Some investors play the short game, placing their bets on industries that show the quickest return on their investment, and, in the augmented reality space, that means the enterprise sector.
RealWear is among the smartglasses makers capitalizing on enterprise AR, and the company has just closed an $80 million Series B funding round, mostly based on its success with that market. The company previously closed a $17 million Series A round in 2018.
Industrial automation company Teradyne, Inc. led the investment round, with Bose Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, LLC, Kopin Corporation (makers of the Golden-i Infinity smartglasses product), and investors from J.P. Morgan's Private Bank among the participants. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. assisted RealWear with building the overall investment group.
''RealWear has created a powerful platform that aligns with our vision for a safer, more productive work environment powered by easy-to-use, rapid ROI automation solutions," said Mark Jagiela, president and CEO of Teradyne. ''RealWear's strategy to leverage the power of advanced technologies like Augmented Reality to assist workers across a wide range of tasks has many parallels with Teradyne's industrial automation strategy and we look forward to helping RealWear continue their exciting growth.''
The funding, comprised of equity and debt, will enable RealWear to expand its market reach and further development of its enterprise platform. Among the company's offerings are the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 wearables, along with its Foresight software for deploying apps to users in the field.
"Our seed investments came from friends, family, early customers, suppliers, and business partners. Their faith carried us to our Series A, led by Columbia Ventures Corporation. CVC's experience in heavy industry, one of our primary markets, made it a perfect match," said Andy Lowery, co-founder and CEO of RealWear, in a statement. "It was critical that RealWear's new investors be business and technology leaders. Teradyne, Bose Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, and Kopin fit that bill."
The composition of the investment group is fairly interesting. Teradyne's involvement makes sense given its concentration on automation, where AR can play a vital role. Qualcomm has developed its own chipset for AR headsets and smartglasses, while Bose and Kopin both have an interest in supplying components for smartglasses and AR headsets, as well as making their own AR wearables.
"Qualcomm Ventures invests in companies that drive innovation and impact across industries," said Richard Tapalaga, director of Qualcomm Technologies, and investment director for Qualcomm Ventures. "RealWear has experienced strong growth and is well-positioned to become a leading platform for connected workers everywhere. We are excited to invest in RealWear as we believe its unique platform will help drive value to the entire IoT ecosystem."
Winner of the 2019 Auggie Award for Best Headworn Device, RealWear attributes its success to its durable devices, which are designed to survive rough environments that are routine in the industrial world. The company has shipped more than 15,000 units of its head-mounted tablets to more than 1,300 enterprise customers over the past 18 months.
"The augmented reality enterprise market has experienced a great deal of hype, but long-term, real world solutions have been thin on the ground," said Tom Mainelli, IDC Group vice president of devices and AR/VR. "RealWear smartly recognized the need for a no-nonsense head-mounted display and has delivered no-frills products that help frontline workers to get their jobs done more safely and efficiently."
Some of RealWear's clients include BMW and Shell and, along with some of its peers, the company has shown that function often trumps form in the enterprise sector. In fact, RealWear is particularly utilitarian in its headset design, with a not-at-all-subtle eyebox hanging in front of the user's eye via an adjustable arm. Until AR components are capable of fitting into a slimmer form factor, companies like RealWear can succeed where looks aren't the priority versus simply getting the job done.