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Google investment reflects high-tech gains for region February 17, 2015

Visit Magic Leap’s website, www.magicleap.com, and an image of an elephant seems to levitate from a person’s hands fostering a three-dimensional perspective and a typical response of, “That’s cool!” What this has to do with the marine industry may not be immediately clear, but the über-tech company’s recent move to Dania Beach reflects the region’s technological skills, investor interest and riches, the area’s welcoming climate and the appeal of access to a water-based outdoor lifestyle.

The company’s visual technology “product” is initially targeting the film and entertainment industries to “immerse” movie- and concert-goers, and others, into the performances. An actual consumer product is said to be in development, though no date has been given for its release. The company’s website describes the technology as “revolutionary in its ability to create amazingly immersive and fantastical experiences.”

Magic Leap moved from Hollywood, Fl., to Dania Beach, Fl., last June, signing an eight-year lease at the Design Center of The Americas. “We’ve been growing extremely fast and needed a much bigger space,” commented Rony Abovitz, Magic Leap President and CEO. “We also wanted a space that reflected a core belief of ours, that to make truly great products they must also be beautifully designed. The DCOTA building, and its support of the design, technology, entertainment, and arts communities in Florida, perfectly met these requirements.”

Last October, the company raised $542 million in venture capital in a financing effort led by Google Inc., with participation from Qualcomm Ventures, Legendary Entertainment, including a personal investment from CEO Thomas Tull, KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz, Obvious Ventures, and other investors. The investment moved the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area to Number 11 on the national venture capital ranking list last year; statewide, Florida ranked in the top 10 nationally, with 45 venture deals for a total of $863 million, according to the Pricewaterhouse Coopers/National Venture Capital Association MoneyTree™ Report.

In a January Business Insider article, Abovitz was described as a family man who “has traveled around the world but has always kept his life firmly planted in Florida … he got his master’s in biomedical engineering at the University of Miami. … He says Magic Leap will remain in Florida, even though conventional wisdom says it makes more sense to move to Boston or Silicon Valley. Abovitz wants to turn Magic Leap into a large tech company, ‘the size of an Apple’ in Dania Beach.”

Abovitz’s business and continued development and funding will surely have a positive impact on the local economy and region’s growing high-tech reputation. As for the venture capitalists, who have been known for spending some of their gains on everything from sophisticated fishing boats to megayachts, as well as philanthropic pursuits, their South Florida investment, presence and potential visits for yachting maintenance and refit opportunities will be icing on the industry cake.

Google founders Larry Page and Eric Schmidt are yachting devotees. Page sits on the boards of several nonprofits, but his personal philanthropy is said to be channeled through Google, according to the editors at Inside Philanthropy. Most of his giving is directed toward technological advancement, particularly in the clean energy sector. He owns the 194-foot Senses motoryacht.

Schmidt and his wife Wendy are active philanthropists through their Schmidt Family Foundation, which works to advance the wiser use of energy and natural resources and to support efforts worldwide that empower communities to build resilient systems for food, water, and human resources. They own the 194-foot Oasis.

Tom Perkins, co-founder of Kleiner Perkins, launched his 289-foot sailing yacht named The Maltese Falcon in 2006, at the time, and still, the world’s largest privately owned sailing yacht. He sold it for a reported £60 million in 2009. In 2011 he bought a Japanese fisheries training vessel and had it converted to an adventure “yacht” (Dr. No) with a two-passenger Super Falcon submarine that can be used for research expeditions.

Vulcan Capital founder Paul Allen, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, has a reported lifetime giving of about $1 billion and is referred to as one of the top philanthropists in America. His Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has a goal to transform individual lives and strengthen communities by supporting arts and culture, youth engagement, community development and social change, as well as scientific and technological innovation. Allen has owned several yachts, including the 400-plus-foot Octopus.

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Marine Industries Association of South Florida. 2312 S. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316. Phone: 954.524.2733