This appears to be another of those topics for which it’s a requirement to weigh in.
Facebook buys Oculus VR. Good because Oculus gets scads of money to continue development, bad because people assume this means their mission will change dramatically. And it may well do so, although all of that is speculation at present.
But the bit that struck me most about the whole ordeal was this post over at Valleywag about what Kickstarter has become: a boost to help a small company build value for the larger venture capitalists.
Instead, the money given by me and my fellow Kickstarter backers served as bait for venture capitalists, who invested three rounds of $29 million and $85 million apiece, leading to an eventual sale to Facebook for $2 billion. It’s safe to presume that the VC involvement accelerated a sale to Facebook; surely Oculus could have gotten a product to market for $100 million, but no sane VC is going to turn down a 20x return on their investment.
But I still feel as if circumstance removed me from an opportunity to turn my speculative belief in the future of VR and Oculus’s role in it into real money. Their story—a genuine garage hacker does what billion-dollar companies would not—didn’t imply its eventual end: that the barefoot, teenage founder would sell his startup to a giant technology corporation before they sold a single retail product. No injury, perhaps, but plenty of insult.
I’ve backed a couple thing so far. One ended badly, another is still in development but is progressing on schedule. I’ve also purchased some products spurred by Kickstarter but for which I didn’t donate at the time. But what does this tell me for the next great idea? I throw a little money at it and maybe get a little something something, only to help the idea get into the minds of venture capitalists who can buy it and, possibly, totally gut that idea for their own purposes (not saying that has happened here). If I’d backed Oculus in the personal hopes that it’d be a gaming revolution, and I got my dev kit, only to see Facebook turn it into a social revolution instead now that they own it… yeah, I’d be upset. I’d feel used. I wouldn’t necessarily say I feel cheated, but it wouldn’t be a positive feeling to watch my donation to see a product turn into some other corporation’s inevitable profit.
With that said, I’m not in some kind of panic like many are. I openly dislike Facebook but that doesn’t mean I think Oculus is dead, or was “selling out” to take the offer. I get how much that kind of money can spur development.
But with all this in mind, and in particular with the Valleywag comments in mind, I think my time with Kickstarter is over.