Andy Miller, the former head of Apple’s iAd department, is taking over as the president and COO of Leap Motion, a San Francisco startup that makes 3D motion controls.
Miller joined Apple when it bought his mobile advertising company Quattro Wireless and he left a year and a half later to become a partner at Highland Capital, a venture capital firm.
His new company, Leap Motion, is working on hardware and software that will give users a way to interact with computers and other devices through hand gestures, without actually having to touch the screen.
Business Insider chatted with Miller by phone about his decision to take over Leap Motion, why he’s moved away from the advertising world and what he thinks of Apple’s iAd department now.
Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:
- Miller has moved on from working in the advertising world. “I like advertising, it’s interesting, but advertising is a young man’s game.”
- He says that iAd is still a “work in progress” but one with a bright future. “The space is really growing up. It’s still early in the mobile advertising game, but there’s no doubt that it’s growing and Apple will be a big player in it.”
- Miller argues that Leap Motion is a natural extension of Apple. “Leap really represents the intersection of liberal arts and technology that Steve Jobs preached Apple stood for. Leap is hardware and software, it’s an app store, it’s really a natural extension of Apple.”
- He also says pre-orders for Leap Motion’s products have been “surprisingly overwhelming.”
Here is a lightly edited transcript of our Q&A with Miller:
BUSINESS INSIDER: Why did you decide to leave your venture capital job to take on running this startup?
ANDY MILLER: Once I saw Leap Motion at Highland, it was love at first sight as far as wanting to invest in it. And the more I talked to the founders, the more I fell in love with it. It was such a big swing and the type of thing I knew I should be doing now.
BI: It’s been a few years since you’ve really worked at a startup, first with you joining Apple and then working on the venture capital side. Did some part of you miss it?
AM: I was really fortunate to report to Steve Jobs and to be part of Apple’s ecosystem for a couple years. Highland has been a great re-ignitor for me in terms of a passion for working with startups. And this startup has such potential to be a huge company very quickly, so I thought it’d be a great opportunity.
BI: So what can we expect to see from Leap Motion in the next year?
AM: We’ll be launching our Leap peripheral in the beginning of 2013. We’ve been taking pre-orders for it over the last month, and it has been surprisingly overwhelming in terms of the number of pre-orders and videos viewed on the site. All beyond my wildest my expectations for sure.
We’ll also be announcing a bunch of OEM deals where we licence the technology for different machines and verticals in 2013. People will be playing with Leap and Leap-enabled apps on a bunch of different devices by early next year.
BI: Do you plan to work with Apple on these products?
AM: I don’t know. We’re open to working with everyone.
BI: Your cofounder at Quattro Wireless, Lars Albright, is still working in the advertising world with his new startup SessionM, but it looks like you’ve left advertising behind for good. How come?
AM: I like advertising, it’s interesting, but advertising is a young man’s game. I’m very proud of the work being done at iAd and that Lars is doing at SessionM, but for me, Leap really represents the intersection of liberal arts and technology that Steve Jobs preached Apple stood for. Leap is hardware and software. It’s an app store. It’s really a natural extension of Apple.
BI: It has been almost exactly a year since you stepped down as the head of Apple’s iAd department. How do you think it’s doing now? Does Apple have it figured out yet?
AM: It’s a work in progress. It’s doing pretty well. They’ve done a great job of bringing in some pretty great folks like [current iAd chief] Todd Teresi. They’ve added a lot to the platform from a targeting standpoint. The pricing is more in line with what the market expects. I think they are going to do great.
The space is really growing up. It’s still early in the mobile advertising game, but there’s no doubt that it’s growing and that Apple will be a big player in it.