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Cisco, Motorola Back Mobile-Advertising Co Amobee

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Cellphone maker Motorola and networking giant Cisco Systems have joined several venture firms and wireless carriers to fund Amobee Media Systems Inc., a start up that helps mobile operators stream advertisements to their customers alongside video, music, games and other features.

The undisclosed round is the company's third, and was joined by previous backers Vodafone Group and Telefonica, Amobee's two biggest customers. Also participating were returning investors Accel Partners, Globespan Capital Partners and Sequoia Capital.

With access to some 400 million customers through its partnerships with Vodafone and Telefonica, Amobee has no further need to raise funding, Chief Executive Zohar Levkovitz said.

While Levkovitz declined to give Amobee's total funding or its valuation, he said "each and every round has been a big up round."

As the Web increasingly goes mobile, how best to monetize content is a constant point of debate. In a crowded and competitive space, companies have a range of views on how to present and contextualize advertising to be palatable to consumers.

In addition to notable start-up mobile ad companies like AdMob, 4Info and JumpTap, Amobee will soon find itself competing with search giant Google, which is poised to enter the mobile marketplace with its Android software platform.

But unlike many of its competitors, Redwood City, Calif.-based Amobee focuses its efforts on the carriers, which use Amobee's software to deliver ads with content - but only on the user's say-so. "Consumers are at the center of the experience," Levkovitz said.

A smart-phone user getting service from an Amobee customer such as Telefonica, for example, is offered a wide range of games, video, music and other applications. While the user has the option to pay for those services, he or she can also opt to get them for free in exchange for accepting a certain number of advertisements on their handsets.

The partnerships with Vodafone and Telefonica have given Amobee reach into Europe and Latin America, and the Cisco and Motorola backing could signify a coming foray into North America. Amobee is "working with" U.S. carriers, Levkovitz said, and is in trials with a number of others around the world.

Levkovitz declined to say whether Amobee has yet turned a profit, or whether it might seek to go public or be acquired.

Founded in 2005, the company has 85 employees. Amobee raised a $5 million round in 2005 and an undisclosed round in 2007.

By Timothy Hay 415-439-6625

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

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