Mobile Posse, which serves ads on the idle screens of cell phones, has raised $5 million in third-round venture funding led by Harbert Venture Partners and including Softbank Capital, Court Square Ventures, and Columbia Capital. That brings its total raised to date to $23.5 million.
The company plans to use the new funding to add carrier partners internationally, build out its U.S.-based business and expand its sales operation. Mobile Posse has forged partnerships with seven domestic wireless carriers, including Verizon Wireless, Alltel Wireless and MetroPCS to deliver content and targeting advertising to subscribers on an opt-in basis.
Mobile consumers who opt in to use the Mobile Posse-powered "Daily Scoop" app on Verizon, for example, get information like weather and sports scores, along with local offers from retailers, restaurants and others and delivered periodically throughout the day to cell users’ home screens.
Other carriers like MetroPCS and Cricket Communications offer similar white-labeled services from Mobile Posse.
Marketers that have run mobile campaigns through the company’s platform include 7-Eleven, Allstate, ESPN, Ford and Wal-Mart.
Over the last two and half years, Mobile Posse CEO Jon Jackson said the audience reached by its ad service has grown from 1 million to 15 million opt-in subscribers. But with a total of some 200 million mobile subscribers among the carriers it has distribution agreements with, Jackson said there is room for growth.
Benefiting the company’s growth in the U.S. has been the proliferation of smartphones. “With those higher-end phones, you’re really able to tune the message and the response to what the advertiser is looking to drive,’ said Jackson. In that vein, he noted Mobile Posse’s ad offering typically delivers click-through rates of 8% to 10%, far higher than standard banners in mobile or the desktop
The spread of Android phones in particular has been a plus for Mobile Posse, with a more than a third of its 15 million users owning phones that run the Google smartphone platform. Because Mobile Posse’s software isn’t pre-loaded onto iPhones, getting onto the Apple handsets has been a tougher challenge.
The company is also looking to grow beyond the domestic market by striking similar distribution arrangements with carriers overseas.