Former Music-Video Magnate Rio Caraeff Makes The Leap To Magic Leap

The guy who built Vevo into the web’s best home for music videos will be chief content officer for the still-stealthy, mixed-reality company.

Magic Leap–the wait-until-you-get-a-load-of-this, Google-backed, mixed-reality company–announced today that it has installed Rio Caraeff as its first-ever chief content officer. Caraeff is just coming off a six-month sabbatical after leaving his post last year as president and CEO of Vevo, the streaming music-video site that he cofounded.

Rio CaraeffPhoto: Patrick T. Fallon, Bloomberg via Getty Images

“I was the first employee at Vevo, I wrote the business plan, I hired everybody, I started it–and then ultimately built a company for someone else, that ultimately wasn’t mine,” says Caraeff, whose career in tech and entertainment included stints at companies like Universal Music Group, Sony Pictures, and Capitol Records, when I ask about the move to Magic Leap. “I wanted to grow outside of music and grow outside of over-the-top online video, and find new areas I was curious about.”

That “new area” happens to be one of the most intriguing new frontiers in technology, the blending of computing and the real world, a complete platform that replicates the visual perception system of the human brain as a go-anywhere mobile computing platform. Or as CEO Rony Abovitz cheekily put it during a Reddit AMA earlier this year, techno-biology–“the proper application of technology to our biology that leads to the experience of magic. :-)”

Today is Caraeff’s first day on the job, but he did reveal that his role is to create a “whole ecosystem” of products that will allow for the full realization of Magic Leap’s capabilities. He says that the company will create some of its own content in-house, and more content will be created by third parties. Last month, the company announced a developer kit for filmmakers, game designers, and the like onstage at MIT’s EmTech Digital conference. And recall that some of Magic Leap’s investors include Legendary CEO Thomas Tull (impresario behind the current summer blockbuster Jurassic World) and special-effects wizard Richard Taylor, whose Weta Digital is behind everything from the Planet of the Apes series reboot to The Hobbit films.

“To talk about Magic Leap, it’s kind of like dancing about architecture or talking about jazz. It doesn’t make any sense unless you really can experience it firsthand, which one day people will do,” Caraeff says. “This incredible enabling technology really needs a powerful network of services and software to tie it all together, and then incredible applications and programming and content to really make it amazing.” To that end, his first order of business at Magic Leap is putting in place the underlying cloud infrastructure where all the services, applications, and content will live.

Since leaving his Vevo post in December, Caraeff has been traveling with family and advising companies, including the messaging service Kik and singing competition startup Chosen.

Recharged, he compares what comes next to explaining the gravity of television to someone in 1941 or the personal computer in 1978. “It’s really that powerful, but also that broad, so you can’t just put it in a box and say this is what it’s good for. The truth is that nobody really knows,” Caraeff says. “Repurposing the past is not what we’re here to do. We’re not trying to take all of the media and entertainment that’s ever been created and make it available magically. It’s really more about what new experiences can creative people all over the world develop and create that could never have been on television, that could never have been in a theater. It’s about facilitating the creation, distribution, and experiences of a new type of creator for a new platform that had never been possible before.”