By Nancy Dahlberg

Rony Abovitz is stepping down as CEO of Magic Leap, the South Florida spatial computing startup he founded in his garage.

Just a week after reports he had raised $350 million in funding, Abovitz sent an email to employees on Thursday, as reported by Business Insider.

 “As the board and I planned the changes we made and what Magic Leap needs for this next focused phase, it became clear to us that a change in my role was a natural next step. I discussed this with the board and we have agreed that now is the time to bring in a new CEO who can help us to commercialize our focused plan for spatial computing in enterprise. We have been actively recruiting candidates for this role and I look forward to sharing more soon,” said his email, which is also now on its website.

In April, Abovitz announced the  company would turn its focus from the consumer market to the enterprise market, requiring an undisclosed number of job losses. Thursday, he said he would be remaining as CEO through the transition and is in discussions with the board on his role going forward to “provide strategy and vision from a board level.” 

“We have created a new field. A new medium. And together we have defined the future of computing. I am amazed at everything we have built and look forward to everything Magic Leap will create in the decades to come,” he said in the memo. “I remain super excited about Magic Leap’s future and believe deeply in our team and all of their incredible talent and capabilities.”

Magic Leap’s website has been revamped to feature enterprise applications. Abovitz’s note confirmed the funding round and reiterated that the company was close to closing key strategic enterprise partnerships.

With a dream of changing the world by creating a more natural form of computing  that wouldn’t require a phone, Abovitz founded the “mixed reality” startup in his garage in 2011. Before starting Magic Leap, Abovitz was co-founder of Mako Surgical, the South Florida medical robotics company that sold for $1.65 billion to Stryker in 2013. He is a biomedical engineering alumnus of University of Miami.

Abovitz built the innovative Magic Leap in South Florida, bucking the trend of Silicon Valley. In 2015, Abovitz toasted to the secretive startup’s new 260,000-square-foot Plantation headquarters at a public groundbreaking with local officials and hundreds of employees and over the years employment at the HQ reportedly grew to more than 1,000. 

It’s “a thousand times harder” to build a company in South Florida, Abovitz said in 2016 at Blacktech Week;  “For me it is like a badge of honor — I am going to do it here and I don’t care.”  From the stage of eMerge Americas in 2017, he said basing his company in Plantation let him to get away from “the noise and group think” of the West Coast and think clearly. “We’re trying to make science fiction real.”

The company raised its first significant funding in 2014 and has gone on to bring in close to $3 billion in venture capital,  putting South Florida on the map for capital raising. Magic Leap unveiled its first product, Magic Leap 1 Creator Edition, a headset, in 2017, and is working on Magic Leap 2 with more capabilities and features for the enterprise market. In recent months, the company struggled amid underwhelming consumer sales, media reports said.

 “Starting a company is like doing 100 Iron Mans [competitions] in a row,” Abovitz told an audience at University of Miami, his alma mater, in 2015, in one of his first South Florida public appearances since starting the company. “Don’t do it if it is not rocking, if it’s not awesome.”

Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz speaks at BlackTech Week in Miami in 2016, where he talked about the importance of diversity in innovation. In photo at top of post, he speaks at University of Miami in 2015. Photos by Nancy Dahlberg, who has covered Magic Leap since early 2014.

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Nancy Dahlberg
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