TikTok owner ByteDance leads funding round in Guangdong-based robotics company Narwal

Coco Feng

TikTok owner ByteDance recently co-led a funding round into a robotics developer as the Chinese entertainment giant continues to diversify its business.

Narwal Robotics said on Thursday it had completed a series-B funding round of nearly 1 billion yuan (US$141 million), co-led by Source Code Capital and ByteDance. Some existing investors, including Infore Capital and Dami Ventures, also joined.

Founded in 2016, the Dongguan, Guangdong province-based Narwal develops cleaning robots that can wash floors, and then rinse and dry mops automatically.

A ByteDance spokeswoman declined to comment on the investment.

ByteDance, best known for its short video hit TikTok which has hit some political headwinds in the US in recent months over censorship and privacy concerns, has made a move into sectors including gaming, education and hardware.

ByteDance's investments in the robotics space also include Origitech, a Hangzhou-based developer of collaborative robots for manufacturing, and Beijing-based Yunzhi Ruantong, which provides wireless cloud robotic solutions, according to ByteDance's company registry records.

Tiger Global Management has been buying shares in TikTok-owner ByteDance

China's robot makers have recently seen a jump in demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which has sickened more than one million people globally and killed around 53,000 – leading to lockdowns and the need for social distancing. The robotics market in China is forecast to reach US$103.6 billion by 2023, primarily led by manufacturing, consumer, retail, health care providers, and resources industries, according to a March report by research firm IDC.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in February that emerging industries such as smart manufacturing and unmanned distribution “have shown strong growth potential”. “We should take this as an opportunity to transform and upgrade traditional industries and cultivate and grow emerging industries,” Xi said.

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