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Leap Motion passed on multiple $50M acquisition efforts by Apple because of founders' attitudes

Apple was close to acquiring augmented reality startup Leap Motion earlier this year, its second attempt to buy the firm, but a report claims the deal fell through days before it was due to close, with the company's co-founders' opinions of Apple likely to have caused the purchase to fail.

The Leap Motion controller allowed gesture controls of a Mac using an extra peripheral

The Leap Motion controller allowed gesture controls of a Mac using an extra peripheral


Apple was allegedly close to acquiring Leap Motion, creators of a gesture-based controller, for somewhere between $30 million and $50 million in the spring of 2018. Apple is said to have talked to the startup's human resources department and had dispatched official offer letters at the time, shortly before the offer fell through.

While it is unknown exactly what caused the failure, multiple anonymous employees told Business Insider the collapse may have been caused by "swirling negatives" around the firm. The negativity was blamed by the staff on co-founders Michael Buckwald and David Holz, with the latter's activity in an earlier acquisition attempt likely to have been an influence on Apple's decision.

The initial attempt from 2013 involved a meeting between the cofounders and Apple, but the meeting apparently went poorly. CTO Holz is said to have been disinterested in the offer to buy both the team and the intellectual property, but was also reportedly insulting, accusing Apple of not being innovative, that it's technology "sucked," and praised Android.

A report source who worked at the time claims Holz was spouting off comments like "I'm never going to work for those guys, they're the devil."

Apple continued to show interest in acquiring the company, even though Holz' opinion of Apple worked against such a purchase.

The most recent attempt to buy the firm is far below what the company was worth previously, with Series B funding in late 2013 valuing the firm at approximately $306 million. Despite a secondary funding round in 2017 worth $50 million and a shift of focus to augmented reality, Leap Motion's continued existence has apparently not gone to plan.

Sources advised of poor management decisions plaguing the firm, such as spending funds on offices in the expensive SoMa area of San Francisco, before moving out and relocating to the cheaper Financial District.

It is likely that Apple's interest in the firm is due to its work in augmented reality, a field Apple has joined with ARKit for iOS, as well as rumors of an AR headset or "smart glasses" in development. Leap Motion also has over 100 patents and applications, which could be attractive for Apple to acquire.