Digital Ad Company Turn Raises $80M, Stays Vague On Possible IPO Plans

Turn, which describes itself as a “post-ad-tech” company, is announcing that it has raised $80 million in Series E funding, bringing its total investment to more than $135 million.

The round was led by unidentified investors (Turn said they’re “two of the world’s largest investment firms”) with participation from new backers ClearBridge Investments, Firsthand Technology Value Fund, Northport Investments, and Pine River Capital Management, as well as previous investors Norwest Venture Partners, Trident Capital, Shasta Ventures, and Focus Ventures.

(Update: A report in Bloomberg stated that one of the leads was BlackRock, which I have confirmed with a source who has knowledge of the funding. My source also identified Fidelity Investments as the other lead. Turn declined to comment.)

In November, AdExchanger reported that Turn was raising a round at a valuation of “up to $700 million” in preparation for an initial public offering this year. (2013 started out as a fairly lackluster year for ad-tech companies going public, but things picked up with the Rocket Fuel IPO and others.)

Turn CEO Bill Demas declined to comment on the valuation, and as for a possible IPO, he said, “I don’t have a crystal ball. Our focus is on building a great company. Obviously, a fund raise like this allows us to have more flexibility about when we go public.”

The company serves as both demand-side platform (allowing ad buyers to manage multiple ad exchanges and data sources in one place) and data management platform (allowing those buyers to use their data to target audiences). The company says it was EBITDA positive for 2013 (so it saw positive income before taxes, depreciation, and amortization) and now has 350 employees across five continents. It also says it delivers more than 1.5 trillion ads each month.

Demas said his goals for 2014 include further investment in Turn’s machine learning algorithms and in its DSP and DMP products, as well as continued global expansion (Turn recently launched in Brazil and Japan). He also predicted that the company’s “programmatic premium” (automated buying of premium ad inventory) business will continue to grow.

“When we think about post-ad-tech, we mean that the marketing world is moving much more towards an enterprise software and services model,” Demas added. “Where [the industry is] coming from is heavy arbitrage, lack of transparency, minimal true technology, and we’re evolving that to a world of full transparency and empowerment of the marketer.”