Facebook Agency Brand Networks Raises $68M From Private-Equity Firm

Company Has Been Bootstrapped Since it Was Formed in 2007

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In a deal that hearkens back to the heady days of 2011 when venture capitalists were pouring money into social-marketing startups, an under-the-radar Facebook marketing firm called Brand Networks has just raised $68 million.

The Boston-based company's narrative is different from a crop of startups it came of age with like Buddy Media, Vitrue and Wildfire, which were acquired last year for nine-figure sums. Founded in 2007, Brand Networks was bootstrapped, and the $68 million investment from AEA Investors, a private-equity firm, marks the first time it's raised capital.

Jamie Tedford, CEO of Brand Networks
Jamie Tedford, CEO of Brand Networks

Brand Networks is in the business of helping brands with their Facebook presence; it builds apps, facilitates publishing (which it now does for Twitter and Tumblr as well), provides analytics, and enables ad buying through Facebook's API. Brand Networks is a Facebook "strategic preferred marketing developer," a designation it's currently applied to 13 companies that are "driving outstanding positive impact in our marketing developer ecosystem."

Clients include major marketers like American Express, Macy's, Starbucks and Hotels.com, and one of its focuses is on helping national retailers with their local Facebook strategy, according to CEO Jamie Tedford.

Mr. Tedford, a former ad executive who worked at Arnold Worldwide prior to starting the company, said that it's been profitable from the start (in part because there was no other choice, since it was bootstrapped). The point of raising money now is to deepen its investment in technology, to hire more employees in sales and marketing, and to expand overseas. (It currently has offices in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Rochester, where its engineering is headquartered.)

"We've been a really quiet company," Mr. Tedford said. "We need more feet on the street bringing the stack to market."

While there was a flurry of M&A activity last year -- with Salesforce, Oracle and Google buying up Buddy Media, Vitrue and Wildfire respectively -- it's notable that there are enterprise giants like IBM and SAP left who haven't bought themselves a social-marketing solution.

But Mr. Tedford said that he's not positioning Brand Networks for an acquisition, though the blockbuster deals last year improved market conditions.

"It legitimized that there's real industry here," he said.

As part of the funding deal, AEA will also provide Brand Networks "with additional capital going forward as needed for strategic growth initiatives and acquisitions," according to the press release.

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