Update: Magic Leap confirmed its round — $793.5 million series C at a $4.5 billion valuation — which was led by Alibaba. The Chinese firm did get a seat on the company’s board, but that is being taken by Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai not Jack Ma as we initially reported.
Magic Leap, the much-hyped augmented reality company that’s raised over $500 million, doesn’t have a consumer product yet, but that isn’t stopping the company from focusing on the potential of the Chinese entertainment market. And raising more money, too.
The Florida-based company is adding Alibaba founder and executive president Jack Ma to its board of directors as part of an upcoming Series C funding round that values it at $5 billion, a source close to Magic Leap told TechCrunch.
Ma is poised to take the role as Magic Leap closes its latest tranche of funding, which our insider confirmed includes participation from Alibaba. TechCrunch understands that the round was announced internally in the middle of January and will be made public soon. Re/Code this week reported that the round is $827 million — that’s the same figure Forbes reported on in December — at a valuation of “at least” $3.7 billion. The source told us that, in fact, this Series C round could be worth as much as $900 million but, more interestingly, it will push Magic Leap’s valuation to $5 billion.
To date, media coverage has primarily focused on Magic Leap’s potential within the virtual reality and hardware spaces — Google CEO Sundar Pichai, also a Magic Leap board member, previously discussed his excitement at gaming and wearables — but there’s vast opportunity around content production and effects, as the company’s demos have shown.
In that respect, the involvement of Alibaba is huge. Best known as China’s dominant e-commerce player, the Alibaba Group has a diverse range of business interests which include a growing media portfolio. Beyond the web and a recent $3.5 billion deal to buy Youku Tudou — “China’s YouTube” — Ma’s firm has built out Alibaba Pictures Group, a division reportedly worth $10 billion that was created via an $804 million deal to buy production firm ChinaVision back in 2014. While it is still yet to release a film, Alibaba Pictures has been actively producing content for one year now and is working with companies like Disney on China distribution. A line into the company via this investment is sure to present future business opportunities for Magic Leap.