Rony Abovitz: The Tech Visionary Behind Magic Leap
Major breakthroughs require commitment, time, and the resources to go the distance.
Rony Abovitz is a serial tech entrepreneur and visionary. He co-founded MAKO Surgical in 2004 — a robotics company specialising in manufacturing surgical robotic arm assistance technology utilised by hospitals worldwide. MAKO was acquired by Stryker Corporation in 2013 for $1.65 billion.
Abovitz went on to found Magic Leap — a spatial computing company which envisaged a futuristic world, many years ahead of its time. Starting out of his garage in 2010, Abovitz worked on Magic Leap at night whilst still working at MAKO during the day. He partnered with award-winning Weta Workshop in New Zealand and assembled a world-class team of creative scientists before building their own high-tech factory in the US. He remained Magic Leap’s CEO until 2020 when he helped recruit Peggy Johnson to be his successor. Abovitz remains on the Board of Directors at Magic Leap.
Now on his third startup, currently in stealth mode, Abovitz is working on more “science fiction tech,” as he puts it.
In this interview, we talk about him growing up in an immigrant family, where he gets his work ethic from, what it took to build MAKO and Magic Leap, against the odds. Here’s his story:
Newnham: I wanted to start with your childhood. I know that your parents were immigrants and I think that’s an important place to start. What was your upbringing like?
Abovitz: Both my parents were immigrants who came to America from Israel. They came to the US in the 1960s. My father was an Israeli Air Force Flight Engineer. When he finished his service there, he wanted to come to United States to go to school.
He worked for El Al and that got him his trip here after the Air Force. He came with just a suitcase and $30 in his pocket. He literally had nothing and lived in a YMCA for a while, but he had a dream of starting his own company. My mum’s family came here around the same time and for some reason, they all ended up in Cleveland, Ohio.
It was a great place to grow up because it was very friendly. When I was eight or nine years old, I could wander miles from the house…