HMD Global, the “home of Nokia phones,” has raised $230 million in a “series A2” round of funding from some of its existing strategic partners, including Google, Qualcomm, and Nokia consumer division Nokia Technologies, along with undisclosed investors. The Finnish company stressed that this was the “first closing” of the round, suggesting more funding could be added at a later date.
A spokesperson also confirmed that HMD Global’s valuation has passed $1 billion. While Nokia no longer makes consumer devices, the brand is still synonymous with feature phones and smartphones, thanks to a licensing arrangement with HMD Global, a business vehicle founded in 2015 primarily to design and market Nokia-branded mobile phones, with Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile responsible for manufacturing.
A few months back, HMD Global unveiled its first 5G device, though the Nokia 8.3 has yet to make it to market. With another $230 million in the bank, HMD Global said it’s now able to “accelerate” its mission to make 5G smartphones accessible to more consumers globally. This will involve developing more alliances with U.S. carriers and building on existing partnerships with Verizon, Cricket Wireless, and AT&T that kicked off last year.
HMD Global raised $100 million in 2018 from Swiss VC firm Ginko Ventures, DMJ Asia Investment Opportunity, and Wonderful Stars, a subsidiary of FIH Mobile. The high-caliber nature of HMD Global’s latest roster of investors suggests where the Nokia brand could go from here. And as Google reels from the U.S. embargo preventing Huawei from using its mobile apps and services, the company has a vested interest in pushing another phone maker up the ranks.
As a European company, and the only remaining smartphone player on the continent with any meaningful market share, HMD Global is less likely to get caught in the geopolitical crossfire between the U.S. and China. Last year, HMD Global shifted its datacenter from Singapore to Finland, in partnership with Google Cloud, a move that will go some way toward allaying data privacy concerns.
HMD Global’s smartphone market share sits at somewhere around 1%, according to Counterpoint Research, ranking it 13th among vendors in the world. But it sports the familiar Nokia brand, and having major partners on board — including Google, chip giant Qualcomm, and U.S. carriers — means things can change quickly. Plus, Huawei and its sub-brand Honor will no longer appeal to millions of consumers outside of China, given the restrictions they face, which potentially opens a gap for a rival.
HMD Global’s ambitions stretch beyond the hardware realm. Earlier this year, it launched a new SIM card called HMD Connect that’s focused on roaming, and it snapped up the assets of mobile, enterprise, and cybersecurity software company Valona Labs. At the same time, HMD Global launched a new R&D “center of excellence” to develop software-based services for Nokia devices. This will include building new offerings, such as remote device locking, cybersecurity, enterprise mobility management, and — in the future — imaging and audio technologies.
In short, HMD Global has pretty big ambitions, and with Google and Qualcomm on board, the company is making a bid for serious consideration. Even if it isn’t going to make big gains on the incumbents in North America and Europe, there is still significant market share in play in “key growth markets” like Brazil, India, and parts of Africa.