Location-centric mobile ad network Verve Mobile on Wednesday announced closing $14 million in a Series C venture financing, bringing its total raised to date to $30 million. The latest round was led by Nokia Growth Partners and included new investor Qualcomm Ventures and prior backer BlueRun Ventures.
Verve’s platform provides location-targeted advertising and optimization across a mobile network of more than
3,500 publishers, including Hearst, AP, McClatchy, and NBC Universal local TV stations. It serves over 6 billion impressions a month and reaches 108 million unique visitors a month.
With the new funding, the company plans to invest in refining its location-based technology, which targets mobile advertising according to a grid of city block-sized geographic areas. That allows marketers to reach desired audiences like soccer moms or tech enthusiasts with mobile messages where they are most likely to be, down to the neighborhood level.
Verve relies on its own location data as well as other sources, including the U.S. Census, public and private databases, and partners such as PlaceIQ.
“Verve’s focus is on combining big data, location-based services and ad technologies to make mobile advertising work better for advertisers and publishers,” said CEO Tom MacIsaac.
To help ensure the quality of its targeting, he said the company's technology also scores each impression based on the accuracy of its location targeting. He estimates that only 5% to 10% of mobile ad impressions carry accurate latitude-longitude location information -- the key to “hyper-local” advertising. “There’s lots of bad [location] data out there,” said MacIsaac.
Verve released findings last week showing that targeting by designated marketing areas (DMAs) is still the most common type of location-based advertising, accounting for 30% of campaigns on its network last year. Geo-fencing was a close second, at 27%, followed by audience-data targeting, 24%, and geo-aware ads, 14%. Ads delivered by city or ZIP code accounted for the rest.
In addition to enhancing its technology, Verve will use the fresh capital to expand staffing from about 70 to 105 employees this year. The additional hires will be split about evenly between engineers and salespeople. Without disclosing dollar figures, MacIsaac said the company increased revenue 300% in the last year and expects to double sales in 2013 and turn profitable in the fourth quarter.
He added that the company would benefit from the mobile location expertise of Nokia and Qualcomm in addition to their investment. Nokia itself acquired digital mapping company Navteq in 2007 for $8.1 billion. In connection with the funding, John Gardner of Nokia Growth Partners has joined the Verve board.