Nreal, a maker of augmented reality (AR) glasses, raised US$60 million in a Series C+ led by Alibaba, joining rival Chinese tech heavyweights Tencent and ByteDance in a drive into the metaverse.
The Chinese AR device manufacturer has distinguished itself among Chinese AR startups, with its most recent round increasing its 12-month fundraising to US$200 million.
Nreal said in a press release that it plans to use its fresh funds for content and app development, as well as domestic and global expansions.
AR and virtual reality (VR) headsets are expected to play significant roles in the metaverse, with Meta (previously Facebook) and Microsoft already commanding significant market share while the industry awaits Apple’s highly anticipated VR/AR device launch.
ByteDance, a Chinese tech behemoth, acquired a VR device maker in August 2021, while Tencent announced ambitions to do so in January 2022.
Furthermore, Nreal, created by Magic Leap veteran Chi Xu, already has a slew of noteworthy partners. Chinese electric car upstart Nio, short video app Kuaishou — TikTok’s Chinese adversary — and Baidu-backed video streaming platform iQIYI are among its strategic backers.
Qualcomm is not an investor, but it does supply the hardware company with cutting-edge Snapdragon chips and collaborates closely with it to foster a developer ecosystem.
Nreal is also supported by well-known institutional investors such as Sequoia China, Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital, Xiaomi creator Lei Jun’s Shunwei Capital, and private equity behemoths Hillhouse, CPE, and CICC Capital.
Despite being founded in China, Nreal has not focused on its home market, instead testing customer hunger in six other nations, including Japan and the United States. To promote its smart glasses, the company has depended on partnerships with local carriers. In the United States, for example, Verizon is assisting in the sale of Nreal’s Light mixed reality glasses, which cost $600 and can be plugged into a computer.
With the proceeds from its latest round, Nreal will finally make a foray into China this year. The funding will also be spent on R&D and growing its ecosystem of content and apps, which will be critical to user adoption.