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Mobile advertising start-up AdMob lands funding, sees bright future

October 21, 2008 |  7:32 pm

AdMob CEO Omar HamouiOnline advertising is slumping, and most start-ups are hunkering down to ride out the financial storm.

But Omar Hamoui isn't discouraged.

He says his 80-person mobile advertising start-up, AdMob, reaches more consumers on their mobile phones than any of the major Internet portals or search engines.

In September, AdMob ran more than 25 campaigns for brand advertisers including CoverGirl, Toshiba and Comedy Central. And it tripled the number of ads it served on a monthly basis, to 4.6 billion in September.

And AdMob, which recently became cash-flow positive, just landed a new round of funding from Sequoia Capital and Accel Partners. The San Mateo, Calif., company raised $15.7 million in Series C funding.

Hamoui, who is the chief executive, expects mobile advertising to continue to grow despite the slowdown in consumer spending and tightening of credit that has led some advertisers to pull back -- but to grow at a slower rate. So rather than retrench, he said he wants to move aggressively to capture market share. AdMob plans to use the money to hire staffers in key markets in Western Europe, India, South Africa and Japan, improve the technology that powers its mobile advertising marketplace and grow its sales and business development teams. By the end of 2009, AdMob will nearly double in size to 150 staffers, Hamoui said.

"In the most likely case, what we are going to see is a slower economy," he said. "We will need to continue to be careful and conservative about how invest, but we have always been that way."

Hamoui, who dropped out of University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, is a Los Angeles native who says the idea for AdMob was born out of his own frustrations. One of his previous start-ups, FotoChatter, was a photo-sharing site for cellphone users. But Hamoui found that trying to attract users by buying Web ads was expensive and ineffective. He founded AdMob in 2006 and has carved out a niche in serving ads on mobile phones and devices. He competes with the likes of Google, Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo.

Sequoia partner Jim Goetz says AdMob is "one of the few companies that surprised us to the upside." And Sequoia is betting that AdMob is well-positioned to benefit from the exponential growth and stunning changes taking place in the mobile landscape, Goetz said.

"There are people out there who we do not think are insane who think the smartphone in the next decade will begin to replace the desktop PC," he said.

-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: AdMob founder and CEO Omar Hamoui. Credit: George Chen