Brendan Iribe announced that he has stepped down as CEO of Oculus. The executive will take control of the PC VR side of the business and let someone else run the day-to-day company operations.
Iribe served as CEO of Oculus from the day it was founded, overseeing everything from the company’s lucrative Kickstarter campaign, the hardware development progress of the Rift developer kits, internal prototypes, and the Rift CV1. Iribe took to the stage on many occasions to publicly announce Oculus’ progress, and he is the executive that so succinctly summed up how his company kept the price and release date of the Rift from leaking early. “The best way to keep a secret is not to know the answer,” he told me at CES 2016.
Iribe faced a difficult year of setbacks and PR problems. When the Rift first launched, the company faced backlash over the price because it was much higher than previously expected. Oculus also had to contend with having a limited product compared to the HTC Vive, which launched a week later. Things only got worse for Oculus over the summer when the tech media and public blasted company founder, Palmer Luckey, for his involvement with an anti-Hillary political group. (Luckey hasn’t been seen or heard from in public since.)
From our perspective, Iribe handled himself well as CEO and successfully navigated Oculus through tumultuous times. Outside perspectives rarely get the full picture, and it appears that although Iribe has performed the job of CEO well, his heart lies in the technology, not in running a company. “As we’ve grown, I really missed the deep, day-to-day involvement in building a brand new product on the leading edge of technology,” said Iribe.
As Oculus moves forward into the future, it will focus on two distinct divisions instead of one large group. The company is splitting into two groups: The PC VR group, which will focus on the future of the Rift, and the mobile VR group, which will focus on advancing mobile VR technologies. Jon Thomason will lead the mobile VR group, and Brendan Iribe is stepping down as CEO to head the PC VR group.
“You do your best work when you love what you’re working on. If that’s not the case, you need to make a change,” said Iribe. “With this new role, I can dive back into engineering and product development. That’s what gets me up every day, inspired to run to work.”
Oculus hasn’t named an interim CEO, and it doesn’t have a permanent replacement in mind yet. Iribe and Thomason will work with Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s CTO, to find an appropriate leader for the company.