Deciphering Magic Leap’s History with NLP

Companies lead interesting lives. They grow, contract, thrive or pivot, and their revenues are either increasing or they are counting on continuous funding to keep alive. They hire key people, then they lay off some of them, while they are sometimes the ones being left for good. They sue some company, only to be sued by others. They produce intellectual property hoping to be bought, or they buy other companies for their intellectual property.

Companies in all sizes and shapes experience innumerous events in their lifetime, but as a general rule, t is always very difficult to follow them. Startup databases such as CrunchBase or Pitchbook present lists of basic events such as funding rounds, key hirings, lists of investors and investments, along with a list of the recent relevant news articles. Yet, the information they provide is basic, and not particularly helpful for those who look for a higher resolution data on companies.

Digital company analysis startup Zirra has built an automatic process that delivers insightful outputs on private companies, including a list of possible competitors, their relative level of competition, web traffic, and an automated list of risk and success criteria, in addition to a map of meaningful events during a company’s life. Its proprietary technology allows it to create high-level analysis insights within seconds.

Among the meaningful events detected in the process are product launches, key people joining or leaving the company, mergers & acquisitions, legal issues, partnerships, and funding rounds. The main difference between Zirra’s platform and databases such as CrunchBase, CB Insights or Pitchbook is the use of technology to extract and analyze these meaningful events.

How does Zirra do it? Zirra collects and aggregates data from a myriad of public and private information sources, including structured directories, semi-structured databases, and completely unstructured text. It then utilizes Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to process this large volume of unstructured text and data.

After parsing out an article’s text, Zirra uses entity recognition to find mentions of companies in each article, and then link the article to each company that was found within. Currently, finding events is done using a pattern matching based approach, but machine learning trained models that identify events are just around the corner on the development chart.

After patterns are matched, a process of entity recognition on the matched portion begins so the event can linked to accordingly (i.e, WeWork is in partnership with Airbnb), also making sure that multiple links that need to identified as a single event are grouped together.

Zirra’s advanced capabilities in identifying meaningful events in a company’s lifetime is still in beta. However, it is the first and only service capable of categorizing forgotten or lesser known events, putting them in the right context and chronological order, thus helping investors, analysts, entrepreneurs, and business development managers track a company’s behavior both historically and in real time.

Let’s take AR tech company Magic Leap, who recently raised $502 million in series D, as an example. Searching for the company in Zirra’s homepage will generate the following timeline:

Source: Zirra.com

Let’s pick April 2017, a busy month for Magic Leap. As shown above, Zirra has detected a partnership between Magic Leap and CG animation studio Weta (event 1). Actually, there’s nothing new about the partnership, which goes all the way to April 2016, but a detection of a mention in the New Zealand press about the ongoing partnership tells us that the partnership is still active. This is an important sign in a world where partnerships can fall apart quietly.

Events 2,3, and 4 are actually connected. Zirra detected Magic Leap’s intention to buy Oscar-winning animation studio Moonbot (3), an event that resulted in hiring most of its artists and animators instead. As none of the founders joined Magic Leap (3), the algorithm detected officers leaving the company. At about the same time Magic Leap was rumored to buy Moonbot, it already had completed the acquisition FuzzyCube, a Texas-based game studio founded by former Apple employees (4).

Finally, the algorithm detected a departure from Magic Leap after BuzzFeed’s report about the lawsuit filed against Magic Leap by its former VP of strategic marketing, who alleged that she was fired after trying to correct the company’s gender imbalance. (5). The legal battle appeared later in Magic Leap’s timeline (see below).

Meaningful events detection is still a challenge, and Zirra’s product is still in beta. If you find any inaccuracies, please let us know. Detailed feedback is constructive, and welcomed, as meaningful events detection can only improve with your help. Please try it in Zirra’s homepage –  search for a company and scroll left to see its entire history. Click ‘view sources’ to see the origin of each event’s detection and let us know what you think.  

So How Much Is Magic Leap Really Worth?

What’s going on in Magic Leap? And how does it affects the company’s valuation? In this post, we’ll answer these questions, by laying out the good, the bad and the ugly about the company.

Magic Leap is creating a wearable mixed reality platform which can project 3D computer-generated images over real-world objects. The company claims that its mixed reality platform achieves a better resolution than others, with a new proprietary technique that projects an image directly onto the user’s retina. That is supposed to be done by using embedded multiple structures inside the device that leads the light through a waveguide medium to a point in the field that creates an illusion of a 3D model. Think of millions of prisms inside a headset, each brings the light to a whole different point in the air.

The vision, together with impressive demos done in a refrigerator-sized device, brought big names such as Google, Andreessen-Horowitz, Qualcomm, Kleiner-Perkins and Alibaba to invest a total of $1.4 billion in the company, giving it a valuation of $4.5 billion last year.

Magic Leap has invested in a highly experienced team and has brought on board the likes of science fiction author Neal Stephenson and Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop. The company has partnered with Weta Workshop, the VX studio behind Lord Of The Rings, and with the Star Wars franchise to produce VR content. The buzz intensified with every financial round, and the so was the mystery around the company that grew each time the CEO gave an interview to leading magazines without disclosing too much.

There is currently only a handful of individuals who have seen the product under a non-disclosure agreement, so it has yet to be determined what form the complete platform will take. However, TheInformation.com revealed last month that much of the demos were created by CGI and that the product development is lagging behind that of Microsoft’s Hololens. The news outlet also interviewed Magic Leap’s CEO Roni Abovitz and had some demos that had left it with an impression that the final product is very far from being ready.

The article was pivotal in dissolving the magic behind Magic Leap, and in revealing the troubles the company is facing when miniaturing a refrigerator sized device into a headset. In response to the article, investors have slashed the price they’re willing to pay for Magic Leap stock in the secondary market by about 20%, The Information reported.

The drop is not unique only to Magic Leap, as many unicorns are already suffering from a discount to the last fundraising round. According to the report, Magic Leap’s valuation was estimated at $5.7 billion in the secondary market last November. The discount brought the company’s worth to $4.3 billion, almost back to the valuation it had at the end of 2015. But Zirra, a company that analyzes private tech companies using AI and machine learning had already come to the approximately the same number. Zirra estimates Magic Leap’s current valuation at $4.1-$4.2 billion, while the chances of exit are rather small, no more than %30-%40. [Read here for Zirra’s spotlight report on Magic Leap]

magic leap valuation zirra

Magic Leap didn’t remain silent following the criticism. The company announced it would open a 260,000 square-foot facility in South Florida which would manufacture the devices, and will recruit 725 new employees. Looking at Magic Leap’s total employee count timeline in LinkedIn, the company is on a growth track, and it seems unstoppable. The technical challenges, however, didn’t bring its hirings to a halt.

 

The two biggest unknowns regarding Magic Leap are still the timing of product launch and its advantages over other existing AR technologies such as Hololens or Lumus. Magic Leap’s brand and awareness are still very low, even when comparing to current VR platforms such as Oculus Rift ant HTC Vive.  If the company can succeed in getting their product to market, Magic Leap could have a significant impact on a variety of industries, including education, entertainment, and healthcare. [Read here for Zirra’s spotlight report on Magic Leap]