Google Ventures-funded Quettra raises $2.9M to dig up info on mobile subs for advertisers

Quettra just emerged from stealth mode with six employees, three interns, $2.9 million in seed-round funding and a plan to develop a mobile platform that founder and CEO Ankit Jain says will provide "a thorough understanding of the user" to advertisers.

Jain, former head of search and discovery at Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google Play app store, quietly started Quettra one year ago "with the goal of making it easier for marketers to reach the right audience at the right time," he said in an entry on the company's blog.

"We're building software that can run on hundreds of millions of devices and systems that can process and organize tens of terabytes daily. The software and systems that we are building will serve personalized content and meaningful experiences at lightning speeds to users of our partners' applications," Jain said.

He indicated current mobile advertising solutions provide too little user information to advertisers to be sufficiently useful. Quettra, Jain said, intends to take advantage of its understanding of mobile operating systems to build rich profiles of mobile users that can be used to ensure mobile advertisements match individual tastes and preferences.

"We think of advertising as a three-layer stack: at the base is a thorough understanding of the user, in the middle is the right set of advertisers and campaigns, and finally at the top is the perfect format and experience for a given user and ad. At Quettra, we are starting from the base and will work our way up this stack as we grow," Jain wrote.

Google Ventures, the venture capital investment arm of Google, stepped in as one of the venture capital firms committing to provide seed funding for Quettra. Though it does not always happen, Google has been known to acquire companies funded by Google Ventures, with home automation company Nest Labs, acquired earlier this year for $3.2 billion, being a prime example.

Others backing Quettra's $2.9 million seed round include CrunchFund, Data Collective, Horizons Ventures, Miramar Digital Ventures and SV Angel. The company also has numerous angel investors. China's Sungy Mobile, the mobile app and platform development firm best known for GO Launcher and Locker Android apps, is a strategic investor.

Jain is a bit cagey when it comes to divulging specifics regarding what Quettra is doing, but he told TechCrunch that the Mountain View, Calif., company is ready to engage in early testing. Further, he told Re/code that Quettra "will be very transparent about what data we collect."

But privacy advocates might find cause for alarm when it comes to Quettra's plans. A look at Quettra's privacy policy reveals that the startup intends to track individual users' phone usage patterns immediately upon their installation of its SDK.

"Quettra might notice that you tend to check the weather at home in the morning, your calendar when you get to work, and maps when you're in your car," the policy says, noting the company's service will enable third-party publishers and developers to leverage such data in order to personalize their offerings.

Other things tracked by Quettra will include a device's Google Play advertising ID; device model and operating system information; Wi-Fi networks configured by the user; device geo-location data; the number of times a user runs and app, including the time and place where it was run; the number of times a user switches on the phone and what the user subsequently does, such as launching an app, unlocking the screen, or turning the screen back off.

In related news, antivirus-software pioneer John McAfee contends smartphones are being used to spy on American consumers. McAfee, who made a surprise appearance at the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, said he is dumping all of his smartphones, according to The Wall Street Journal. "The most promising privacy thing is stupid phones," he said.

For more:
- see this Quettra blog post
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this Re/code article
- see this Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)

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