UPDATE: 8:31 a.m. -- Magic Leap has confirmed it has raised $793.5 million in new funding valuing it at $4.5 billion, with Alibaba leading the round with Google, Qualcomm and Warner Bros also investing in the secretive startup.
“Here at Magic Leap we are creating a new world where digital and physical realities seamlessly blend together to enable amazing new experiences. This investment will accelerate bringing our new Mixed Reality Lightfield experience to everyone,” said Rony Abovitz, founder, president, and CEO of Magic Leap in a statement. “We are excited to welcome Alibaba as a strategic partner to help introduce Magic Leap’s breakthrough products to the over 400 million people on Alibaba’s platforms.”
While it had been reported that Alibaba CEO Jack Ma would be joining the Magic Leap board, it will in fact be Alibaba's executive vice chairman Joe Tsai who takes the seat. "We believe Alibaba can both provide support to and learn from such a partner, and we look forward to working with the Magic Leap team,” Tsai said.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Abovitz said Magic Leap's mysterious product, which has been in development for four years already, is not that far away: "We are actively in product development, manufacturing operations and supply chain lines,” he said, adding the company will “be in the market relatively soon.”
Augmented and virtual reality are set to be the topics that dominate the tech landscape in 2016 and one of the most talked-about, Magic Leap, is reported to have just closed its latest funding round, raising over $900 million at a valuation of $5 billion and adding Alibaba CEO Jack Ma to its board of directors.
While it may be one of the most talked about companies in this industry, it is also one of the least understood as it keeps its cards very close to its chest about just what it is developing. The company, which is based in Florida, is thought to be developing a consumer-focused augmented reality headset akin to Google Glass, and it has shown off a number of demonstrations of how the technology will work over the last 12 months, but has yet to reveal what its product looks like.
According to multiple reports this week, Magic Leap announced it had closed a Series C funding round internally in the middle of January and is expected to announce it publicly this week. According to a report from TechCrunch Tuesday, the funding round will be in excess of $900 million giving Magic Leap a valuation of $5 billion. The insider speaking to the publication adds that with Alibaba among the principal investors in the latest round, its CEO Jack Ma will also be joining Magic Leap's board of directors.
Another report from Re/code Monday said the funding round closed at $827 million, with the company being valued at $3.7 billion — though it did add that the funding round could be even bigger. Magic Leap has already raised $500 million in previous rounds with Google among the biggest investors in the company, with its CEO Sundar Pichai also on the board of directors.
Magic Leap has made no announcement regarding when it will launch its first product, how much it will cost or if it will work independently or need to be tethered to a smartphone, PC or games console. However Abovitz said Magic Leap’s devices will be “beautiful, light,…mobile and probably much smaller than most people would expect.”
In 2016, we have already seen Facebook's Oculus Rift launch on pre-order while Sony's PlayStation VR and HTC's Vive headset — built in collaboration with Valve — are expected to launch before the end of the year. Microsoft has its own enterprise-focused HoloLens headset while Google and Apple are both said to be ramping up their virtual reality efforts.
The original Google Glass was shelved after it failed to live up to consumer expectations but those few non-employees who have tried Magic Leap's technology have been effusive in their praise of what they have seen.
I’ve had the Magic Leap demo. It was worth going to Florida for.
— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) October 21, 2015