T-Mobile’s pending megamerger with former rival Sprint garnered worldwide attention. But another T-Mobile acquisition flew under the radar as the wireless giant scooped up a Seattle mobile marketing startup to amp up its advertising technology capabilities.
T-Mobile’s acquisition of PushSpring closed earlier this month and was previously unreported. The Seattle startup, founded in 2013, helps app developers, publishers and others target specific audiences for advertising or push notifications.
“PushSpring gives us a strong foundation in the advertising tech space, and in the future will help us give T-Mobile customers more transparency and ultimately control over their information,” T-Mobile said in a statement shared with GeekWire.
The Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier did not provide further details. It is unclear if PushSpring will continue to operate independently or be folded into T-Mobile. PushSpring CEO Karl Stillner directed questions to T-Mobile when reached by GeekWire.
The deal is an unusual strategic move from T-Mobile, which hasn’t shown an appetite for startup acquisitions, in particular related to advertising.
T-Mobile does bring in revenue from advertising, and it falls under the umbrella of “other revenues” in T-Mobile’s financial reporting. That segment reported $290 million in revenue in the most recent quarter — T-Mobile posted $11 billion in total revenue — which was a drop of 8 percent over the prior year. However, the company did say in its quarterly 10-Q filing that it had “higher advertising revenues” in the quarter.
T-Mobile has several open advertising positions on its job site. The positions suggest that T-Mobile is putting together its advertising strategy and that Google Ad Manager is an important tool for the team.
Beyond its pending merger with Sprint, here are T-Mobile’s other acquisitions, dating back to 2007:
- In 2018, T-Mobile acquired Denver-based Layer3 for $325 million. That deal formed the backbone of T-Mobile’s first-ever TV service launched earlier this year.
- In late 2017, T-Mobile’s Austria division acquired cable operator UPC Austria for $2.1 billion. The deal created what T-Mobile called an “integrated quad-play provider for broadband, mobile and fixed communications, TV- and entertainment products.”
- In 2013, T-Mobile completed the acquisition of pre-paid wireless carrier MetroPCS in a deal that included a $1.5 billion cash payout to shareholders. Last year, T-Mobile re-branded MetroPCS to Metro by T-Mobile and introduced new phone plans with Amazon Prime and Google storage perks.
- T-Mobile acquired SunCom Wireless, a wireless carrier that focused on the Southeastern U.S. and parts of the Caribbean, in 2007 for approximately $2.4 billion in cash and assumed debt.
PushSpring was founded in 2013 by three Seattle mobile veterans: Stillner, Steve Dossick and Tyler Davidson. Stillner, who is PushSpring’s CEO, and Dossick, the company’s CTO, both previously worked together at Zumobi, a Seattle-based mobile ad network.
Davidson was the company’s chief revenue officer until 2017, per his LinkedIn profile, though he remains an advisor. Today he is CEO of Element Data, a Seattle startup that makes software to predict customer behavior.
PushSpring aggregates data about users and sorts them into audience profiles that publishers can target based on life stage, interests and the type of apps people use. Examples of such profiles include dog owners, millennials, brides and grooms to be, expecting parents, people preparing to move, car and boat shoppers, health and fitness enthusiasts and more. The company said it does not collect any personally-identifiable information.
The startup last raised cash in 2015. Trilogy Equity Partners, based in Bellevue, Wash., led the $5 million round. As part of the deal, Trilogy Partner Cole Brodman, former CTO and chief marketing officer at T-Mobile, joined the board but left in 2016. Brodman told GeekWire he has not been involved with PushSpring or T-Mobile for several years and did not play a role in the acquisition.