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Startup Studio Science Makes a Big Bet on Mobile Ads

The startup investor and hatchery buys PlayHaven from Upsight.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Science, the Los Angeles-based startup incubator and investment company, has made its biggest deal to date, by acquiring PlayHaven, a mobile ad network.

People familiar with the transaction say Science will spend north of $20 million in cash on PlayHaven, which it is buying from Upsight, an analytics and marketing company. That’s not a WhatsApp-scale deal, but bear in mind that Science has only raised $40 million over its three-year life.

The deal gives Science a profitable mobile ad company that specializes in ads that run on mobile games and says it reaches 1.5 billion devices worldwide. Over time, it wouldn’t be surprising if Science eventually broadens PlayHaven’s scope to include mobile apps that aren’t games, since Science CEO Mike Jones wants to have an array of companies that can help his portfolio companies with digital marketing.

Science has bought or invested in more than 40 companies since 2011, and is likely best known for its involvement in Dollar Shave Club, the razor-delivery service, and DogVacay, an Airbnb for dogs.

Upsight, which formed less than a year ago when PlayHaven merged with analytics company Kontagent, says it will now focus on subscription software offerings.

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