The story of Palmer Luckey, the visionary genius behind the company, and Oculus, the company that made VR real, makes for fascinating reading (or listening). The first two thirds of the book tells an interesting tale for sure, but more or less a conventional one. A lone genius toils in relative anonymity and without much recognition or pay for years with a single-minded determination to change the world. In this case, his vision was to bring affordable VR to everyone. And then, through a combination of circumstance and a bit of luck, he bursts onto the scene thanks to help from some other brilliant serial entrepreneurs to start a revolution so visible and so exciting that Facebook comes along and buys the company for around $2B dollars making Luckey very rich. It also gave Oculus the financial and business muscle it needed to bring their product to market and make VR a huge success at last.
But then Luckey made a huge mistake. He was always a free thinker and a libertarian at heart, and, as he looked at the 2016 Presidential candidates, he decided he could not support Hillary, the darling of Silicon valley, and found the most to like about Donald Trump. He did so quietly for the most part, but he also donated some money to a PAC that put up a billboard. A series of inaccurate press reports led to a suspension that lead eventually and inevitably to his firing from Facebook.
Surprisingly, the book ends up telling a cautionary tale about how the culture at companies like Facebook no longer tolerates anything like free speech or thought, destroys lives and poses a danger to the long-term health of our country. It’s important to note that Luckey did not do or say anything racist, sexist or illegal other than support a presidential candidate not favored by the majority of Facebook employees in a state that makes it illegal to discriminate against or fire employees for their political views. It was sad and shocking to read though not surprising given the environment we all live in today.
You can find the book on Amazon and on Audible.