Is Oculus a vanity project for Zuckerberg?

Oculus has its technological benefits, but there may be only one reason Facebook spent $2 billion for the company.

Trying really hard, one can imagine a technology-based argument to integrate Occulus VR virtual reality goggles into Facebook. It would be really cool to experience Facebook’s newsfeed as a simulated reality. A virtual reality experience of a friend’s black diamond snowboard run would be amazing. If that were the case, though, Facebook would be working with every virtual reality company, maybe fund a few, and thus efficiently spread its bet on a virtual Facebook reality over many of these ventures.

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But that’s not it. Mark Zuckerbeg has done it all… almost. Zuck has taken a dorm room prototype and created social networking, captured the time of a billion people, and made Facebook insanely valuable, all the while keeping control of the company using what some would consider insane SEC regulations that allow two-tiered stock classes that concentrate voting power within a minority of investors. When the web shifted from the desktop to mobile, Zuck turned Facebook on a dime, executing almost flawlessly, and became a leading mobile ecosystem.

In Silicon Valley, Zuck is a founder. He’s done it only once. Won the startup lottery, maybe? He hasn’t earned the final Silicon Valley accolade by proving he can repeat his success. Running Facebook, he doesn’t have the time to start something new and make it insanely valuable again, though he can buy in to a promising new technology category and apply his skills, contacts, and capital to create a very valuable business.

The category of virtual reality looks like it will be a big business one day - three, five or 10 years from now. When virtual reality reaches a point of inflection where Wall Street and industry analysts project a large market, the leader will be worth tens of billions of dollars, maybe a hundred billion. Public investors will pay for this projected growth, or whichever computer gaming company that is in the lead at that time will buy it.

Lucky or good is the question. If Zuck can make this play, he will join the list with Silicon Valley legends such as John Doerr of KPCB and Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz.

Zuckerberg isn’t 30 yet. He has a long career ahead of him and he is not ready to retire on his Facebook lottery winnings. He has much left to accomplish not only in his career, but as a major Silicon Valley personality. If I made big bold bets like Zuckerberg, I’d bet on him.

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