* Specialises in audience analysis, fraud prevention
* Mobile ads to reach $232 bln this year; one third of total advertising spend
* Second-largest German startup funding round this year
FRANKFURT, June 12 (Reuters) - Adjust, a Berlin startup specialising in audience measurement and fraud prevention in mobile advertising, said on Wednesday it had raised $227 million to invest in expanding its platform and growing in new markets.
The funding round, Germany’s second-largest this year after Berlin travel site GetYourGuide raised $484 million, was led by Eurazeo Growth, Highland Europe, Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners and Sofina.
Mobile advertising is expanding rapidly as more people surf the internet, consume news and play games on their smartphones, with eMarketer forecasting here that it will hit $232 billion this year - more than a third of total spending on ads worldwide.
That is attracting fraudsters who seek to manipulate audience numbers with ‘fake’ clicks, causing marketers to spend money on ads that don’t attract eyeballs. Automated ‘bots’ are also penetrating online games, interfering with in-app purchases or turning off players by beating them, Adjust’s co-founder and CEO Christian Henschel told Reuters.
“Unfortunately with any fast-growing market, there are bad actors trying to profit,” Henschel said in an interview.
Adjust, founded in 2012, provides a subscription service for marketers to analyse audience behaviour. It also offers fraud prevention and cyber-security solutions for more than 25,000 mobile apps worldwide.
The company describes itself as the leader in its industry, where it competes with rivals Appsflyer and Branch, and counts NBCUniversal, Zynga, Pinterest and Procter & Gamble among its customers.
It declined to share its financials or give a total valuation, saying it had been profitable for the last four years and increased its headcount by 150 to 350 over the last 12 months.
Henschel said Adjust would invest proceeds of this round - equivalent to nearly 10 times all its earlier funding - in broadening its Software as a Service (Saas) offering and extending its geographical coverage.
“We thought: Now we have the engine under control, why don’t we give it more power?” said Henschel.
One growth focus is China and Southeast Asia, which now account for 30% of sales, compared to 40% in Europe and 30% in the United States.
Adjust will also look at further acquisitions, said Henschel, after it bought Acquired.io, a U.S. data aggregation platform that helps simplify routine tasks, and Unbotify, an Israeli cyber-security and artificial intelligence specialist that spots and tackles in-app bot fraud. (Editing by Keith Weir)