What's Mobile Ad Network InMobi Going to Do With $200 Million?

Funding From Softbank Corp. Gives Company Firepower to Take On Google and Apple Around the Globe

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InMobi Founder-CEO Naveen Tewari
InMobi Founder-CEO Naveen Tewari

Mobile ad network InMobi has secured $200 million in funding from Japanese holding company Softbank Corp. this week.

For mobile, that 's a boatload of money.

But considering who it's up against -- increasingly dominant mobile players such as Google and Apple, not to mention established independents such as Jumptap and Millennial Media -- this 4-year-old Indian company will need it.

"Our belief is this is not winner take all, but winner take most," said InMobi founder and CEO Naveen Tewari. "There will be a handful of players. We want to be one of those handful." So what does Mr. Tewari have planned for this major influx of cash? He'll make further acquisitions beyond just mobile display ad networks and open new offices in new markets.

InMobi only launched in the U.S. last summer, with seasoned ad exec Anne Frisbie in place to helm North America.

Global mobile ad spending is expected to hit $20.6 billion by 2015, up from only $1.6 billion last year, according to Gartner. Asia-Pacific and Japan is the region expected to lead 2015 spending, accounting for one-third of the total.

While it launched as a mobile ad network, it has since begun to expand its services beyond just banners. In August, InMobi acquired mobile rich-media builder Sprout, a San Francisco-based company, and has also launched a new mobile payments product called SmartPay. Google, too, is making major moves into mobile payments with Google Wallet and is already testing the service with tony marketers such as Coca-Cola.

So far, InMobi says it can serve ads on 340 million mobile phones in 165 countries. The company employs 350 people in offices across 15 countries and its strongest markets include Western Europe and Japan. Founded in 2007, the company has $15 million in previous funding from investors including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sherpalo Ventures. Mr. Tewari declined to disclose annual revenue.

InMobi will receive the new funding in two installments: $100 million this month, with the rest dropping in April.

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