Eyeing The International Market, MoPub, The DoubleClick For Mobile, Raises $12 Million Series B

MoPub, the Accel-backed mobile advertising startup founded by ex-AdMob and Google employees, is today announcing a $12 million round of Series B funding, which the company says will be used for hiring and international expansion, putting folks on the ground in Europe, Japan, Korea, and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region.

The round was led by Jafco Ventures and saw participation from existing investors, including Harrison Metal Capital and Accel, which both contributed to MoPub’s $6.5 million round in July of last year. The current round also includes a strategic investment from Publicis Groupe’s investment arm, Iris Capital/OPV. Publicis is the agency-holding company that controls top-tier agencies, including VivaKi, Razorfish, and Digitas.

That latter investment will go toward helping MoPub with its goal of better reaching brand and ad agencies spend. According to MoPub CEO Jim Payne, the company has learned there are a number of technical and product features it needs to shift and problems to solve there. On that note, MoPub recently made a key hire. It brought in Razorfish mobile lead Paul Gelb, who Payne describes as having a “clear vision of what buying in the mobile channel looks like.” This is important because, as Gelb believes and Payne agrees, “we believe that mobile is going to be a bigger revenue driver than television.” That’s because mobile has the same kind of engagement, but is more measurable, he adds.

Sometimes referred to as the “Doubleclick for mobile,” MoPub has grown its platform considerably since its previous fundraising, as the mobile industry itself has boomed. In July 2011, the company had just crossed the 1 billion monthly ads mark and then had over 250 active publishers. It said it was doubling that number every quarter. Today, MoPub sees 18 billion ads per month, and has more than 5,000 publishers, reaching 10,000+ mobile apps. “We’re the largest ad server exchange for smartphones and for in-app,” says Payne. “For us, the positioning is about being able to deliver to publishers control, transparency, and that high-quality message, and for advertisers, a level of scale and data that they don’t have in other channels.”

iPhone 5’s LTE Is A Really, Really Big Deal

Payne is particularly enthusiastic over the release of the new iPhone 5 (MoPub only works with iOS and Android, 97% in-app) because of its ability to support LTE. “I think LTE is a really, really big deal no one’s talking about yet,” he says. “The fact that the bandwidth on your phone is going to be similar to your home bandwidth for the first time at scale is a big deal.” With LTE connections, advertisers can deliver rich media, video, and high-quality ads to users fast, and users tend to respond. Already, these ads see 5x the engagement, says Payne, but what’s more important is the quality. “Part of the thing about getting agencies and brands to get involved in this, it’s really about selling that narrative, and getting people excited about the channel…that’s something you can’t really do in a 320×50 banner, but you can in rich media or video.”

He’s also happy with the newly added “Identifier For Advertising” (IFA) in iOS 6, which, in short, “solves the privacy issue.” (More on that here and here).

Currently, MoPub works with international publishers, the company wants to put people on the ground in other countries to work directly with them. “Ultimately, this business in mobile is really going to be about our international expansion,” Payne says. It’s why they went with Jafco to lead the round – it has a strong international presence. MoPub sees Europe as an unexplored opportunity, and it will soon focus more on efforts there as well as across Asia-Pacific. By 2013, they aim to have offices set up in various international cities, but nothing specific to confirm at this time.

In addition to expansion, MoPub is also using the new funding for hiring – “like everyone,” says Payne.