(WSJ) It is no secret that many Silicon Valley companies are aggressively pursuing a China strategy, hoping that the booming 1.3 billion-man market will present better investment opportunities than the less exciting, ailing U.S. and European markets.
But the CEO of mobile-advertising company Amobee — which has partnered with heavyweights like Google, Nokia, Zynga and eBay — says too few talk about the rest of Asia.
“In the West Coast of America, people talk about their Asian strategy and they immediately think of China,” said Amobee CEO Trevor Healy, who comes from a line of California companies, including Jajah and eBay. “They are not talking about the rest of Asia — this is a huge oversight.”
Mr. Healy’s company, which was listed by Business Insider as one of the world’s 100 most valuable startups in 2010, specializes in mobile marketing on a variety of devices, from regular mobile phones and smartphones to tablets like the iPad, delivering what it describes as “a mix of Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley” to companies with plenty of advertising dollars to spend. Amobee also specializes in interactive advertising like billboards at bus stops and train stations.
On Monday, Amobee announced a tie-up with Indonesia’s Merah Cipta Media group and Vietnam’s Ambient Digital, expanding its mobile advertising platform to two Southeast Asian nations that boast a mobile penetration of 91% and almost 100%, respectively.
For Amobee, Asia — where mobile penetration is high and each person has 1.5 cellphones on average, according to figures from Nokia – offers the “perfect” market, and one into which the company is aggressively expanding.
“My personal view is that the propensity of the middle class in Indonesia to spend is very high,” said Mr. Healy, who added that the Indonesia demographic, with 50% of the population younger than 30, presents an interesting opportunity for mobile advertising.
Amobee, which also has just won a contract with luxury mobile phone maker Vertu, is keen on tapping the wealth of the growing middle class across Southeast Asia.
“(The) Philippines is an interesting market for luxury goods, fashion and electronics,” said Mr. Healey, adding that these goods often denote status in the Philippines.
Speaking in Singapore, Mr. Healey added that the business-friendly city-state is also crucial from a deal-making perspective.
“Singapore is the connective tissue of a lot of countries,” he said. “I get the same feeling here that I got in Silicon Valley in 1995.”
Though the current pool for mobile advertising, now at $4 million, remains tiny in a $500 billion industry, Mr. Healey said he is confident that advertising dollars will soon shift to the mobile world, particularly as smartphone penetration continues to grow even in low-income countries.
While noting the somewhat limited availability of venture capital and creative investors in Asia, Mr. Healey said he remains confident that Asia will remain resilient amid the economic turmoil plaguing the rest of the world, and will be a region that will soon give birth to its own creative start-ups.
“This whole China and India explosion is just the beginning, this market has a long road ahead,” Mr. Healey said. “I think you will find that in 10 years, there will be more start-ups coming out of Jakarta than Mountain View.”