If Kickstarter backers received equity in a project that they helped fund, how much money would the backers of the Oculus Rift have made from Facebook's $2 billion (£1.2 billion) purchase?
On Tuesday, Facebook shocked and enraged the tech world when it purchased Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, for a cool two billion. This fills the future of the Oculus Rift with potential – more than it ever had without Facebook's massive war chest – but it also casts a dark cloud of doubt over the device's seemingly bright future. Along with too many questions regarding the Rift's future, the Facebook deal both created and brought to light some interesting facts. For instance, John Carmack – famed developer, progenitor of the first-person shooter, and tech industry deity – now works for Facebook. John Carmack was acquired by Mark Zuckerberg.
However, after the news settled in and we all began to rest our virtual reality gaming hopes on Sony's Project Morpheus, some more interesting tidbits came to light: How much money would Kickstarter backers have made if the platform's campaigns rewarded backers with equity?
Kickstarter doesn't actually allow users to purchase a stake in a project. You're not buying stock or angel investing in a company, you're giving a donation and receiving a "thank you" reward in return. Due to that model, there's no way that Oculus Rift Kickstarter backers – though their money helped fund the development of the Rift – are entitled to any portion of Facebook's money. However, in a fun fantasy universe where they were, it turns out that backers who funded the standard $300 (£180) – the ones who purchased an actual headset rather than, for instance, the $20 (£12) t-shirt – would've made about $20,000 (£12,000) on their initial backing.
The initial Kickstarter campaign – without which the Oculus Rift might have never been developed and purchased by Facebook – had 9522 backers. After the campaign closed, the Oculus received funding from investment companies; hedge fund Matrix Partners and venture capital firm Spark Partners both ponied up $19 million (£11.5 million). Now, each $19 million investment is worth about $380 million (£230 million).
That initial $300 (£180) Kickstarter "investment," though? It's worth the development kit the backer received in the mail some months later – and that was made clear going into Kickstarter, as it's laid out in plain text on the site's FAQ.
It's impossible to tell exactly how much money each tier of Kickstarter backer would've received without knowing what percentage of the company those post-Kickstarter valuation rounds would've netted each investor. Even if you know how much money is sitting in a big pile, you can't divvy it up without knowing who receives what.
We'll have to wait and see how Facebook's shadow affects the Rift. However, the Internet vitriol directed at Oculus and Facebook for not giving Kickstarter backers a piece of the pie will hopefully die down soon enough, because the moaners will likely realise that the risks of Kickstarter are plainly stated on Kickstarter itself.
Until then, though, it's fun to play "What If" and see exactly how much money each $300 (£180) Rift "donation" would've returned if the world worked in the manner that a large portion of Kickstarter backers just realised they wanted it to work.