Mixed reality startup Magic Leap has named Peggy Johnson, formerly EVP of Business Development at Microsoft, to be its new CEO with effect from August 1. She takes over from former CEO founder and Rony Abovitz, who announced in May that he would be stepping down.
In her recent role at Microsoft, Johnson was responsible for the development, collaboration, and growth of Microsoft’s relationships with external partners and enterprises globally. She also led M12, Microsoft’s corporate venture fund. Prior to Microsoft, she spent over two decades at Qualcomm, including heading its global market development division. Today, she serves on the Board of Directors of BlackRock, Inc., and has received a variety of industry accolades including Business Insider’s “#1 Most Powerful Female Engineer in 2017,” and one of Silicon Republic’s “40 Powerful Women Leading Tech Around the World”.
Abovitz said of her appointment: “We have been fortunate to have a number of extremely qualified candidates express interest in the position of CEO. However, as soon as Peggy raised her hand there was no question in my mind, or the Board’s, that she was absolutely the best person to lead this company into the future. As Magic Leap drives towards commercializing spatial computing for enterprise, I can’t think of a better and more capable leader than Peggy Johnson to carry our mission forward.
Johnson had reportedly actively sought the position, reaching out to Abovitz to express interest when the news of his departure broke. Now, the appointment will make her one of a scant handful of women leading hard tech startups.
Business-wise, however, Johnson may face considerable challenges with Magic Leap. The startup, founded in 2010, took eight years to release its first consumer product and then found an unenthusiastic reception. Then, as the company sought to pivot away from the consumer business and towards the B2B segment, COVID-19 hit the physical events and venues that would otherwise have been its main business channels.