Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster jazzes up Chinese AR startup Nreal with $15 million in funding – TechCrunch

Augmented reality headsets have been around for years, but none of the players in the market have transcended the demographic and entered the mainstream. An AR startup hopes to change that by partnering with a fashion eyewear brand.

Realthe well-funded Chinese maker of AR headsets, which has been aggressively expanding globally, said on Friday it had raised $15 million from the Korean sunglasses brand Gentle monsterthe parent company of IICOMBINED.

The investment, which came just five months after hers $60 million Series C extensionhas grown its total revenue to $240 million since its inception in 2017.

The fresh capital will allow Nreal to accelerate its global expansion and double the company’s US consumer business, the company said.

Neither Nreal nor Gentle Monster said much about how they might work together, but it’s almost certain that the infusion of capital from one investor marks a step toward a strategic partnership. It will come as no surprise that Nreal’s glasses – which have been aiming to be stylish and lightweight from the start – will hit Gentle Master’s shelves global retail stores someday.

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

Nreal has already built a global distribution network, much of it through its own corporate partners such as Qualcomm and LG, in countries including the US, UK, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Germany. It debuted in China, where it is based, in August.

Demand for Nreal is currently highest in the US, Japan and Korea, although the company expects China to soon grow to be one of its top markets.

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

“Fashion and design will be important aspects in the future development of AR glasses as we continue to expand the user base in the sector,” Jin said. “As such, having Gentle Monster as our investor will open up interesting opportunities not only for Nreal, but for the wider AR industry as a whole.”

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 for further expansion in China.

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

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