Sixth high-profile exit from Facebook as Oculus co-founder quits over difference of opinion


After WhatsApp and Instagram founders, Oculus' Brendan Iribe also found it difficult to align his vision with Facebook's.

Facebook has been faced with a slew of high-profile exits of late. In the last two years, founders of six companies or startups it acquired have left the organisation. Less than a month after Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger departed, Brendan Iribe, co-founder of Oculus (the virtual reality startup Facebook acquired for $2 billion in 2012) announced his exit.

Even though Brendan, who was heading Facebook’s PC VR team, didn’t specify the cause of his exit, merely calling it the “first real break” in a 20-year career, speculations are rife that he may have fallen out with his bosses.

Image: Bloomberg

A TechCrunch report claims Brendan’s views about the future of Oculus were “fundamentally different” from his owners’, and the cancellation of an upcoming product — the Rift 2 headset — could have been the final nail in the coffin.

Brendan was opposed to Facebook’s increasing focus on pocket-friendly standalone VR headsets like the Oculus Go and the Oculus Quest, at the cost of more top-of-the-line PC-based VR hardware. He reckoned it was a “race to the bottom” in terms of performance.

Commenting on his exit, Facebook stated,

“Brendan built an incredible company and team. He pushed VR far beyond the boundaries of what people thought possible and it’s because of his vision that we’re all here working on VR today. We’re thankful for his leadership, his dedication to building the impossible, and he’ll be missed.”

Incidentally, Oculus’ other co-founder Palmer Luckey was ousted by Facebook in early 2017 for reasons unconfirmed. Meanwhile, the third co-founder, Nate Mitchell, will continue to be at Facebook. “A lot of questions today about the future of Rift — we’re still driving forward on the Rift/PC platform with new hardware, software, and content,” he wrote on Twitter.

Brendan’s departure follows a trend of past founders struggling to align their vision with that of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Firstly, founders are said to be losing autonomy. Secondly, their ideas of revenue generation differ from that of Facebook’s top leadership.

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton left the company last year when he disagreed with Zuckerberg on ways to monetise WhatsApp, which Facebook had acquired for $19 billion in 2014. Earlier this year, Brian propagated the #DeleteFacebook movement in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that has rocked Facebook.

Jan Koum, WhatsApp’s other co-founder, exited in the wake of the scandal. Later in a tell-all media interview, he revealed that he felt he had sold his users’ security and privacy and lived with that “compromise” every day. Facebook, his parent company, had made him do that in a bid to monetise WhatsApp.

Facebook is increasingly being seen as a ruthless tech corporation that is willing to go to any extent to make a quick buck. The company is, of course, doing its best to repair its image, and deal with government regulators across the world as its recent appointment of a former deputy PM as global corporate affairs head indicates.

But, only time will tell if things look up for Facebook again!


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