Acquire, Be Acquired, Or IPO: $15M From FTV Lets Social Marketer Shoutlet Choose Its Destiny

Shoutlet had several companies trying to buy it, and 15 venture capital firms trying to fund it. But it took a $15 million Series C from FTV Capital because they offered it a premium valuation, the freedom to buy startups, and the sure-footing to scale towards an IPO or be acquired. CEO Jason Weaver tells me FTV gave Shoutlet the option to take extra money for acquisitions, and has limited partners like Bank Of America who could underwrite a potential IPO. It’ll need the firepower if it’s going to compete with recently acquired rivals Buddy Media ($689M) and Vitrue ($300M).

Shoutlet will use the cash to expand its products, and hire business and sales staff. It’s also considering buying a Facebook Ads API company the way Buddy Media bought Brighter Option, and I see and GraphEffect as likely targets. Social’s here to stay, so when brands realize they need help, Shoutlet will be ready to make their voices heard.

Weaver tells me “we probably talked to 15 firms that were interested” in funding Shoutlet, which lets big brands publish to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, roll out apps and contests, moderate feedback, and monitor their social marketing performance.

But Shoutlet went with FTV because “They gave us a great valuation for our company, and the ability to access more capital when needed for acquisitions.” Beyond buying a way to let brands purchase social ads to pair with their campaigns, Shoutlet is eying “companies that are really good at manipulating and cleansing data to make it useful for marketers.” Shoutlet has now taken a total of $24.2 million in funding.

If it wants to go public, Weaver says FTV Capital will “make sure we’re very well scrubbed and prepared for aggressive growth financially and operationally so we could arrive at an IPO faster than we could by ourselves.”

But if the Facebook’s IPO proves the market is too soggy, it could also sell. “There’s variety of companies that are interested [in acquiring Shoutlet] from analytics to email service providers to ad platforms that are looking to have  a social media marketing platform in their arsenal. But we’ve chosen to stay independent and are just exploring these as partnerships right now” Weaver reveals.

That’s the future of Shoutlet, but today the $15 million will fund hires of account managers and sales people in in New York, London, and San Francisco. Shoutlet will also build out its Social Switchboard, which can automatically publish pre-composed marketing messages when triggered by milestones like a company YouTube video hitting 100,000 views.

Weaver isn’t scared just because Facebook’s share price is down (around $26.75 compared to its $38 IPO price). He sees the dip as temporary, and thinks there’s still big money-making and IPO potential for social companies. Weaver says “It’s my opinion that people should buy stock in Facebook. I’ve seen their roadmap items and I think they’re going to crush it in revenue soon.”

[Choose Your Own Adventure Image Credit: The New Yorker, badass remix by Josh Constine]