We’ve been kiiping an eye on KiipÂ –Â a platform that replaces straight display ads with rewards and contests from brands in mobile apps to offer a less annonying experience for users — and it looks like we might not be the only ones. The company, which now serves its rewards-based ads into 400 apps across iOS and Android, and has inventory served totalling 100 million moments every month in the U.S.,Â has raised another $8-10 million for what may be an equity stake of up to 20 percent in the company, TechCrunch understands.
We’re still trying to track down more details for this most recent investment; but up to now Kiip has attracted a strong list of backers. Co-founded in 2010 by ex-Digg employees Brian Wong, Courtney GuertinÂ andÂ Amadeus Demarzi, when Wong was still a teenager, itsÂ Series A ofÂ $4 millionÂ last yearÂ came from Hummer Winblad, Path’s Dave Morin, True Ventures and Crosslink Capital.
When KiipÂ emerged out of stealth mode just over a year ago, it based its business around rewards in games — “Game mechanics are what makes games, and there has not been an ad network so far that leverages those mechanics to engage users at the same time,” Wong told TechCrunch last year.
But more recently, it has broadened its reach beyond that with the launch of a self-serve platform in March, which has seen some strong pick-up from non-gaming brands like Pepsi, MapMyRun, and 1-800-Flowers, American Apparel, Procter & Gamble and Dr Pepper, which are incorporating gaming elements into their apps. “This has opened our minds to doing more than just games,” Wong said in an interview this week.
So where would new investment get used? One area might be in international expansion.
Wong this week returned from a visit to Singapore, Hong Kong and China to explore the market, on encouragement from some of the company’s angel investors. He is well aware of the concept of introducing an American company into the market and seems interested in partnering with established, bigger players — the Baidu’s, Shanda’s, and Tencent’s — whenever it does decide to make a move.
“It’s exciting to be a company based around gaming and rewards in China, because gaming is part of the culture, and so are coupons. We combined the two and we can potentially penetrate into that,” he said.
But he also pointed out a significant challenge that has stymied others. “Many American companies take the American approach, and they jam through solutions, using money to buy adoption,” he said. “But in China when you have a market of over 1 billion people, it’s very hard to change internet consumption habits. It can be futile.” Partnering with bigger players is a way to “open up a billion-dollar market.”
The company has also been hard at work courting developers in the last few months, with its $100,000 Build Fund offering independent developers rewards of $5,000, plus pro-bono services from Amazon Web Services ($2,000 worth), Urban Airship, Stackmob, Localytics and Crittercism.
Recipients also get access to advisors connected to the well-connected Kiip, such as Dave Jones (Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto creator); Phil Black from True Ventures; Lee Linden (Tapjoy and KarmaScience co-founder); Roy Bahat (IGN Entertianment president); Lars Leckie (MD of Hummer Winblad); among many others.
Out of hundreds of applicants, Kiip has now announced 20 winners for this first round of the fund (there will be more to come). It’s telling that the list is not only international, and that it contains more than games, with Tinygram (a picture-making app); Discoverful (social travel) and Kahnoodle (date night planner) among the list (the full list is below).