Update: We received the following statement from Magic Leap about the departure: “Andy Fouche will no longer serve as VP of Public Relations for Magic Leap, Inc. As we sprint full steam ahead toward the launch of Magic Leap One, we are excited to have Brenda Freeman on board as our Chief Marketing Officer. We are creatively aligned, she has already brought fresh energy, excitement, unbounded joy and opportunity to those who choose to play on our team.”
Some moves within the tech industry are notable for the individual who is moving, while others are notable for the timing.
I’d put this mostly in the latter group, with Magic Leap’s vice president in charge of public relations and global relations Andy Fouché tweeting “Thrilled to join stealth startup led by Andy Rubin!” out of the blue, nearly a month after tweeting a link to a TechCrunch article outlining Rubin’s new $500 million investment fund.
Fouché leaves Magic Leap less than a week after an article by The Information (subscription required) questioned the incredibly well-funded company’s readiness to ship a mixed reality product. A LinkedIn profile for Fouché lists him formerly in the Magic Leap position.
The technology that is in a lightweight glasses-sized unit Magic Leap intends to make into a product is apparently not the same as what the The Information writer was shown in his demo with the startup. The demo he received was far bulkier than a slim unit that was never turned on for him, suggesting the company is having trouble miniaturizing some of its most jaw-dropping technology.
CEO Rony Abovitz responded to the article and follow-ons with a series of tweets saying, among other things, the company aimed to build a “soulful computer” that would create a “sacred space for you.” He also quoted Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and linked a number of Wikepedia pages for old music albums. Abovitz has helped secure roughly $1.4 billion in funding for his secretive startup over the last few years.
In response to The Information piece, Abovitz authored an official company blog post saying they’ve built prototypes “of our target form factor.” However, questions remain unanswered about the features these smaller devices have, or how hard the problems are to make them fully functional.
We’ll keep following Magic Leap as closely as possible, but I won’t be signing a non-disclosure agreement before I’m able to see their technology. That puts me in with a very large group of interested folks who can’t simply just “believe” the startup’s technology will be able to compete with the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Google, HTC and Valve.
Overall, we don’t have many data points to pull from when it comes to Magic Leap, but these latest ones suggest all is not well at the startup.