The spectacularly successful life of Palmer Luckey, the 22-year-old who sold his startup to Facebook for $2 billion

Palmer LuckeyOculus VRPalmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR.

Palmer Luckey isn’t your average 20-something. 

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

Facebook, which acquired Oculus for $US2 billion last year, sees its software as the big computing platform of the next 10 years.

Luckey’s path to greatness doesn’t follow the typical Silicon Valley roadmap.

Here’s how he got where he is today:


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 mum 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.

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 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.

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.'

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.

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.

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

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.

Brendan Iribe with Mark Zuckerberg

Source: Vanity Fair

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

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

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.

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.'

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 still travels there.

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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.'


Source: The Telegraph, Forbes

The 22-year-old has a good sense of humour and is known for being a bit of a showman. Last March, he threw out t-shirts during Oculus' mixer at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Luckey has also graced several magazine covers over the last year, including Popular Mechanics' June 2014 issue.

Forbes' January 2015 '30 Under 30' issue.

And, most recently, Time Magazine's August cover.

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.

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

Despite all his accomplishments, Luckey still tends to shy away from the spotlight. 'This isn't about me, it's about something much, much bigger -- bigger perhaps than any of us,' he told the Telegraph.

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