AR startup Magic Leap secures $793.5m funding led by Alibaba

Chinese conglomerate Alibaba Group has led a $793.5 million investment round for Florida-based augmented reality firm Magic Leap, with continued investment from Google and Qualcomm.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Augmented reality (AR) startup Magic Leap has secured $793.5 million in its latest funding round, led by Chinese giant Alibaba Group.

According to Rony Abovitz, founder, president and CEO of Magic Leap, the multi-million dollar investment will help accelerate the availability of the company's "Mixed Reality Lightfield experience".

"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," he said.

"Here at Magic Leap we are creating a new world where digital and physical realities seamlessly blend together to enable amazing new experiences."

In a blog post, Abovitz describes Mixed Reality Lightfield as a living river of light sculpture, which can transmit the feelings of magic and experience and presence.

"It comes to life by following the rules of the eye and the brain, by being gentle, and by working with us, not against us," he said. "By following as closely as possible the rules of nature and biology, we can deliver what is truly next."

In addition to the funds injected by Alibaba, continued investment in the Florida-based startup came from large names such as Google Inc. and Qualcomm Ventures with new cash injections from Warner Bros, Fidelity Management & Research Company, J.P. Morgan Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc, and Wellington Management Company.

In late 2014, Google and Qualcomm led a $542 million Series B fundraising effort for Magic Leap, whilst Alibaba has not previously invested in AR.

"We invest in forward-thinking, innovative companies like Magic Leap that are developing leading products and technologies," Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman at Alibaba, said. "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."

It has been reported that Tsai will also join the Magic Leap board.

With revenue of 77 billion yuan for the nine months ending December 31 at hand, Alibaba group has not been light on investments.

In September, the Chinese giant entered into a what it called a strategic agreement with One97 Communications, the parent company of India's largest mobile payment and commerce platform Paytm.

The conglomerate also injected $4.63 billion into Chinese retail chain Suning for a 19.99 percent stake, in an effort to extend its retail presence. In return, Suning claimed a 1.1 percent stake in the company, for a cost of $2.2 billion.

In 2014, Alibaba invested $248.88 million for a 10.35 percent stake in Singapore's telecommunications and postal service, SingPost, and in August, the ecommerce giant increased its stake to 66 percent following a $206.45 million investment.

Alibaba also pumped $600 million into Travice Inc, the Chinese operator of taxi app Kuaidi Dache, in January this year, and only days later snapped up an undisclosed stake in AdChina, an online marketing firm, in order to boost its advertising portfolio.

Bolstering its mobile hardware presence, Alibaba then took a $590 million minority stake in home-grown smartphone manufacturer, Meizu.

In June, Alibaba invested $194 million for an undisclosed stake in China Business News, a local financial media firm that produces both TV programs and newspapers; and also sank $118 million into Softbank Robotics Holdings, preparing for what Alibaba's executive chairman Jack Ma labelled the "Fourth Industrial Revolution".

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