Palmer is very luckey. Really. His last name is Luckey. At the age of 22, he’s also one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30, and founder of Oculus VR. His company is developing virtual reality technology and was recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, even though the product is still in prototype stage and not making any money yet. Luckey’s goal is to make virtual reality affordable for mass market consumption and to integrate it into our everyday lives. Mark Zuckerberg is obviously a believer and thinks it will become a mode of communication with a magnitude similar to television or telephones. With a net worth of $500 million Palmer is the youngest self-made multi-millionaire.
Luckey was home-schooled, and from an early age immersed himself in playing videogames and watching science fiction movies, which led to his interest in virtual reality. He began to collect and modify VR hardware and had the opportunity to work with a VR pioneer and expert, where he honed his skills. Communicating with online enthusiasts led to a connection with some heavy hitters in the software and gaming industry. This in turn led to promotion of his prototype by John Carmack, a well-known programmer, and to his first investment from Brendan Iribe, Chief Product Officer of a gaming company. Next came a successful Kickstarter campaign where he raised $2.4 million within a month, and the company took off from there.
Realizing that he lacked the requisite skills to lead the company, Luckey hired Iribe as his CEO, and Carmack as his CTO. He now spends his time promoting the product, doing research, and attracting new talent. He admits that he’s not good at managing people, but he is good at getting people to work with him.
Recognize Your Limitations
For all of Luckey’s innovation and persistence in pushing this technology forward, his recognition of his limitations is commendable. He knew he lacked the skillset to run the company and instead found someone else with the necessary capabilities to do so. He pushed his ego aside and “found a strength.” Many of his coworkers on Oculus’ engineering team in Menlo Park, California, don’t even know who he is.
Luckey is an interesting contrast to the many budding entrepreneurs who show up on Shark Tank, the reality TV show where individuals pitch a panel of 5 multi-millionaires/billionaires to secure funding for their inventions. They are often so caught up in the excitement of their new product that they fail to realize that it may be difficult to market, lack demand, or it’s not scalable, and they don’t want to take advice from the sharks (who obviously do know how to be successful in business). Often these entrepreneurs lack the requisite strengths to succeed in business, but don’t want to listen to those who do have the strengths.
Pause for a moment and identify an area of your personal or professional life where you’re stuck. You’ve been trying to start a project or develop a plan, but you keep running into a wall. The issue may be that you don’t have the complete suite of skills necessary to accomplish it. You knew it would be challenging but, because you lacked the budget to purchase the services, or you thought the missing skills weren’t that critical, you hoped you could somehow figure it out or learn on-the-job.
Well the reality is that while there are some areas where we can develop competencies because they align with our strengths; in other areas we will never develop sufficient strengths to be viewed as extremely capable. We all have significant weaknesses in several areas. And certain weaknesses are difficult to learn or be trained in. When we don’t have sufficient aptitude or ability in these areas, and when they’re crucial to our business success, this can result in failure.
The better strategy is to readily recognize the competencies you need, and be creative in your approach to “find a strength.” Find someone who has the capabilities that you lack. Find someone who will complement you. Team up and collaborate with others. Find someone who has a similar passion and values, but who needs your strengths to accomplish his or her goals as well. The quicker you recognize your need and take action, the quicker you’ll get unstuck, and be able to move forward with your initiatives. You’ll ultimately save time, money and great frustration.
So my final challenge to you is, do what you do well, but don’t start a project unless you have the right tools to finish it.
Read more about Palmer Luckey in the January 19, 2015 edition of Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidewalt/2015/01/05/palmer-luckey-oculus-rift-vr/