TenFarms Raises $2.7M To Launch Adtile, A New Approach To Mobile Ads

TenFarms, a startup working on a couple of interesting mobile product ideas, just announced that it has raised $2.7 million in funding from undisclosed angel investors.

The company has already released its first product, Photopoll, which allows users to share photos (you can pull them from your camera roll, Amazon.com, or Instagram), tell stories around those photos, and ask their friends for opinions. There are lots of other polling apps, but when founder and CEO Nils Forsblom showed me Photopoll, he emphasized the ease with which users can share multiple photos. The app has attracted a largely female audience, he said, and it will be tailoring the experience to that audience with future releases.

More interesting to me is what TenFarms is working on next — Adtile, which delivers mobile ads that don’t interrupt the user experience until someone chooses to view them. If you’re browsing an app with a stream of content, some of that content might have an Adtile icon, and if you tap on, say, that photo, it will flip over and show a related ad.

Will anyone actually tap on the ads? Forsblom said that he’s been happy with the results from the early tests, though he declined to offer any specific numbers.

Forsblom said this approach has some big advantages over other types of mobile advertising. For one thing, he said the ads themselves offer a good user experience. For example, one ad he showed me not only highlights a relevant product, but also maps out the location of nearby stores and allows users to call those stores. He said the experience is designed natively for iOS, and he argued that it’s almost wrong to call it an ad — it’s more of “an app within an app.”

The other advantage is targeting. Adtile will allow advertisers to advertise in apps in a specific topic or vertical, and they can also target by geography. Even better, Forsblom said, “We understand what’s the product or thing that it’s showing — when you flip [the content] around, there should a very, very close relationship with with the ad itself.” At the same time, he cautioned, “None of these things are ever perfect.”

Forsblom said he won’t be selling Adtile units directly, but instead working with ad networks. He also said that he wants to experiment with different pricing models, so that it’s “more democratic” and the ad that gets served isn’t always the one that comes from the advertiser with the biggest budget.

Before TenFarms, Forsblom founded Fruugo, a shopping startup that seems to have flamed out despite raising $48 million in funding. In a recent interview, Forsblom said that after taking on investors at Fruugo, he was “basically powerless”: “That was my biggest mistake, giving those voting powers to the investors and basically just being an employee of the company.” That’s why he said he’s being careful and retaining control this time around.