Very quietly, Boston-based Jana Mobile announced that it has raised a $15 million round of funding. The investment from Paris-based Publicis Groupe is its first investment in the mobile technology startup space. For Jana, the new strategic investment brings its total funding to about $25 million. Publicis Groupe joins Spark Capital’s Todd Dagres, Rohini Chakravarty of NEA, AOL/New Corp’s Jonathan Miller, Paul Sagan of Akamai, and Esther Dyson, as investors in Jana.
The large investment from Publicis Groupe is somewhat of a surprise. Publicis is one of the world’s largest advertising, marketing, and public relations firms. Publicis Groupe has subsidiaries across the globe including VivaKi, which is the parent company of Digitas.
One wonders why an advertising/marketing giant would want to get involved in a mobile rewards company, but a look at Jana’s partnerships, clients, and global reach may hold the answer.
Jana Mobile distributes rewards, particularly mobile usage credits, in emerging mobile markets such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria, among others. Brands, such as Nestlé and Unilever, and even organizations such CNN and the UN, create ‘challenges’ that users complete in return for mobile airtime credits. The press release announcing the deal gives some examples of some of the typical challenges that are run through Jana, including, “trial (registration, app downloads), engagement (watching a video), advocacy (referring a friend), and product purchase (airtime rebates).”
The brands and organizations receive vital data that includes information on customer base, consumer trends, or regional health/safety/political profiles from the challenges.
In many of the case studies presented on Jana’s website, the challenge participant numbers far exceed the target goals of the campaigns. Additionally, Jana reports that it helps to halve the cost of mobile airtime costs for users in emerging markets where mobile usage prices can be too costly for most.
The company’s appeal to a massive advertising firm can be traced to some of the numbers reported in the press release announcing the deal: “Jana is integrated into the billing systems of 237 mobile operators in 102 countries, can instantly reward 3.48 billion emerging market consumers with prepaid airtime in local currency.” Jana has established a positive relationship with users in South America, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, Southeast Asia, China, and parts of Europe. Many brands and organizations are already leveraging Jana's large global reach for data insights, and Publicis can integrate its advertising and marketing campaigns into Jana's already successful, widespread network.
Additionally, Jana has a consumer-facing membership product called mCent that rewards free mobile credits when customers fill out surveys or purchase goods. The appeal of mCent lies with its ridiculously expanding opt-in numbers. “Over the past six months, mCent membership has exploded," the press release states, "with more than 6 million opt-in members registered and over a million new emerging market consumers joining every month."
Maurice Lévy, Publicis Groupe’s Chairman and CEO will join Jana’s Board of Advisors along with Rishad Tobaccowala, the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer for VivaKi.
In the press release, Lévy said of the deal, “I have been personally attracted and convinced to invest directly in this platform as I see it as the next big thing in the communication industry.” “Consumers in these dynamic markets are spending 10 percent of their daily income on mobile airtime,” he added, “while global advertisers are spending more than $150 billion to reach them through traditional advertising channels.”
“With its platform, Jana is changing the face of advertising by enabling us to invest in targeted, mobile-based campaigns that put advertising dollars directly into the pockets of the ‘next billion’ consumers our clients are most eager to reach.” Lévy continued.
“I am confident that Jana will help consumers in those markets to have a better life.”
Dennis Keohane is a staff writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.