An Australian startup has today announced a $15 million (AUD) ($11.6 million USD) funding round to bring ads to users’ smartphones in exchange for discounts and financial perks related to their mobile phone bills.
After launching in Australia last October with Lebara Mobile, Melbourne-based Unlockd took its adtech smarts to the U.S. back in January via a tie-up with Sprint prepaid offshoot Boost Mobile. The partnership saw the launch of a new Android app, Boost Dealz, that gives users $5 worth of credit each month in exchange for being sold to by brands — this includes geo-targeted ads, discounts, promotions, and other special offers.
The ads display as a user unlocks their smartphone, and they can elect to view more details or “dismiss” the ads by hitting a little “x” button. Through carrier partnerships, Unlockd’s technology lets telecom companies offer free data, payments toward customers’ handsets, or even a discount on their bill.
Today’s funding round, which takes Unlockd’s total amount raised to the $17 million (USD) mark, includes PLC Ventures, Peter Gammell, Sam Mostyn, Radek Sali (CEO, Swisse Wellness), and Greg Roebuck (CEO/founder of carsales.com.au). It will be used to help the take its technology to new markets, with plans to launch in the U.K. and Asia by the end of 2016.
With adblocking becoming more of a “thing,” and carriers seeking to take control by blocking ads at the network level, Unlockd could see traction with technology that promises to give some control back to mobile networks and offers a direct entry point to monetization through online ads — a territory normally reserved for online giants such as Google.
“The telco industry is facing a continual decline in ARPU’s (average revenue per user), at the same time as growing competition to keep prices low for consumers,” said Unlockd CEO and cofounder Matt Berriman. “This is due in part to the massive increase in data usage per user, as smartphones become the screen for browsing, playing games and viewing content.”