Marketing tech unicorn Zeta raises $140 million, eyes more acquisitions

David A. Steinberg, CEO, Zeta Interactive

Zeta Interactive Corp., which started as a recruiter of college applicants, nearly imploded when Congress withdrew student loan funding and reinvented itself as a marketing technology company,  raised $140 million in a series F financing round that brings its total funding to $250 million. Published reports estimate its market value at $1.3 billion.

The company, which does business under the name Zeta Global and which was co-founded by former Apple CEO John Sculley, said it raised $115 million in equity capital and $25 million in debt financing. Zeta said it will use the funds for “strategic acquisitions and investments in technology, operations and sales and marketing.” Zeta’s acquisitions in the past two years have included Acxiom Corp.’s email services unit and eBay Inc.’s enterprise customer relationship management business. “We are hitting every milestone in our evolution and will continue to capitalize on acquisitions that will enhance and extend our marketing cloud,” Chief Executive David A. Steinberg (pictured) said in a prepared statement.

Zeta maintains a database of more than 350 million people and works with a network of information providers across a range of vertical markets to create customer profiles that marketers can use to target promotions and guide conversations. It employs 1,300 people in 25 locations around the world.

Steinberg told media outlets that the company was actually seeking only $50 million to $75 million in this round but found that investors didn’t want to talk for less than nine figures. One reason is that Zeta has been profitable on an operating basis for three years while still growing at a rapid clip. Steinberg told Forbes last fall that the company was on track to bring in $300 million in revenue, up from $200 million the year before.

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