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Twitter’s former Asian chief joins mobile ad start-up Unlockd

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-04-2017 Yoolim Lee

Singapore: Aliza Knox helped Twitter Inc. and Google Inc. build Asian businesses from scratch. Now she plans to do the same for an Australian mobile advertising start-up whose backers include 21st Century Fox Inc. co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch.

Knox quit as Twitter’s most senior Asian executive this month to join Unlockd, a company that offers users a discount on wireless bills, additional data or entertainment content if they agree to view ads when unlocking their device screens. As chief operating officer, the former Google executive will spearhead the start-up’s global expansion.

The Melbourne-based firm, which got off the ground in 2014, joins a growing list of companies—from Amazon.com Inc. to startup Jana—targeting a global mobile advertising market that researcher eMarketer expects to reach $101 billion in 2016.

“They are totally aggressive about the business and getting things done,” said Knox, who hails from the San Francisco Bay area and worked at Boston Consulting and Visa before joining Google, mostly in Singapore and Australia. “But they also have the humility that this is a competitive environment.”

Unlockd now reaches about a million users through partnerships with carriers such as Boost Mobile, a subsidiary of Sprint Corp., Tesco Mobile Ltd in the UK and Digicel Group Ltd in the Caribbean. It works with advertisers including Uber, McDonald’s, British Airways and Doritos, and its content partners include Twitter, Yahoo and the Facebook Audience Network.

The company is now in talks with carriers to expand into several new markets, including India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, company co-founder and chief executive officer Matt Berriman said. Unlockd may eventually set up a regional office in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, he added.

“We expect at least two or three markets to be launched in the next six to nine months,” Berriman said in a phone interview. The company, which has raised about A$25 million ($19 million), plans to announce the closing of its Series B round in coming weeks, he added. New investors as well as existing backers joined the round, he said. Unlockd’s backers include Peter Gammell, former CEO of Seven Group Holdings.

Berriman, 32, met Knox over drinks in December at a restaurant across from the Twitter building in San Francisco. They were introduced by a headhunter who thought Knox’s management experience could come in handy at Unlockd. What appealed to Knox about the Australian start-up were its strong growth potential and culture.

“What I love doing and I have proven to be good at doing is taking companies from almost nothing to a really significant presence,” Knox said. “Unlockd has a tremendous growth potential.” Bloomberg

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