China is currently the largest mobile market in the world, and that is having a knock on effect on mobile investments into startups in the country: I-Media, a mobile ad network that claims to be China’s largest with over 100 million impressions per day and projected 2012 revenues of RMB 300 million ($47 million), today announced that it has picked up a $20 million Series B round of funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers with participation from previous investor IDG Capital (an early investor in Baidu and Tencent, as well as hundreds of other companies), bringing the total raised by I-Media to $30 million.
I-Media’s CEO Shu Yi had actually noted the investment back in April but didn’t provide more details about investors or strategy at the time. Today, I-Media said it will be using the funding to grow its activities in the Chinese market as well as expanding further into other markets in Asia: the focus will be on more products, better ad serving technology and getting a larger base of buyers and sellers for its network, which runs across mobile apps as well as mobile websites. Given how rapidly the Chinese market is growing, and the need to move quickly accordingly, that could also mean I-Media making acquisitions and consolidation of further mobile ad players.
“The mobile ad ecosystem is driven by media and application developers and advertisers,” said Shu in today’s statement announcing the investment. “I-Media will focus on building a more efficient mobile ad ecosystem, and delivering the best ROI for advertisers and highest yield for publishers and developers.”
I-Media posted revenues of RMB 100 million in 2011. Although smartphones are growing rapidly in China, with the country’s shipments now the highest of any other in the world, the majority of revenues in mobile ads for I-Media is actually coming from WAP and feature phones. Some 70 percent of I-Media’s sales come from from WAP, with mobile apps bringing in annual revenues of only RMB 50 million ($7.8 million) at the moment. That portion is poised to grow as I-Media puts a bigger emphasis on iOS and Android, Shu Yi said in May, according to this post from Marbridge Consulting. He also added that I-Media’s profit margin is still pretty low, between 20% and 30%.
I-Media follows in the tradition of many other China-based companies that have stolen a march on much bigger western companies when it comes to gaining market share in the country. Just as Google plays second-fiddle to the likes of Baidu and others in the search market, its mobile ad efforts, which lead in many other markets, lag behind companies like I-Media as well.
But the influence of Western players is still pretty strong: I-Media boasts that it has poached “many senior technology engineers” from Google and Yahoo as it has grown.
I-Media has been around since 2010 and operates three different lines of business: a mobile ad network called “LMMOB,” an enterprise mobile marketing service, “Qi ye bao,” and a self-service ad product, “Bei ke.” Ad Mob and inMobi are two compeitors,the compan says.
It’s the combination of technology and size that has attracted KPCB. “We are excited about investing in I-Media and helping them to continue to lead and accelerate the mobile advertising industry,” Zhou Wei, a partner at KPCB China, said in a statement. “I-Media has not only demonstrated technology leadership, but also the ability to execute in the market, converting technology leadership to consistently strong results and satisfied customers.”
We have contacted I-Media to get more details about its size, the state of its CPMs and page impressions, and what kind of a valuation the company has following today’s news. Zhang Zhen, a partner at IDG, only notes: “I-Media is worth more following the round, IDG capital will go towards accelerating I-Media ‘s advertising efforts and expansion plans in China and Asia.”