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Oculus' Brendan Iribe is latest founder to leave Facebook

San Francisco

FACEBOOK Inc is losing another long-tenured founder from an acquired company: Brendan Iribe, who was the chief executive officer of Oculus VR when Facebook bought it in 2014. "This will be the first real break I've taken in over 20 years," Mr Iribe wrote on his Facebook page, without giving a specific reason for his departure. "It's time to recharge, reflect and be creative."

Mr Iribe was most recently the vice president of computer-tethered virtual reality. His departure comes shortly after the founders of Instagram and the CEO of WhatsApp also left the Facebook-controlled units.

The purchase of Instagram, for US$715 million in 2012, demonstrated that Facebook, as a parent company, could successfully keep an acquired company independent and under the leadership of its founders. That helped lure WhatsApp, for US$22 billion, and Oculus, for US$2 billion, both in 2014. After the founders' exits, all of Facebook's biggest acquired properties are now under tighter control by Facebook.

Mr Iribe had already stepped away from CEO duties at Oculus. In December 2016, he shifted to a role that focused more narrowly on the company's computer-connected Oculus Rift devices. A month later, the company hired Hugo Barra from Xiaomi Corp to run its virtual reality products under Andrew Bosworth, a long-time Facebook executive. Palmer Luckey, the Oculus founder credited with inventing the Rift device, left shortly thereafter.

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In 2012, when Mr Luckey was 19, Mr Iribe heard about what he was working on. With his friends Nate Mitchell and Michael Antonov, he helped Mr Luckey turn his hacked-together prototype into a business idea, running a successful Kickstarter campaign to get the device to the public.

Mr Luckey would play the role of product wunderkind, with a compelling story to tell about building the device in his garage, and Mr Iribe would be the CEO, thinking about how to make it all a reality.

"We assembled one of the greatest research and engineering teams in history, delivered the first step of true virtual presence with Oculus Rift and Touch, and inspired an entirely new industry," Mr Iribe said. "We started a revolution that will change the world in ways we can't even envision."BLOOMBERG

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