Leap Motion Approached by Apple Twice for a Buyout, Deal Fails Both Times

Nearly every major player in the tech industry is getting into augmented reality and virtual reality. But one company that has kept relatively mum on the trend is Apple. Not only is the Cupertino outfit known for its secrecy, but they also have a penchant for staying on the cutting edge. That only makes the silence that much more odd – so what gives?

Apparently, Apple has made moves behind the scenes to acquire augmented reality and VR firms, albeit in a much more quiet way than others.

One failed acquisition that Venture Beat is reporting about today is that of Leap Motion, the company behind the motion-tracking hardware that has applications in both commercial and consumer grade software. A natural fit for the company that made touch and tap the main way we interact with computer devices today, Leap Motion allegedly didn’t find Apple all that impressive and balked at the amount offered for the firm. As VB points out, Apple tends to buy companies and then make them a part of the core mothership rather than letting them continue to exist as separate entities. It isn’t known whether this was a salient point of contention in the talks, but what is clear is that the valuation wasn’t there.

An initial meeting between Apple and Leap Motion co-founders Michael Buckwald and David Holz in 2013 revealed a company that was dedicated to both its independence and hardware, neither of which Apple was interested in acquiring. Apple wanted the software and underlying tech, not the box Leap Motion used to make it all work and certainly no interest in the headset the company later released.

In what is probably the real meat of the VentureBeat article, it is alleged that co-founder David Holz then told Apple about how awesome Google was and vowed to work for Android, telling the company they had lost their edge and asserting that Leap Motion had no desire to work for an outfit so behind the times. Given the current state of the company, this is probably not the best of statements to have made, if true, with the benefit of hindsight. But, still, Leap Motion’s dogged stance on the company’s valuation is admirable, if not potentially fatal.

Undeterred by this, Apple reportedly maintained interest in Leap Motion even as the proverbial you know what hit the fan at that company. Hiring off some of its employees, Apple was still willing to buy the company but the second attempt failed due to what the cofounders supposedly deemed a low-ball offer of $30-$50 million. This is after the two companies got so close to an agreement that even the benefits packages and other logistical aspects of onboarding new employees were underway at Apple. Once valued at $306 million, Leap Motion’s valuation from Apple might have killed the deal the second time, but the continued decline at the company reported by VB continues. They have left their San Francisco offices and is apparently exploring strategic options with other companies.

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