Google Ventures leads $10M investment in firm that measures mobile ads

As more consumers use smartphones to help them shop, advertisers are growing worried about how they will reach those customers. Unlike web sites, which allow brands to target specific users, mobile phones are a relative black hole when it comes to gathering consumer data.

This situation has led a start-up named Adelphic to offers tools that let marketers identify people, not just devices. Founded by two veterans of a mobile ad network used by Apple (s aapl), Adelphic claims to use 30 different “signals” to recognize patterns and information about a given smartphone user.

On Tuesday, the company got a big boost with the announcement of a new $10 million investment led by Google(s goog) Ventures, the venture capital arm of the search giant. The funding appears to reflect the widespread desire for an solution to the mobile ad conundrum.

“It’s hard for brands to find people,” said co-founder Jennifer Lum, explaining the issue in a phone interview. “It’s hard to describe and package up the mobile industry to sell to audiences.”

Adelphic’s “30 signal” solution sounds intriguing, but does it work? On regular websites, advertisers can easily gather signals through cookies that record information about a user.  This task is much harder on smartphones, which collect far fewer cookies.

Lum offered few details but did say that Adelphic uses “inference algorithms” to blend a variety of data that let advertisers know if a smartphone customer had responded to previous offers. The “30 signals” are mostly a mystery, but a good guess is that they represent some combination of browsing history, log-ins, location data and more.

In any case, the $10 million could indicate that Adelphic is on to something. Lum says the company has provided analytics for 20 billion mobile ads since October.

For the mobile ad industry, the success of Adelphic’s tools could introduce more liquidity to the market as a result of advertisers gaining more confidence in the ability to reach given customer segments. The technology also lets marketers have a better chance to optimize their campaigns on the fly — using the analytics to tell if an ad campaign is working and change it if it is not.

Tuesday’s announcement will also lead to Rich Miner of Google Ventures joining Adelphic’s board. Original investors Matrix Partners, who helped put in $2 million in March, also participated in the $10 million investment.