Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster boosts Chinese AR startup Nreal with $15M funding – TechCrunch

Augmented reality headsets have been around for years, but none of the market players have really expanded beyond the tech-savvy demographic and into the mainstream. An AR startup hopes to change that by partnering with an eyewear fashion brand.

Nreal, the well-funded Chinese AR headset maker that is undergoing aggressive global expansion, said on Thursday it raised $15 million from the parent company of Korean sunglasses brand Gentle Monster, IICOMBINED.

The investment, which comes just five months after its $60 million Series C extension, brings its total raised to $240 million since inception in 2017.

The new capital will allow Nreal to accelerate its global expansion and double its consumer business in the United States, the company said.

Neither Nreal nor Gentle Monster have said much about how they might work together, but the single-investor capital injection is almost certain to mark a step towards a strategic partnership. It will come as no surprise if Nreal’s eyewear – which has strived to be fashionable and lightweight from the start – hits the shelves of Gentle Master’s global retail stores one day.

Indeed, Nreal co-founder Peng Jin said the company’s goal for the next twelve months is to “grow and reach more audiences and aggressively grow adoption. of AR technology starting with our latest AR glasses, Nreal Air”.

Nreal has already created a global distribution network, largely through its business partners such as Qualcomm and LG, in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Germany. He only made his debut in China, where he is based, in August.

Demand for Nreal is currently highest in the United States, Japan and Korea, although the company expects China to soon become one of its main markets.

Earlier this week, Nreal unveiled a range of its products, including AR glasses such as Nreal Air and Nreal X (Chinese version) and an AR adapter for Apple devices in its home market.

“Fashion and design will be important aspects in the future development of AR glasses as we continue to expand the industry’s consumer base,” Jin said. “As such, having Gentle Monster as an investor will open up exciting opportunities not only for Nreal, but for the entire AR industry.”

Gentle Monster, which entered China in 2016 and partnered with Huawei in 2019 to manufacture smart glasses, opened its 17th store in Beijing in early August to continue its expansion in China.

“This investment is exciting for combining and exploring the frontier of fashion and technology,” said Gentle Monster co-founder and IICOMBINED CEO Hankook Kim. “We will leverage the strength of both sides and make joint efforts to create more opportunities.”

Luz W. German