I used to work at an ad agency writing copy, I had an earthy, no-nonsense, chunky-but-sweet boss. A boondocks girl from Nebraska, she asked for and gave no quarter in a cruel business world and had only one weakness, her aquamarine-eyed, black-haired, pretty-boy husband who looked like the Alain Delon of the Prairies. She’d brag about her ‘Omaha Love Machine’ and the expense of putting him through law school at Northwestern University. He was, she said, bound and determined to make a difference as an ethical lawyer swimming in a sea of venal sharks. They might not necessarily get to be rich, but they’d soon be what she called “real middle-class,” and she could quit the rat race, go to grad school and become a Joyce scholar.
Then, one morning, two years later, she was gone from work for a month. Finally back, she looked slovenly, the roots showing in her hair, another fifteen pounds added to her already substantial frame. It took months to break her down, but, thanks to a triumvirate of giant Daiquiris at Trader Vic’s, I got the gossip. Pretty Boy was gone. Taken on at a very high-powered law practice, he had wasted little time in moving in with a senior partner who owned what she called ‘basketball tits and 40 condos in South Beach.”
It’s a sad story I’m certain you’re familiar with. I only bring it up because the latest techie blah-blah on the social networks concerns a certain perceived ‘ingrate’ named Palmer Luckey. I would add, however, that Mr. Luckey is someone neither I nor most of the tens of thousands blogging about him have met.
I’ve been mentioning a few inventions every now and again whose exposure came about via Kickstarter. Kickstarter is what is called a crowd funding platform. With a stated mission of bringing original, creative, underfunded projects to life, the company has sponsored the gifting of over $1 billion in pledges from 5.7 million donors to support 135,000 projects carrying content in inventions, films, journalism, video games and agricultural experiments and other projects deemed worthy. I would add that sponsors who financially back Kickstarter projects are offered rewards and special experiences in exchange for their pledges.
At any rate, Palmer Luckey, 21, is the original inventor of Oculus Rift, a new type of virtual reality goggles. They are not yet quite ready for the commercial market, but, as I witnessed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, anyone trying out Luckey’s headset was completely blown away by the experience.
During the summer of 2012…
…during early development, a financially needy Luckey appealed for donations from Kickstarter. Consequently, 9,522 people paid in a total of $2,437,429, ten times more than the amount Luckey originally requested. And, to be sure, Luckey played nice and played along.
Eighteen months later, on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, Facebook announced its purchase of Oculus for $2 Billion. On the same day, clearly anticipating the shit storm of unadulterated rage from his older partners, Luckey posted on Reddit: “This is about the best possible outcome for the future of virtual reality, not my wallet.”
Nobody has had much to say in Luckey’s defense. His ‘naïve’ point of view is that the Rift will now be much cheaper and better when it comes out. He also promised that “you will not need a Facebook account to use or develop … the Rift.” In spite of having a new big-shot boss in the micromanaging, advertising savvy Mark Zuckerberg, Oculus won’t change. “If anything,” Luckey says, “our hardware and software will get even more open, and Facebook is onboard with that “
“You selling out to Facebook is a disgrace,” says Sergey Chubukov on the Kickstarter blog. “It damages not only your reputation, but the whole of crowd-funding. I cannot put into words how betrayed I feel.”
“Fuck you, Palmer,” says a less loquacious deletemeapril162014 on Reddit. “The community brought you here, and your disingenuous posts are fucking insulting.” Go to Twitter and you’ll find tens of thousands of these.
Luckey promises good news that will win everybody over within a year. He will be rich, of course, whether he does or not.