UPDATED: This is Why InMobi Was Not Going to Make it in Africa

InMobi is shutting down its offices in Africa. The India based mobile advertising company could not survive the Googles and Facebook in Africa. The company spent lots of money events which seemingly did not give them returns. Now things are thick and the company is shutting down.

The sales guy was the clueless Moses Kemibaro and the President for Africa was Isis Nyong’o. Ok tell what startup Isis really propelled to greater heights? Isis was recruited from Google Africa. What magic did Isis do at Google? None. Him and John Mucheru were on free roll. There is no magic they did and none was needed because Google still is a monopoly on many fronts.

Funny enough is that even with her contacts at Google, Isis has not helped InMobi. The company could just not make it in the continent. InMobi even charged lower than Google on impressions and clicks but still Google and Facebook used their giant advantages to kill them off.

What could have made InMobi popular in the continent was more responsive sites and mobile apps. The web developers in the continent, Moses Kemibaro being a part owner of one such company, are not doing enough to deploy websites which are responsive to mobile and various desktop needs. There is also not much acceptance of mobile apps in Africa made by Africans. The apps popular in the continent are developed in Europe, US and India. That has meant that InMobi had not much partnerships with local developers which was mutually beneficial.

InMobi had huge investments in Africa. First the company had investors like Kleiner Perkins Caufield  & Byers , SoftBank, Sherpalo, Ventures and Mumbai Angels. Kleiner Perkins Caufield  & Byers together with Sherpalo invested more than $15 million in the company in 2010 while Japan’s Softbank pumped-in more than $200 million in mobile ad behemoth. Mumbai Angels added another $500,000 to the investments and that meant that the company was more liquid.

InMobi has maintained offices in London, San Francisco, Bangalore, Tokyo, Nairobi, Cape Town and Singapore. The two African offices are to be closed and few of the senior staff who made the decisions leading to InMobi’s poor performance in the continent have the options to be deployed in the London office or be retrenched.

It is very hard to verify this but according to the company’s website, InMobi serves 485 million mobile ad consumers in 165 countries delivering an impressive 93.4 billion mobile ad impressions every month. InMobi has also indicated that they reach over 30 million clients in Africa with 99% of its ad impressions in Kenya being from mobile websites not apps. The most popular handsets are Nokia 1680 with 12%, Nokia C1-01 with 5.8%, Alcatel comes third and other Nokia mobile phone models takes up the rest. The mobile ads the company delivers still serves feature phones. What kind of mobile advert do you deliver to Nokia 1680? That is how pathetic it was for InMobi in Africa.

There are issues which the company should have addressed including enhancing mobile web development and looking at what would have helped mobile app developers get their apps accepted. InMobi partnered more with competitions and not dealt with the issue of user experience. iHub was their main venue which was not going to help the company since the people who are at iHub are mostly techies and generally not the bulk of the consumers. InMobi made a mistake to partner with more techies focused events ignoring the real users of mobile apps.

However, Africa still accounted for 10% of InMobi’s total business. It might be decreasing or just stagnant. Investors might be demanding more. We are waiting for a word from InMobi. InMobi also plans to close its Russian offices.

Through a statement, the company said;

“We are changing the way we service the Africa and Russia markets. InMobi will continue to service any markets affected by these changes through centralised sales teams located in our regional centres.”

Mobile ads still cannot compete with TV, outdoor,  radio and print on the continent despite mobile phone having the second biggest reach after radio in the continent.


Just received this email which looks like a threat of lawsuit. I have an opinion and I maintain it.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Chris Davies <>
Date: Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 6:04 PM
Subject: Re: TechMtaa article of 24 October by Robert Alai
To: ”” <>

Dear Sirs

We refer to the article by Robert Alai entitled “This is why InMobi was not going to make it in Africa” at:

We consider that there are a number of defamatory statements contained in this article relating to InMobi employees Isis Nyong’o and Moses Kemibaro.

Whilst we have no objection to the publication of comments and articles on recent developments in Africa in relation to InMobi, we consider the statements on Isis Nyong’o and Moses Kemibaro to be highly defamatory.

We therefore request that the paragraphs relating to the two InMobi employees are removed from the article  immediately and no later than 24 hours from the date of this email.

We reserve the right to instruct our local lawyers to immediately issue proceedings against your website and the author of the article in the event of failure to remove these defamatory statements within this stipulated timeframe.

Yours faithfully

Chris Davies

General Counsel, EMEA


Written by Robert

Respected Kenyan blogger, tech evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle @RobertAlai or Facebook page (

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