By Joyce Hooi
Amobee, the Silicon Valley mobile ad firm that SingTel snapped up for US$321 million, is set to do some buying of its own.
Even as it keeps a lookout for acquisition targets in Asia, it is also eyeing firms that specialise in data mining and graphics rendering, said its CEO, Trevor Healy, at a press briefing here yesterday.
In its Singapore office, headcount is set to more than double this year, going from 10 to 25 people. Globally, the firm's payroll is also expected to grow, from more than 100 people to 200 by year-end.
Amobee will embark on its expansion backed by the behemoth that is SingTel, which now owns 100 per cent of it.
The telco - with more than 400 million mobile customers in Singapore and through its associates such as Bharti in India and Telkomsel in Indonesia - will offer a ready base of eyeballs for the ads that Amobee helps to put on mobile devices.
"We can go to advertisers globally and say to them - 'If you want to advertise to 400 million people in Asia, you can do that in one click'. In the past, it was a very fragmented market. You had to go and buy from multiple people," said Mr Healy.
"In the Asian market, SMS continues to be key because you don't have the penetration of smartphones that you have in other markets. So if you're a large consumer packaged goods company and you want to reach all of Indonesia, it's very hard to do it outside (of) working with carriers."
Amobee is also hoping that SingTel's involvement will give it access to data that it previously did not have.
"On mobile, you know who the users are. (The telco) gave them the handset and data plan," Mr Healy said. "Knowing who the customer is and being able to go back to the advertiser and say - not on a person-by-person basis but on a segregation basis - 'These are 18-24-year-olds in Singapore, female on iPhone' - that's data that no one else has."
Even as Amobee plans to get larger, its prevailing strategy is to go big in other ways, as well. "Our advertisers are spending in the region of (at least) US$100,000 a month," said Mr Healy.
Amobee counts Google, Microsoft, Skype and Nokia among its customers. In Singapore, heavyweight advertisers include Singapore Airlines and Asia Pacific Breweries.
The company makes its money in two main ways - through its publishing and advertising channels. Its publishing arm works with mobile publishers to fill the available ad space. Yesterday, Amobee announced its exclusive partnership with AccuWeather, which supplies weather information to app, websites and newspapers.
Amobee gets a 30 per cent cut of the ad value on a mobile AccuWeather platform if the ad is placed through the former.
The buying and selling of ad space at Amobee takes place over its automated trading system, which Mr Healy likened to the stock exchange mechanism. Advertisers place bids for a certain number of impressions and ad space sellers accept or reject them.
On the advertising end, Amobee functions like an ad agency, coming up with ad campaigns and implementing them. The recent placement of Vertu-themed iPads in the First Class lounge at Changi Airport was an Amobee idea.
Currently, the split of revenue stands at 40 per cent each from Europe and the United States, with the remaining 20 per cent from Asia. Over time, business in Asia will grow so that the split will be equal across the three regions, Mr Healy said. He declined to reveal actual revenue or confirm if Amobee is profitable.
Asked whether being part of a large firm such as SingTel would change the nimble nature of a tech firm such as Amobee, Mr Healy said: "It seems that SingTel wants to remain hands-off . . . they've had a good history of making investments and leaving them alone."
This article was first published in The Business Times.