Adelphic Adds $10M, Led by Google Ventures, to Merge Big Data & Mobile Ads

If the names m-Qube, Enpocket, Third Screen Media, Quattro Wireless, and Where mean anything to you, well, you are well-versed in the recent history of Boston mobile advertising companies. (All of the above were acquired in the past six years.)

If Adelphic Mobile means anything to you, well, perhaps you know the future of the field.

The Waltham, MA-based startup said today it has raised a $10 million Series A round led by Google Ventures, with seed investor Matrix Partners also participating. The round brings Adelphic’s total funding to $12 million. (Google general partner Rich Miner is a busy man around Boston these days; he’s also speaking at Xconomy’s Mobile Madness New York conference today.)

“This money will allow us to go to market in a big way,” says Adelphic co-founder and president Jennifer Lum. “We’ve spent a lot of time with our partners and customers, making sure [our platform] is valuable to their businesses. Now we can put it in their hands.”

Adelphic is part of a newer wave of Boston-area mobile companies that are trying to use techniques around big data, analytics, and rich media to help brands and agencies create and serve up better-targeted (and more relevant) ads to consumers. Lum, a veteran of m-Qube, Quattro, and Apple, says Adelphic’s technology reflects a shift from a “legacy focus on devices” by advertisers to being able to reach “real people.”

What that means is Adelphic’s software works behind the scenes to crunch loads of data on how mobile consumers are interacting with content and ads. It knows which people in a given city at breakfast time, say, might respond favorably to an ad from Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s displayed through a media partner.

“We can identify segments of users that are important,” Lum says. “We’ll tell you how many are available, the price we can acquire them for you, and help you launch a campaign.”

But any real-time targeting of consumers raises the specter of privacy issues. Especially when the company talks about reaching individuals, not just devices. Adelphic seems adept at walking that line, though; its privacy policy says it doesn’t collect personally identifiable information, and it gives consumers instructions on how to opt out of personalized advertising. (I think there is a distinction—though it is getting finer—between targeting people with certain mobile behaviors, and targeting certain people.)

In any case, Adelphic’s product is out there, and the company is planning to ramp up. It has 22 employees and is looking to hire more product and engineering team members, Lum says.

I asked Lum what she thinks of the “Series A crunch”—the much-talked-about observation that there are too many seed-stage tech companies and too little money for the next round. Since Adelphic just raised a healthy A round, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Lum thinks the concept is overhyped.

“I believe good companies that are building real technologies and products will find ways to raise money,” she says. “A lot of smaller businesses need to follow a different strategy than the VC approach.”

As for what to watch for in the Boston tech scene in 2013, she says, “Early signs of some breakout companies. We’ve had two to three years of a lot of optimism and activity around getting young companies and entrepreneurs off the ground.”

Now it’s time to pick some winners. We’ll see if Adelphic Mobile is one of them.

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