Google, Qualcomm pitch in on $542m Magic Leap funding

Google and Qualcomm, along with others, have stumped up $542 million in a Series B fundraising effort for Florida-based augmented-reality developer Magic Leap.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

Some of the world's largest technology players have leapt at the chance to back Florida-based augmented-reality startup Magic Leap, with Google leading a $542 million Series B financing round, and Qualcomm also pitching in.

The two tech giants were joined by Legendary Entertainment and its CEO Thomas Hull, private equity firm KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz, and Obvious Ventures, among others.

Magic Leap, which was founded in 2011, has developed what it refers to as a "biomimetic" platform called Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal. It hopes to replace traditional smartphone screens with virtual-reality interfaces.

The company, which makes a head-mounted device, is remaining tight lipped about its more recent developments, saying only that it is restrained from providing too much information due to non-disclosure agreements.

"For the time being, we're being a little tight lipped in what we're communicating publicly, but under the appropriate non-disclosures, we'd love to talk possibilities," it said on its website.

It is notable that Google's investment did not come from its venture capital arm, Google Ventures, but rather from Google itself, leading to speculation that the internet giant could be hoping to align the two companies strategically, or eventually partner.

The speculation is backed up by Google's move to appoint its senior vice president of Android, Chrome, and Apps, Sundar Pichai, to Magic Leap's board of directors as part of the deal, along with its vice president of corporate development, Don Harrison, who will be in an observer role.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm's executive chairman Paul E Jacobs will join the Florida-based company's board — also as an observer.

"We are looking forward to Magic Leap's next stage of growth, and to seeing how it will shape the future of visual computing," said Pichai.

Magic Leap founder, CEO, and president Rony Abovitz said he is honoured to have backing from such big players as Google and Qualcomm, with the extra boost set to help the company deliver on its promise to "revolutionise" the way people communicate.

"We are excited and honoured to have such an extraordinary group of investors to help us bring our vision and products to the world," said Abovitz. "Magic Leap is going beyond the current perception of mobile computing, augmented reality, and virtual reality. We are transcending all three, and will revolutionise the way people communicate, purchase, learn, share, and play."

The investment round comes as Intel's global investment organisation Intel Capital announces new investments in several Chinese companies, totalling $28 million.

The company said the investment reflects its commitment to fostering Chinese technology innovation and accelerating China Technology Ecosystems' (CTE) development in smartphones, tablets, wearables, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

"Smart and connected devices represent some of the most exciting new areas in technology, and with China maintaining one of the world's most robust technology ecosystems, these technologies are poised for dynamic growth," said Ian Yang, Intel Corporate vice president and president of Intel China. "We believe Intel's long-term commitment to and continuous investment in China will accelerate the growth of the China technology ecosystem and help bring profound changes to the ICT industry, both within China and globally."

The companies in which Intel Capital has invested include iris-recognition technology company EyeSmart Technology, communications service provider Shanghai Ailiao Information Technology, and Io Tans internet communications provider Shenzhen Fibocom Industrial Development.

The $100 million Intel Capital China Smart Device Innovation Fund, established earlier this year, aims to provide capital to Chinese companies focused on accelerating innovation of smart devices, including tablets, smartphones, PCs, wearables, the IoT, and other related technologies in China.

It is Intel Capital's third fund for China, including the $200 million Intel Capital Technology Fund and the $500 million Intel Capital Technology Fund II, which were established in 2005 and 2008, respectively.

Singapore's venture capital player Tembusu Partners has also made a substantial new investment, putting S$7 million ($5.6 million) into the Singapore-based personalised call URL company, GNum.

GNum, a subsidiary of GlobalRoam, said it has developed a patent-pending technology that allows calls from electronic devices such as a PC, tablet, or mobile phone, to be routed to a GNum user's mobile phone, without the need for a prior application download.

GNum said it will use the funding to acquire related technologies and for working capital as it prepares for a nationwide rollout in Singapore in the coming months, before launching in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Philippines. GNum will also launch in the United States, China, Hong Kong, India, and Australia following the south-east Asia rollout.

Meanwhile, in Australia, Telstra's startup accelerator muru-D has announced the intake of its second "class", naming eight young businesses, including a sponsorship marketplace called FanFuel, digital freight transporter marketplace FreightExchange, and hybrid education platform VClass.

As in its first round, muru-D will provide AU$40,000 seed capital investment in return for 6 percent equity in the business, along with six months of business support, a collaborative workspace, mentoring, and coaching to help the startups grow, develop, and expand.

"Nurturing innovation within Australia is critical to ensure we're continuing to fuel our economy with exciting and disruptive technology companies," said Charlotte Yarkoni, executive director, Telstra Software Group and muru-D co-founder. "If we don't innovate, we risk becoming irrelevant. It's a priority for Telstra, and we're starting to see it become a priority for more and more organisations, which is very exciting for everyone involved in the business."

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