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Daily Crunch: Magic Leap gets a new CEO

There’s new leadership at troubled startup Magic Leap, Uber launches grocery delivery and Palantir files to go public. Here’s your Daily Crunch for July 7, 2020.

The big story: Magic Leap has a new CEO

Can Peggy Johnson, the former vice president of business development at Microsoft, turn things around for Magic Leap? The augmented/mixed reality company laid off most of its staff in April, and while it managed to raise another $375 million to keep going, that fundraise meant the departure of founder and CEO Rony Abovitz.

Johnson will officially take over on August 1. She’s been at Microsoft since 2014, where she was involved in the $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn. Before that, she spent 24 years at Qualcomm.

“Magic Leap’s technological foundation is undeniable, and there is no question that has the potential to shape the future of XR and computing,” Johnson said in a statement.

The tech giants

Alphabet’s Loon launches its balloon-powered Kenyan internet service — Loon is creating high-altitude balloons that are supposed to provide cell service and internet access in areas where mountainous terrain makes it difficult to install ground infrastructure.

Uber grocery delivery launches in Latin America and Canada, US to follow later this month — Uber is starting grocery delivery in 19 cities, with plans to launch in Miami and Dallas later this month.

Amazon Prime Video finally launches user profiles to all customers worldwide — With user profiles, Prime Video viewers will be able to manage their own watchlists and track their own viewing progress, without getting it all mixed up with other viewers on the same account.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Secretive data startup Palantir has confidentially filed for an IPO — Aside from the fact that it has filed confidentially, Palantir (which is known for its work with the U.S. government and intelligence community) did not provide any information about its offering.

TikTok faces ban in the US; pulls out of Hong Kong — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the U.S. government is “certainly looking” at banning the popular video app.

Facebook-backed Unacademy acquires PrepLadder for $50 million — Unacademy is one of the leading edtech companies in India, while PrepLadder says it has more than 80,000 subscribers.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

8 Black investors discuss the intersection of race, tech and funding — We surveyed eight Black VCs about their investment strategy and their approach to diversity.

Email is broken and Hey’s Jason Fried is here to fix it — An in-depth interview with the creator of the popular new email app.

(Reminder: Extra Crunch is our subscription membership program, designed to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Kerry Washington is coming to Disrupt 2020 — The “Scandal” star has also invested in The Wing, Community and Byte. And she’s coming to Disrupt!

Dear Sophie: What does the new online classes rule mean for F-1 students? — International students have been allowed to remain in the U.S. while taking online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic, but ICE says that will end this fall. Immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn discusses what this means for a startup whose co-founder is a student with an F-1 visa.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Magic Leap has apparently raised another $350 million, in spite of itself

Magic Leap has reportedly received a $350 million lifeline, a month after slashing 1,000 jobs and dropping its consumer business. Noted by Business Insider and confirmed by The Information, CEO Rony Abovitz sent a note to staff announcing the funding, courtesy of unnamed current and new investors.

The who — and more importantly, why — isn’t clear. A key healthcare company may be involved. Whatever the case, the company is withdrawing the WARN notice (a 60-day notification for large-scale layoffs) sent to staff in late April. The move represents an apparent reversal of the massive layoff round it previously announced.

In spite of the change, it seems that the lavishly funded augmented reality company still plans to turn all of its focus to the enterprise, as previously announced — a move that puts it in more direct competition with the likes of Microsoft’s HoloLens.

“We are making very good progress in our healthcare, enterprise, and defense deals,” Abovitz writes. “As these deals close, we will be able to announce them.”

Magic Leap cited COVID-19 as a key reason for April’s news. But the company wasn’t exactly the picture of consumer hardware success prior to the shutdown. In spite of raising an eye-popping $2.6 billion across nine rounds, the company’s early days were defined far more by hype than public progress. After years of teaser videos, its first device ultimately left much to be desired.

We’re reached out to the company for comment.

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Daily Crunch: What went wrong at Magic Leap

Magic Leap may be on its last legs, the next iPhone could be delayed by a month and WhatsApp says its efforts to slow the spread of misinformation are working.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for April 27, 2020.

1. Magic Leap’s $2.6 billion bait and switch

“Why are people still giving Magic Leap money?” our own Lucas Matney asked a year ago. The company’s device sales were terrible. Last month it sought an acquisition for a $10 billion price tag that Josh Constine called “crazy.” Most recently, it laid off half the company and pivoted to enterprise.

Now columnist Jon Evans looks back at what went wrong. The issue, he concludes, is that Magic Leap never managed to miniaturize its breakthrough technology into anything actually releasable.

2. The next iPhone could be delayed a month, as pandemic wears on

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the iPhone 12 may be among the devices impacted by unexpected COVID-19 issues. Apple is supposedly “pushing back the production ramp-up” of the new devices owing to manufacturing issues in Asia and “weakened global consumer demand.”

3. WhatsApp’s new limit cuts virality of ‘highly forwarded’ messages by 70%

WhatsApp’s bid earlier this month to cut the virality of messages circulating on its platform by introducing a forwarding limit has already started to pay off.

4. Facebook launches drop-in video chat Rooms to rival Houseparty

Facebook is co-opting some of the top video chat innovations like Zoom’s gallery view for large groups and Houseparty’s spontaneous hangouts for a new feature called Rooms.

5. Coronavirus could push consumers away from influencers and toward streaming TV

LiveRamp TV’s Jay Prasad notes that prior to the onset of coronavirus, the influencer trend was diminishing while the streaming TV trend became more prominent. Today, influencers have actually seen increased levels of engagement — but they face credibility issues, which could lead to a reduction in perceived value to brands. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Brave accuses European governments of GDPR resourcing failure

Brave, maker of a pro-privacy browser, has lodged complaints with the European Commission against 27 EU Member States for under resourcing their national data protection watchdogs. The company has compiled a report to back up the complaints, in which it chronicles a drastic shortage of tech expertise and budget resource among Europe’s privacy agencies to enforce the region’s data protection framework.

7. Codota picks up $12M for an AI platform that auto-completes developers’ code

Codota is an Israeli startup that provides an AI tool for developers to let them autocomplete strings of code that they are writing — intended both to speed up their work (it claims to “boost productivity by 25%”) and to make sure that the code is using the right syntax and “spelled” correctly.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Where’s the Zoom of VR?

Remote collaboration tools like Zoom are gathering massive amounts of attention as people begin working from home en masse. But, as with most trends, virtual reality seems to be sitting out this boom.
This should be surprising to absolutely no one, but the lack of widespread adoption is not for …

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Desperate to exit, a $10B price tag for Magic Leap is crazy

Augmented reality headset maker Magic Leap has struggled with the laws of physics and failed to get to market. Now it’s seeking an acquirer, but talks with Facebook and medical goods giant Johnson & Johnson led nowhere according to a new report from Bloomberg’s Ed Hammond.
After raising over $2 …

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XYZ Reality secures £5M to bring a hologram headset to the construction industry

Augmented Reality technology did not, it turned out, light the touch paper on a booming new industry. What we got instead was a few cute applications on smartphones and devices like Microsoft’s Hololens, which has seen pretty limited success.
Where AR has proved that it may have a future …

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Will Apple, Facebook or Microsoft be the future of augmented reality?

Apple is seen by some as critical to the future of augmented reality, despite limited traction for ARKit so far and its absence from smartglasses (again, so far). Yet Facebook, Microsoft and others are arguably more important to where the market is today.

While there are more AR platforms than just these companies, they represent the top of the pyramid for three different types of AR roadmap. And while startup insurgents could make a huge difference, big platforms can exert disproportionate influence on the future of tech markets. Let’s see what this could mean for the future of AR.

Facebook: The messaging play

Facebook has talked about its long-term potential to launch smartglasses, but in 2020, its primary presence in the AR market is as a mobile AR platform (note: Facebook is also a VR market leader with Oculus). Although there are other ways to define them, mobile AR platforms can be thought of as three broad types:

  1. messaging-based (e.g. Facebook Messenger, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Line)
  2. OS-based (e.g. Apple ARKit, Google ARCore)
  3. web-based (e.g. 8th Wall, Torch, others)

Source: TechCrunch