Business Lessons with Jack McCauley
Listen to Oculus VR’s former Co-Founder and Chief Engineer talk about the Oculus story, from inception to exit. Jack McCauley discusses Oculus’s initial team, Kickstarter success, role of its venture capitalists, manufacturing in China, and sale to Facebook. Jack also shares his thoughts on the future of virtual reality, augmented reality and the metaverse.
Jack McCauley has over three decades of experience with inventing and technical engineering. As an engineer at Activision, he designed the guitars and drums for the Guitar Hero video game series. Jack was the Co-Founder and Chief Engineer at Oculus VR which was sold to Facebook for $2 billion in 2014. Jack serves as a Board Trustee at University of California, Berkeley. Jack is now venturing into automotive technology, building cars at his private R&D facility and hardware incubator in Livermore, CA.
00:00:59 – I worked in intellectual property there.
I worked in entertainment, keeping people entertained. And it’s a small group of people. I work in video games primarily. It’s not a large group of people. And so you have to be kind of careful. Let’s say you leave a company and you go to another studio to work.
You leave on good terms because those people will show up at the same studio or that studio may shut down and close, like what happened to THQ. And then all that same group of people is that the next studio working? So it’s very small. And I worked at Activision on Guitar Hero.
My boss, Charles Swan, who? Who was the founder of Red Octane, the initial publisher of Guitar Hero, the producer. He hired me and he incidentally, this is the relationship thing. He got me the trustee position at UC Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley.
So I worked in intellectual property there. I was an inventor.
00:09:48 – I just like the guy instantly, and he’s a good guy.
The visual part that graphics are really not that important. It’s the way the gameplay and the stories that’s told by the game.
You write a game, you’re essentially making a movie, you have to tell a story and keep people engaged and interested in long play.
It doesn’t. Vr doesn’t have long play. It’s not that kind of a thing. It’s quick play stuff so he comes in here he goes, do you want to join the company?
And I said, and I liked him and I he’s got 2 exits. Prior to this and the guy’s 31 years old, he sold his company to Autodesk for 30 mil. Any Gaikai entertainment?
He was a VP of Engineering, vice president of Gaiki Entertainment, sold to Sony, so he’s had two successes.
And he’s just a great guy. I just like the guy instantly, and he’s a good guy. So I said OK, I’ll help him out.
00:28:23 – My resources are backing up, my confidence is up and I do this again.
You know, when you got founders, the company actually putting their own, you know, their own revenue into that skin in the game. And I’ve had in my career a series of boom bust cycles.
Like I put skin in the game and then I deplete my resources not all the way, but I deplete my resources and then i get it a hit and then I my resources are backing up, my confidence is up and I do this again. So we have to put money into it.
And we went to Andreessen Horowitz. Brendan, who is the guy that showed up here? Brendan arribe.
He is the world’s best sales guy. He can read you. Like it’s I don’t know how he does uncanny and he can change his pitch based on your slightest fraction facial expression that you have.
He’ll alter it really instantly until he gets a smile out of you.
00:34:47 – I took it to her and I said, look, you know Guitar Hero, you know me, you should thank me for helping…
Well, I did all of this stuff with interviewing contract manufacturers. I never really intended to take the product to them. Because I knew someone that would do it for me, who was a friend.
And now I have a friend in Hong Kong. She’s retired now, but she owned contract manufacturer. She built a very large number of the Guitar Hero products, which 64 million units is very huge orders.
I took it to her and I said, look, you know Guitar Hero, you know me, you should thank me for helping that come into your company.
It did well there. And which we didn’t know at the time it was going to do. No one knows. You never know this stuff. It could fail. So she goes, OK, I’ll help you out. She got to pay me up front.
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