Zeta Global Buys Boomtrain, Adding Machine Learning Mojo

Zeta Global, a provider of cloud-based CRM and email marketing services, has acquired Boomtrain, a machine-learning marketing technology startup that works primarily with retailers and media companies.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Boomtrain previously raised almost $15 million, and headcount was down 8% in the first six months of 2017, according to LinkedIn Premium data.

The Boomtrain acquisition comes three months after Zeta Global raised a $140 million round with plans to acquire more companies.

“We view machine learning as the technology that will differentiate marketing clouds moving forward,” said Zeta Global President and COO Steven Gerber. “This should be a catalyst for our own machine learning efforts.”

Boomtrain President and CTO Chris Monberg will become CTO at Zeta Global, and the company’s data scientist team will become part of Zeta’s data science group. The Boomtrain brand will live on temporarily for existing clients, but Gerber said he expects to introduce new branding within three months.

“The technology will effectively become a personalization module within the Zeta Global hub,” he said.

Boomtrain’s client roster is predominantly retail and commerce platforms, which use it for email marketing and automation, and media companies like CBS and Forbes which use it for semantic analysis (i.e., to understand text and tone in written content).

“The eventual goal is to run marketing as well as to dynamically operate apps and sites where you can connect content to a specific tone,” Gerber said. “That’s an important part of the context that real-time marketing is struggling to navigate right now.”

For Zeta, hovering up Boomtrain is part of a larger bet on full-stack marketing technology.

For most of Boomtrain’s clients, its machine-learning tech is only one among several cloud software solutions they license, Gerber said. Zeta Global’s nine previous acquisitions over the past decade have pursued a similar strategy, he said, “where we take on a new category or solution and use that wedge to demonstrate additional products and services we can bring to bear.”

The leading marketing clouds tend to pay big premiums for vendors that fill a category need and add enterprise clients to the parent company. Gerber said Zeta Global instead pursues mid-tier businesses that “wouldn’t move the dial for an Oracle or Salesforce” but that it can scale to serve its own enterprise clients, including Brooks Brothers, Stop & Shop and British Airways.

“There are a whole cohort of companies in the market for machine learning and AI marketing,” Gerber said, “and they shared our vision that the technology could be more effective as part of a larger platform.”

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