Zeta Global acquires Boomtrain to bolster its machine learning tech

Zeta Global, the marketing automation platform founded by David A. Steinberg and former Apple CEO John Sculley, today announced that it has acquired Boomtrain, a machine-learning centric marketing platform. Sources close to the company tell us that the price of the acquisition was between $35 million and $40 million. Boomtrain had raised a total of $14.77 million before today’s acquisition.

This marks Zeta’s tenth acquisition in the ten years since it was founded and today’s news follows the company’s $140 million Series F round in April, which valued the company at around $1.3 billion.

As Zeta co-founder and CEO Steinberg told me, the team was looking at acquiring a machine-learning centric marketing firm that could help it jump-start its own efforts in this area (where it already has a number of patents). Zeta’s competitors like Adobe and its Marketing Cloud are obviously moving in the same direction. With Boomtrain, which had a strong focus on publishing, Zeta found a company that could form the core of its offering going forward.

The plan is to keep the current Boomtrain product portfolio running for the foreseeable future, but what Steinberg got most excited about is the plan to use this acquisition to use Boomtrain’s machine learning smarts across the Zeta product portfolio. “We will merge 100 percent of its machine learning, decisioning and marketing automation in our entire marketing cloud,” he said. “It’s a big deal for us technologically. We looked at this and thought: is this a buy or a build?”

In the end, the team decided that the only way to get up to speed fast enough was to acquire the technology and the team. “Our existing team is amazing,” Steinberg said. “But we really felt like this team brought a new vision in where the industry was going from an AI/machine learning perspective. For us, without question, this was all about time. It would have taken our team a long time to do with and we’d have to hire somebody like [Boomtrain CTO and co-founder] Chris [Monberg] anyway.”

Boomtrain’s roughly 60 employees in the U.S. and Bangalore will join Zeta, which will keep Boomtrain’s Bangalore office as its third location in India. While Boomtrain also offers some agency services to its clients, Steinberg was pretty clear that Zeta won’t focus on this. “We are not an agency. We don’t want to be in the agency business,” he noted. “We are a software company.”