. He once threw out t-shirts during Oculus' mixer at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

(Facebook.com/oculusvr)

Source: Facebook, Oculus



Luckey was featured on the cover of Time Magazine.

Luckey was featured on the cover of Time Magazine. play

Luckey was featured on the cover of Time Magazine.

(Time Magazine)


The cover totally blew up — but probably not like Time expected it to. People started creating hilarious photoshops of Luckey's image in random scenarios, making fun of how goofy the photo made virtual reality look.

See way more here.



Luckey seemed to have a sense of humor about it, though, and retweeted both of these images:



Despite Luckey's desire to stay out of the limelight, he was pushed into it after a report found, in the run-up to the US presidential elections, Luckey was funding the pro-Trump group NimbleAmerica, which wanted to change the media discussion through "shitposting" and "meme magic."

Despite Luckey's desire to stay out of the limelight, he was pushed into it after a report by The Daily Beast found that Luckey was funding the anti-Hillary Clinton group NimbleAmerica, which wanted to change the media discussion through "shitposting" and "meme magic." play

Despite Luckey's desire to stay out of the limelight, he was pushed into it after a report by The Daily Beast found that Luckey was funding the anti-Hillary Clinton group NimbleAmerica, which wanted to change the media discussion through "shitposting" and "meme magic."

(Nimble America)

Source: The Daily Beast



Luckey confirmed he had donated $10,000 to the pro-Trump group, but denied he had been posting pro-Trump comments on Reddit.



He was back in the spotlight when he testified in January 2017 at the trial of Zenimax, which accused him of stealing the technology for the Oculus Rift.

He was briefly back in the spotlight when he testified in January 2017 at the trial of Zenimax, which accused him of stealing the technology for the Oculus Rift. Oculus was later ordered to pay $500 million in damages to ZeniMax for violating a non-disclosure agreement and copyright infringement. Luckey was ordered to pay ZeniMax $50 million of the $500 million verdict for false designation. play

He was briefly back in the spotlight when he testified in January 2017 at the trial of Zenimax, which accused him of stealing the technology for the Oculus Rift. Oculus was later ordered to pay $500 million in damages to ZeniMax for violating a non-disclosure agreement and copyright infringement. Luckey was ordered to pay ZeniMax $50 million of the $500 million verdict for false designation.

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Source: Bloomberg



A month later a jury ordered Oculus to pay $500 million to ZeniMax for violating a non-disclosure agreement and copyright infringement.

One of the early Oculus Development Kits play

One of the early Oculus Development Kits

(Kevork Djansezian/Reuters)

Source: Ars Technica



All of that controversy culminated with an announcement from Facebook on Thursday that Luckey would be leaving the company.

All of that controversy culminated with an announcement from Facebook in late March that Luckey would be leaving the company. play

All of that controversy culminated with an announcement from Facebook in late March that Luckey would be leaving the company.

(Niall Carson/PA)

Source: Business Insider

Jillian D'Onfro contributed to an earlier version of this article.