InMobi, one of the fastest-growing players in mobile advertising, has a powerful new advisor: Kleiner Perkins partner Mike Abbott, who’s joined the company’s board of directors.Abbott held top engineering jobs at Twitter and Palm before joining Kleiner last year. He’s made a few investments—Gumroad, a payments startup, and Codecademy, a site that teaches programming, are the most notable. But InMobi is by far the biggest deal he’s gotten involved in.
InMobi started out as a mobile-advertising network in 2007 based in India. When Kleiner invested in 2010, InMobi had just gotten started expanding outside Asia. But it’s outgrown those roots and now operates in five continents and reaches 578 million mobile consumers.
Over the past year, it’s raised $200 million from Softbank, the Japanese tech giant, and now has 800 employees.
Half of those are in Bangalore, India, but some 80 are based in a rapidly expanding San Francisco office, with more in New York, London, and other global offices, according to Shrikant Latkar, InMobi’s recently hired VP of global marketing.
Abbott hadn’t even joined Kleiner when it invested in InMobi. But the abrupt departure of Ajit Nazre, the Kleiner partner who originally championed the InMobi deal, created an opportunity for Kleiner to put Abbott’s deep mobile experience to work.
“The investment in InMobi is pretty strategic and frankly one that we have very high expectations on and one that’s important to us,” said Abbott.
In 2010, the sector seemed prime for consolidation: Google completed its purchase of AdMob for $750 million, and Apple bought Quattro Wireless for $275 million.
But both of those deals happened before the rise of the iPad, Abbott points out.
“Mobile advertising is very much in its infancy,” Abbott told Business Insider. “You look at a company like AdMob, which is awesome, but they didn’t even get to start applying their efforts to the tablet.”
One intriguing thing about InMobi is how it started in developing markets and only later entered established Internet markets like the United States, Abbott said.
That gives InMobi a unique perspective on mobile advertising, since for many of its consumers, mobile ads are the first digital ads they see.
“The countries where they effectively leapfrogged landlines … mobile-first has been the case for some time,” Abbott said. “Especially southeast Asia or India … their phone ends up being their primary portal into the online world.”
Now the US is starting to look more like the countries where InMobi got its start: Americans now spend more time using mobile devices than watching television.
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