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Local startup Sprout bought by India-based InMobi

When you launch a startup, you can never be sure what success will look like or where it will take you. ChipIn, a company that Hawaii Business has followed since it began in Honolulu in 2005, has taken that unforeseen path to success.

The company started as an online fundraising service for nonprofits but was transformed a few years later into a mobile advertising-technology company called Sprout, which, in turn, was bought in September by an Indian company with global reach.

“Things have been crazy hectic since the acquisition,” says Carnet Williams, VP and co-founder of ChipIn/Sprout. “We went from North America to the world overnight and instantly had to start looking at Europe, the Middle East, Asia, you name it.”

The new owner is InMobi, a Bangalore-based mobile ad network that spans 165 countries and reaches about 314 million consumers. Details of the deals were undisclosed, but blogger Devindra Hardawar of the popular VentureBeat website called it “a match made in advertising heaven.”

“InMobi will be using our technology internally to build ad units, but we’ll also still work externally to get our product in the hands of agencies and other people who can do it themselves,” Williams said. “We’re helping them [advertisers] expand in the mobile space beyond just being an ad network,” including advertising in apps.

A breakthrough came in February 2008, when Sprout won a DEMOgod Award. That competition forces contestants to conduct a live demonstration of their emerging technology in 360 seconds or less.

Sprout is now based in San Francisco, but still has a Honolulu office. Since the acquisition, it has added four people and is planning to hire another 45 to 60 in the next quarter. “It’s just taken everything we’re doing and really accelerating it even more,” Williams says.

Sprout’s technology allows its parent company, advertising agencies and other companies to create mobile phone ads without a lot of coding or technical expertise. Pictured at right are some mobile ads that were created using Sprout’s technology.

photo: courtesy sprout

Memory Lane

Our coverage of ChipIn/Sprout over the years:

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Hawaii Business,January