Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey Is Working on a Defense Startup

Updated: Jul 13, 2017 5:38 PM ET | Originally published: Jun 04, 2017

It's been a brief, strange journey for Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, the virtual reality shop that Facebook acquired in 2014 for $2 billion. With a deal like that, 24-year-old Luckey seemed like a star member of the next generation of young tech startup founders alongside Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, 27, and perhaps Patrick and John Collison, 28 and 26 respectively, the Irish brothers behind the San Francisco payments company Stripe.

(You know the tech industry moves quickly when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 33, is the establishment.)

But Luckey's fall from grace was swift. Last year it was revealed that he had donated to organizations spreading anti-Hillary Clinton messages on billboards and, then later, that a company linked to him had donated $100,000 to then President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural committee, according to Mother Jones magazine—things that stood in sharp contrast to most of his Silicon Valley peers. Earlier this year he unceremoniously left the company, only to later find himself in a courtroom defending his former company's intellectual property.

A New York Times report published Sunday shows that Luckey has been busy indeed. The entrepreneur has a new company in development, one that is "developing surveillance technology that could be deployed on borders between countries and around military bases," according to the Times. The company is not yet public—the Times taps anonymous sources for the otherwise confidential information—but Luckey confirmed that it exists. "We need a new kind of defense company, one that will save taxpayer dollars while creating superior technology to keep our troops and citizens safer," he told the Times in a statement.

What the company will actually create and sell remains elusive, but the Times notes that the investment fund run by PayPal co-founder, Trump darling, and erstwhile media industry opponent Peter Thiel "planned to support the effort."

"Some people want founders to keep their politics private and away from their business, others think they should do everything out in the open in a vocal way," Luckey wrote last month in a Reddit comment on an article about Steve Wozniak. "You can't make everyone happy."

Correction: July 13, 2017 (5:30 pm): An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey had donated money to Donald Trump's presidential campaign. In fact, a company linked to Luckey made a donation to Trump's inaugural committee, according to Mother Jones magazine. The article also mistakenly said that Luckey donated money to a group that spread anti-Hillary Clinton memes online. In fact, that group used billboards.

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