PocketMath cofounder and CRO Casey Grooms just started making a salary in July.
The Singapore-based mobile DSP, which began life as AdMunch back in 2011, had been completely bootstrapped until now. On Monday, PocketMath announced the close of its first funding round, $10 million in Series A cash from the VC arm of Japanese ecommerce player Rakuten.
It’s a healthy sum, which Grooms, who cofounded PocketMath with fellow University of Texas at Austin grads Eric Tucker and JD Lee, said the company will primarily spend on talent acquisition – headcount is now at 40 – and product development. PocketMath is planning to hire more people on the core engineering side and to add some data scientists to the ranks. To that end, PocketMath recently poached a high-ranking data scientist from mobile app analytics firm App Annie, who is slated to start either at the end of Q4 this year or in early Q1 2015.
The goal is to build out PocketMath’s feature set beyond mobile RTB to include performance and bidding optimization. Mobile video and native are also on the roadmap.
“By the end of the year, we’ll fully support all mobile video through VAST,” Grooms said, noting that PocketMath will be fully integrated with a slew of SSP video partners by the end of this year, including LiveRail, BrightRoll, Adap.TV, Vpodia, SpotXchange and Aerserv. “In Q1 , we’re going to have our big push into the native realm to support mobile native buying.”
On the mobile supply side, PocketMath, which Grooms said processes about 20 billion impressions a day, is hooked up to a veritable smorgasbord of supply partners: PubMatic, Flurry, Opera MediaWorks, Tapsense, Axonix, MoPub, Nexage, OpenX, inMobi, xAd and a host of others. PocketMath supports rich media tags from MobileAds, Thirdpresence, Medialets, Celtra, Odyssey and Bonzai. On the third-party tracking front, PocketMath has hookups with Kochava, Ad-X, Apsalar, MobileAppTracking via TUNE, Adways and AppsFlyer.
It’s an impressive list, considering that until now PocketMath maintained a sales team of one – Grooms himself. PocketMath recently hired salespeople in Mumbai, Sydney and Washington, DC.
“It was all pure hustling,” Grooms said. “I would go to ad:tech New York, sneak into parties and tell people we were building a DSP and that we were looking for partners.”
This past September at ad:tech NYC, Grooms wanted to network at the AppNexus Summit after party, but he didn’t have a badge. So, he hung around by the entrance and asked people as they left if he could have their badge if they didn’t need it anymore. At one point, a very tall man left the party and as he strode away Grooms ran after him to ask for his badge. When the man turned around it turned out he was Brian O’Kelley, CEO of AppNexus. Grooms stared at him for a moment, stupefied. O’Kelley, for his part, was gracious and offered to let Grooms into the party.
But PocketMath isn’t just an upstart – it’s starting to make bank on its own. The company began being profitable this past year.
“Last January, February and March our revenue was about $1,000 for the whole month,” Grooms said. “Now we’re at $1 million a month.”
PocketMath’s self-serve capability is one of its main differentiators from others in the mobile programmatic space, Grooms said.
“We sell the platform, we don’t sell on a campaign by campaign basis,” he said. “A lot of DSPs are selling a campaign here and a campaign there to the agencies and they always have to be re-pitching. But with us, it’s easy for to predict our next months’ revenue plus or minus 10%.”
Although PocketMath is based in Singapore, Grooms wouldn’t call it a “Singaporean company” per se.
“The startup scene in Singapore is young and growing, but a lot of startups there have a local mentality, so they artificially restrict themselves,” he said. “They might expand into Malaysia or Indonesia as the next quickstep, but that’s it.”
While PocketMath does have a handful of clients in Singapore and the surrounding areas, the bulk of its business is evenly distributed throughout the US, Israel and Europe. Grooms and his team are planning to double down in China starting next year. Rakuten Ventures managing director SaeMin Ahn will join the PocketMath board, and Rakuten will sell and distribute the PocketMath technology in Japan under the Rakuten name.
“Our strategy is to look at things from a global perspective,” Grooms said.