The growth of Oculus

The VR company’s VP of product Nate Mitchell discusses the firm’s growth and how Facebook has affected the talent it is attracting and who it is looking to hire
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This year, some of the best and brightest in the industry have headed to Oculus VR, including 343 Industries’ Kenneth Scott, Google’s Adrian Wong, Naughty Dog’s Jason Rubin and PopCap’s Bernard Yee.

Oculus’ VP of product Nate Mitchell tells Develop that historically the firm has staffed its development business faster than other areas. 

“The company was initially led by 90 per cent engineers,” he says. “We didn’t spend a huge amount on business people. Now we’re an organisation of 175 people and we are constantly doing partnerships with our publishing divisions, and that’s why we need more great business people, such as Jason Rubin. But development always comes first.”

There are a huge number of senior developers working at the firm – which was essential when Oculus was a
start-up – but fresh blood is needed. 

“Even now Oculus has a higher average age than most games start-ups,” Mitchell says. “It helped us move fast because we had talented people to tackle hard problems. 

“But when you look at building a sustainable company you really do need a younger talent pool. Younger talent also generally brings creative thinking, not more so than the other, it’s outside the box thinking. We’ve done a lot to ramp up an internship programme and made a significant amount of junior hires. 

“If I could go back in time, I’d set those things up sooner – they’re not easy things to put in place. As soon as you bring on interns, someone has to supervise them. There are trade-offs at every turn. We’re reaching the point for sustained growth in the future.”

We need more great business people, but development always comes first.

Nate Mitchell, Oculus VR

But in spite of its acquisition by Facebook, Mitchell says that the firm is being careful about its growth

“There’s never been a number that we wanted to grow to,” he says. “The rule of thumb is that you never want to scale a company by 60 per cent annually because you end up with more young people than old people and lose a sense of culture. 

“It’s so hard to add that many people. We have 175 now, so if we round that up to 200, maybe next year we’ll be around the 300 mark. We’ll only grow as much as we need to.“

So how has the Facebook acquisition affected how new faces arrive at the VR firm?

“For a lot of people Oculus was still a start-up. I’d argue it still is,” Mitchell says. “There’s a huge amount of risk in that. And for people taking big salaries at Google, Microsoft or Apple, it’s hard to walk away to join this VR start-up. 

“When Facebook steps in, it really adds a long-term stability and removes a lot of the risk. It starts to feel like a real thing. And the benefits don’t hurt. We can now afford new talent. There are people whose base salaries were way out of our price range. We had equity for our employees, and that’s meant to offset our salary costs. Now we are owned by Facebook, we can offer more normal salaries.“

When Facebook purchased Oculus, there was talk about the VR hardware having uses outside of gaming. Has the firm’s needs changed to reflect this?

“Our development needs haven’t changed, except for the need for fewer web engineers. Facebook has a lot of those,” Mitchell says. ′

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