Secretive Startup Magic Leap Loses Top Marketing Executive

(Bloomberg) -- Magic Leap Inc., a secretive augmented reality startup with a massive funding warchest, lost its top marketing executive before the company has even brought its first product to market.

Brian Wallace, a veteran smartphone executive with previous stints at BlackBerry Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co. and Google, left Magic Leap in October, the company confirmed. The startup made waves when it brought Wallace on in April 2014, after closing a $50 million venture capital round.

Since then, Magic Leap has raised more than $1.3 billion in additional capital from tech giants such as Qualcomm Ventures, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. The latest investment round, in February, valued the company at $4.5 billion.

"I did what I set out to do, which was help Rony and the team create one of the most hotly anticipated technology companies in years," Wallace said in an interview, referring to Chief Executive Officer Rony Abovitz. "At this stage though, it’s time for me to move on to other opportunities."

Wallace said he will continue to serve as an adviser to the company.

“Turnover is a normal course of business," Andy Fouche, a Magic Leap spokesman, said. “Wallace did great things and the company benefited as a result greatly."

The Dania Beach, Florida-based startup has gotten attention in Silicon Valley for its audacious aims of generating an entire augmented reality system, what many technology companies see as the next step in computing after smartphones. 

Magic Leap is building the hardware and software systems to support its device, including internet services. The startup has tantalized audiences with videos purportedly captured on its headset, which it claims simulates 3-D images superimposed over the real world. But it has yet to publicly reveal the device.

And some investors and industry experts say the company has grown at an alarming pace. Magic Leap has about 800 full-time employees, Fouche said.

Wallace was among a litany of technology and media executives Magic Leap hired in recent years. A veteran of BlackBerry parent Research in Motion, Wallace moved to Samsung Electronics America in 2011, as the Korean manufacturer staged its aggressive challenge to Apple Inc. for the smartphone market. He ran brand marketing for the Motorola Mobility business when Google owned the handset maker before leaving for Magic Leap.