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Enjoy Your $500 T-Shirt: Kickstarter Backers Get Nada in Oculus Sale

Enjoy Your $500 T-Shirt: Kickstarter Backers Get Nada in Oculus Sale
Photograph by David Caudery/Edge Magazine via Getty Images

Venture capital firms Spark Capital and Matrix Partners made a 2,000 percent return on their early investments in Oculus VR, the virtual reality company acquired yesterday by Facebook. It’s a potent reminder of how profitable a timely bet on a startup can be. Nine thousand, five hundred, and twenty-two people who backed the venture even earlier than that, though, on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, are getting a multiple of exactly zero for their prescience.

The difference highlights the raw deal that Kickstarter users get from an investment standpoint. The money they chip in to promising ideas isn’t equity, so in addition to taking the risk of getting nothing if a project turns out to be vaporware, they also get none of the upside if the project takes off. Spark and Matrix each put $19 million into Oculus in 2013, a year after the Kickstarter campaign was completed; those stakes are now worth $380 million each, Bloomberg News reports, citing people with knowledge of the deals. Kickstarter believers have nothing to show for their $2.4 million besides T-shirts, signed posters, the promise of VR prototypes, and “a sincere thank you.”