As smartphones become ever more powerful, they can now perform a dizzying array of roles from mobile office to entertainment centre. One area that is relatively underdeveloped but growing rapidly is mobile e-commerce.
A recent industry report by InMobi, an independent mobile advertising company, predicted a 15% increase in mobile commerce in 2014. Market researchers, eMarketer, claim that U.S. companies will be spending up to $94.91 billion on mobile advertising by 2018, over three times the current level.
JustAd is an Israeli startup hoping to profit from this trend. Founded in 2009 by CEO and founder Yariv Erel, its main product is a software platform which allows advertisers to easily create their own media-rich digital adverts designed specifically for mobile devices.
JustAd sees itself as a technology company rather than an online advertising firm, so Erel, does not count companies like Facebook, Google, or Millennial Media as their main competitors.
“We are in a niche market, and our customers could be anyone in the advertising value chain. Our platform is built entirely in HTML5 and does a lot of heavy lifting. The software has over 400 features, and users can drag and drop images to create the adverts themselves; it’s simple to understand, and you can take it anywhere,” says Erel.
The Tel Aviv-based firm started out trying to corner the even more niche market of advertising on televisions connected to the internet, also known as Smart TVs. JustAd was the first to build a platform for these new devices, which many technology pundits thought would quickly replace traditional televisions. But the trend failed to catch on among consumers and JustAd’s revenues were too low to be sustainable.
Two years ago, Erel made the tough decision to change course and retool their platform for advertising on mobile devices. After first selling services in Latin America and Eastern Europe, JustAd is set to expand into the U.S. with a more mature product. But the firm faces tough competition from Celtra, a U.S.-based company with a similar offering called AdCreator 4. Nevertheless, JustAd plans to disrupt this incumbent through a mixture of product differentiation and aggressive expansion.
“We see more competitors, each one with their own different angle and functions. We’re doing it all in HTML5 and, obviously, we think our platform works the best. We are extremely aggressive, in a good way, and try to give our customers all the support they need,” explains Erel.
JustAd faces the same scaling problems shared by thousands of startups trying to make it big in the U.S. The company is currently going through a round of funding, which should raise $3 million to $5 million by the end of the year, according to Erel. There is no doubt however, that mobile advertising spending is set to rise dramatically in the coming years, and if JustAd can capture a fraction of the U.S. market, then it could grow to become a major player in the space.