FORTUNE -- Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan never planned to go into advertising, much less run a startup. But when the 37-year-old Stanford graduate, with a Ph.D. in Information Theory, met AdMob founder Omar Hamoui, she turned her back on Wall Street and joined AdMob as a research scientist in 2007. There, she developed large, sweeping strings of math to help improve things like making ads more relevant to users.
"It was the era of feature phones," Sivarakmakrishnan remembers. Though the iPhone launched that year, Sivaramakrishnan still owned an old-school cell with a small screen and skeleton web browser. "Who browsed the Internet on their phones then? We just used them to talk. It was a voice communication device -- not a data communication device."
Two years later, Google (GOOG), itself the long-reigning Internet ad king, scooped up AdMob for $750 million, one of the largest acquisitions the company ever made. Sivrakmakrishnan stayed with Google for a brief six-month stint before striking out on her own to finish what AdMob started.
"If there is an unfinished legacy of AdMob that needs to be solved, it's mobile advertising in this next generation," she explains. Now the 36-strong San Mateo-based startup, with $20.5 million in funding from backers like Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital, argues that today's $7.29 billion U.S. mobile ad industry is broken. Many marketers continue to treat mobile and desktop behavior as separate sets of data, a flawed philosophy given how many consumers own multiple devices now. They may start surfing the web on the desktop, for instance, but continue doing so on their tablet or smartphone.
Last fall, Drawbridge debuted ad products that know better. Say a smartphone user searches for flat screen TVs, and they see a Best Buy (BBY) sales ad. They click on it, but realize they'd rather browse and buy on BestBuy.com from their desktop instead of scrolling on their phone's comparatively smaller screen. "Best Buy doesn't know that was the same person who clicked on their mobile app, and Google doesn't either," explains Eric Rosenblum, another Google alum and Drawbridge's VP of product. All Best Buy knows is that it paid Google for an ad someone clicked on, but they did not buy a television, and that later, a different person came to BestBuy.com and bought a TV."
Devices that all belong to the same person normally send off similar ad requests or requests made through the device by way of a digital exchange or marketplace. Drawbridge is able to sit on the sidelines of this digital exchange and observe these requests. Over several weeks, Drawbridge's tech recognizes a user's behavioral patterns across different devices and with 70%-plus accuracy, matches them up. In the case of Best Buy and Google, the value of Drawbridge is obvious: BestBuy (BBY) would know its ad directly contributed to a purchase, and Google could potentially charge more for that ad.
The startup has paired over 471 million devices so far, yielding complete desktop and mobile user profiles that number in the hundreds of millions. Travel booking site Expedia (EXPE) is already testing Drawbridge's ad solutions. Drawbridge's next step? Drilling deeper into user data and being able to tell marketers things like how often someone comes back to a web site and once they return, whether they're viewing or clicking from mobile or desktop. Already, Sivaramakrishnan estimates their current ad solutions can offer marketing campaigns as much as 300% in boost.
Given its founder's dedication, the Drawbridge crew should get there quickly. When she first started, the committed Sivaramakrishnan encouraged people to come into the office on weekends and even wondered whether it was OK to give employees Christmas Day off. Indeed, it was only after her beat-up 1990 Toyota Corolla got totaled in an accident did Sivaramakrishnan finally get a new car. "She was so busy she couldn't buy one," chuckles Matt Murphy, a Kleiner Perkins partner and Drawbridge investor, who offered to purchase one for her. (He ultimately didn't.)
To Murphy however, that would have been a small price to pay so Sivaramakrishnan could continue her work. Explains Murphy: "She's going after a big problem that frankly, is going to be extraordinarily hard for others replicate."
Google's Android and Apple's iOS still make up the vast majority of the market.
FORTUNE -- There's a new number three.
Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Phone operating system has overtaken BlackBerry (BBRY) for the first time, according to researcher IDC. The firm released its quarterly report on the smartphone market, showing that during the first quarter of 2013, Windows devices made up 3.2% of all smartphones shipped. BlackBerry devices accounted for 2.9% of MOREMatt Vella, senior editor - May 16, 2013 10:46 AM ET
For the first time, says IDC, more smartphones were shipped than feature phones.
FORTUNE -- The headline of IDC's quarterly report on the state of the global mobile phone market Friday was that smartphone shipments, on the strength of their 41.6% year over year growth, overtook feature phones for the first time. The overall cellphone market, by contrast, grew an anemic 4%.
"Phone users want computers in their pockets," says IDC's Kevin Restivo.
With the usual caveat MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 26, 2013 6:47 AM ET
It's increasingly a two-platform race -- at least for now
Click to enlarge.
FORTUNE -- ComScore released dozens of useful slides in its Mobile Future in Focus "webinar" Wednesday. The one above shows that not once since the iPhone was introduced in 2007 has Apple's (AAPL) platform had the largest share of the U.S. smartphone market.Philip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 20, 2013 5:57 PM ET
Also, 5 times more reliable than Nokia's and 27 times more reliable than Motorola's
FORTUNE -- FixYa, which bills itself as the leading product Q&A destination on the Web and mobile, published a head-to-head comparison Friday of the reliability of four leading smartphone manufacturers: Apple (AAPL), Samsung, Nokia (NOK) and Motorola (GOOG).
The site looked at 722,558 troubleshooting requests, sorted them by manufacturer, calculated the ratio of market share to problem requests, and MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 23, 2013 6:26 AM ET
As Apple and Google dominate the American market, former leaders Microsoft and RIM find themselves brawling for third.
FORTUNE -- On Jan. 30, Research in Motion -- the Canadian company that once owned the American smartphone industry -- will attempt to regain its foothold with the launch of a new mobile operating system, BlackBerry 10. The company's goal is not to out-innovate the iPhone. Rather, in a market controlled by Apple MOREJessi Hempel, writer - Jan 28, 2013 5:00 AM ET
Piper Jaffray's chief Apple enthusiast comes to the defense of the embattled stock
FORTUNE -- With Apple's (AAPL) shares off more than 6% Wednesday, there was no shortage of theories about what was driving all the selling. We highlighted one -- Apple's failure to issue a special dividend -- earlier today. In a note to clients a few hours later, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster addressed four more:
Digitimes Article Appears To Be MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 5, 2012 2:59 PM ET
Also: Google's stock takes the plunge; Gilt puts Jetsetter up for sale.
Google's stock falls 8% after grim earnings come out early [CNNMONEY]
The company missed analysts' estimates on both sales and profit. Google shares slumped on the news before being halted for about 3 hours. The stock resumed about 40 minutes before the end of the trading day and closed down 8%.
Elop: a Surface phone would stimulate the Windows Phone ecosystem [THE VERGE]
Nokia MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Oct 19, 2012 6:30 AM ET
How Katy Perry inspired LinkedIn's redesign; Facebook's real mobile problem.
The royal Nokia screw-up that shouldn't have been [PANDODAILY]
That gets to the larger problem: The entire phone isn't ready. On stage, Nokia had nothing specific to say about when the Lumia would go on sale. A day later, perhaps after noticing that providing a launch date for its make-or-break phone could be somewhat important to the future of its entire business, the MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Sep 10, 2012 6:00 AM ET
The backstory of the struggling cellphone maker's newest devices - and the unlikely executive leading the charge.
FORTUNE -- Since Stephen Elop became CEO of Nokia in 2010 he has made a series of bold moves, from releasing a rally-the-troops memo comparing the flailing mobile-phone maker to a man on a burning platform to hitching the company's future to Microsoft's Windows operating system. His other daring deed? Assigning the crucial task MOREMichal Lev-Ram, writer - Sep 5, 2012 10:35 AM ET
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