InMobi Acquires Rich Media Firm Sprout
Mobile ad network InMobi has acquired mobile rich media provider Sprout to broaden its offerings and help streamline the fragmented mobile ad process. Sprout operates a platform for building HTML5-powered rich media ads that run within mobile apps and the mobile Web. Its clients include Chevrolet, Disney, Paramount Pictures, HTC and Nokia.
Under the deal, InMobi said Sprout would continue to operate as an independent company, working with other mobile ad companies, and continue to upgrade its system with workflow enhancements, expanded analytics and new ad units. Sprout has been part of wider efforts to promote rich media advertising by partnering with other mobile ad networks and integrating its technology with other rich media ad platforms.
Sprout, for instance, was part of a preferred partner program announced by mobile ad network Mojiva in April that also includes rich media firms, such as EyeWonder, PointRoll, Crisp Media and Celtra. Following its acquisition, it would seem natural for Sprout to become the preferred rich media provider for InMobi clients.
"Sprout's technology solves a critical need for the industry by helping bring engaging mobile ad experiences to consumers all around the globe," stated InMobi CEO Naveen Tewari. "The acquisition fits perfectly with our vision to enable the mobile ecosystem with best of breed technology and services."
InMobi formally entered the U.S. market last year after establishing footprints in Asia, Africa and Europe in the previous three years. While the company's network is growing quickly here, it's still pushing to catch up with larger rivals in North America, including AdMob and Millennial Media. In the second quarter, InMobi said it served 18.7 billion mobile ads in North America -- up 40% from the prior quarter, and 104.9 million ads worldwide.
The Sprout acquisition could help InMobi compete more directly with other global mobile ad companies like Velti, which provides a wide range of marketing services for brands and agencies, including tools for media planning and buying, Web development, ad serving and ad creative solutions.
Sprout is among a cadre of mobile rich media firms that have prospered from Apple's launch of the iAd last year by offering less expensive formats with similar capabilities, like allowing smartphone users to interact with an in-app ad without leaving the app.
Following the iAd announcement last April, Sprout rolled out its "Engage Ads," allowing advertisers to create rich ads and run them simultaneously in HTML5 and Flash. That move capitalized on Apple's well-known aversion to Flash, giving marketers the ability to extend Flash-based Web ads to mobile devices. Greystripe, another mobile rich media ad firm that came up with a similar capability, was acquired by ValueClick in April for about $70 million.
Financial terms of the Sprout deal were not disclosed. Prior to the acquisition, Sprout had raised more than $8 million from investors, including Polaris Venture Partners and Global Venture Capital. Carnet Williams, the company's founder and CEO, will become vice president, Sprout and brand solutions, and will report directly to Tewari under the agreement.