Troubled smartphone maker Smartisan seeking revival upon $150m funding

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Floundering smartphone maker Smartisan has raised RMB 1 billion (around $150 million) in fresh funding, the company’s charismatic founder and CEO Luo Yonghao disclosed at Geek Park’s Rebuild 2017 conference.

The former English teacher and now internet celebrity did not disclose the participating investors but did reveal that the new funding will allow the troubled smartphone maker to ship five to six products every year to cover low- to high-tier markets

At the same occasion, Luo also shared the painful experience that Smartisan team has gone through in their “hardest time” in 2016 when the company was on the verge to collapse and almost got acquired by Xiaomi (in Chinese).

Founded in 2012 amid China’s smartphone boom, Smartisan has always been one of the most unique brands, famous for its idealism. Targeting a narrow group of tech-savvy users, the company aimed to draw upon a spirit of artisanship to offer fans a first-rate user experience.

In a crowded marketplace, however, fast-moving competitors don’t leave enough time for those who move slow. The hype surrounding the company in its early days soon faded away due to problems such as failure to ship products on time. Also, the higher-than-expected price tag for early products also put the startup on disadvantage in a market where budget phones like Xiaomi’s prevailed.

Despite the early setbacks, the company’s recent smartphone releases, like Smartisan M1 and Nuts Pro, have received positive reviews and strong market reaction. The struggling company is expected to make a comeback with positive word-of-mouth and sufficient financial support.

Previous investors of the company include PurpleSky, Buttonwood Capital and Tang Yan, founder of Chinese social networking firm Momo.