Insta360, One of the pioneers in making 360-degree cameras has just raised $ 30 million in a Series C + funding round from Chinese investors such as Everest Venture Capital, MG Holdings, and Huajin Capital.
The Shenzhen-based camera maker declined to disclose its latest rating. The new proceeds are planned to be used for research and development, marketing, and customer service in its key international markets, including the United States and Japan, which are the company’s second and third largest markets after China.
Previous supporters include IDG Capital, Qiming Ventures, home appliance manufacturer Suning Holdings Group, and file sharing service Xunlei.
The company began manufacturing 360-degree cameras – hence the brand name – in 2014 when founder Liu Jingkang saw a niche in the market for compact, easy-to-use cameras capable of capturing high-resolution 360-degree footage. Over the years, it has grown into a four-pronged company covering all kinds of needs: 360 degree cameras for professionals and amateur users creating virtual reality content, action cameras for sports lovers, and smartphone accessories for the average consumer.
In stark contrast to the loss-making GoPro that Insta360 is competing with in the action camera industry, the Chinese company has been profitable since 2017 and plans to file an IPO in China next year, Liu said in an interview with TechCrunch. The company declined to provide more details on the proposed IPO, but said the success of its action camera line helped it grow sales five times in two years and achieve profitability.
From professional to amateur
Although the VR sector is still in its infancy, Liu is optimistic that 360 content will become a coveted form of media in the coming years.
“A lot of families will be using virtual reality content for entertainment in the future, so we have a huge market for 360 content. Because of this, we make a 360-degree camera every year to keep our top position, ”said Liu.
By comparison, the action camera market is more mature. Insta360 is following a larger social trend in live blogging and short videos that has created a huge demand for high quality video content. Dozens of camera options, from Snap Spectacles to Tencent’s clone of Snap glasses, are available to help people create content for video sharing apps. However, Liu saw problems with many of these products.
“[Video-shooting] Glasses, for example, are pretty offensive. Not everyone wants to wear them, ”said the founder. “Lots of cameras do a bad job with video Stabilization so that people end up with unusable footage. Finally, and this is the main problem, users don’t know how to handle their footage. “
To that end, Insta360’s newest answer to documenting sporting events and travel is a camera that can be easily hand-held or put in a pocket. The device known as One X records with a resolution of 5.7 K and 30 frames per second and offers a pleasantly even stabilization, even when it is thrown around. The camera also comes with a software toolkit that automatically selects and merges users’ footage, making sharing a breeze for TikTok and Instagram. Check out One X’s TechCrunch review below:
Insta360 has followed the crowds too, and its latest offering is an add-on lens that can instantly turn an iPhone into a 360-degree camera. The idea is that for a taste of the basic 360-degree experience, users may want to upgrade to a high-end model.
“Insta360 has the rare ability to incorporate cutting-edge imaging technology into products consumers want to use today,” said Gavin Li, senior director at Huajin Capital. “They move faster and more innovatively than their competitors and are pursuing bold new approaches to the defining communication tool of our time: the camera.”