PulsePoint Raises $30 Million To Get Serious About M&A

Category: Platforms Posted at: 2016-08-05

PulsePoint is planning to get acquisitive.

On Monday, the programmatic platform announced $30 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank, the majority of which will be used to buy companies to complement PulsePoint’s existing tech stack.

PulsePoint – which was formed through the merger of Datran Media and ContextWeb in 2011 – had previously raised a total of $13.5 million in three rounds, the most recent of which was $3 million in 2013 from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Investor Growth Capital, Updata Partners and others.

Both Datran and ContextWeb were well-funded on their own before the merger. Datran had brought in $69.5 million in two rounds since its founding in 1998, while ContextWeb, which opened its doors in 2000, had raised $63.5 million in five rounds.

Over the last several years, PulsePoint has slimmed down its operations, divesting itself of a number of the business units that came with the merger, including a lead-gen business, a CAN-SPAM compliance business, an ad network and several owned and operated websites.

“We’ve restructured the business to be focused only on programmatic,” said PulsePoint CEO Sloan Gaon.

These days, the PulsePoint stack is comprised of an ad exchange that services both the buy side and the sell side.

In March, PulsePoint added the ability to bid on native units on its exchange through partnerships with TripleLift, Distroscale, Sharethrough and AdsNative.

Three months later, in June, the company beefed up its stack with a content marketing platform to help brands target their content to specific audiences through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Outbrain, Taboola and all the other native content discovery usual suspects. Brand clients taking advantage of the content feature include Columbia Sportswear Company, golf brand TaylorMade-Adidas and the Houston Tourist Board.

“The average American sees around 3,500 ads a day – and that means the message is getting lost,” Gaon said. “To combat that, more and more brands are starting to create unique and engaging content, and they need that content to be targeted to their key demographics.”

Although the exchange portion of the business is primarily self-serve, PulsePoint does offer a managed service for brands using the content platform to help them get more comfortable with the engagement metrics that are particular to content marketing campaigns, things like scroll through velocity rate and dwell time.

Content will be an ongoing focus for PulsePoint, and according to Gaon, the company will keep its eyes peeled for acquisition targets in the space. Mobile and video companies are also on PulsePoint’s radar.

The fresh funding, when added to PulsePoint’s existing cash pool, will enable the company to do M&A deals in the $50 million to $60 million range, Gaon said, noting that PulsePoint has been cash flow positive for the last three years and is on target to close to year with more than $100 million in revenue.

Gaon is also flirting with the idea of taking PulsePoint public, but that’ll have to wait until investors resume their, now rocky, love affair with ad tech. But it’s only a matter of time, he said.

“Wall Street can be very temperamental and cyclical, and at the moment ad tech is out of favor because we’ve had a number of weak companies go public and not perform well,” Gaon said. “But Wall Street will start to love the sector again. Advertising is a huge $500 billion marketplace.”

Although the environment isn’t right for an IPO, the chilly temperature on Wall Street makes does make it a buyer’s market.

“A lot of money has gone into ad tech and programmatic over the years, but there are also a lot of companies out there that are running into trouble getting their next round,” Gaon said. “We have an opportunity now to scoop up these companies and add their offerings to our stack.”

For its part, PulsePoint isn’t looking for its own buyout, said Gaon, despite a rumor circulating in February that the company was on the market.

“When you take VC money, and we’re venture-backed, you’re always for sale – that’s the nature of the beast,” he said. “If someone comes to us with an attractive offer, we’ll take a look at it, of course, but our plan is to stay independent and keep adding functionality onto our stack.”

The headcount at PulsePoint, which maintains offices in London, New York and San Francisco, is at 110 employees, 40 of whom came aboard this year. In 2014, PulsePoint made several, what Gaon called “strategic,” hires on the road toward an eventual IPO, including former CEO Darline Jean as chief operating officer.