Financing Round Pegs Taboola’s Value at Close to $1 Billion

After months of rumors, Israeli-developed content marketing platform confirms it has completed a $117 million financing round.

Ilya Melnikov

After months of rumors, Israeli-developed content marketing platform Taboola officially confirmed Wednesday that it had completed a $117 million financing round, exceeding its $100 million target.

The funding reflected a post-money company valuation of close to $1 billion, said sources familiar with the company, which recommends links to other content that the user may like, either on the same site or a different one.

The private financing round, which was oversubscribed, is the largest by an Israeli company this year and one of the largest-ever private funding rounds by an Israeli high-tech company.

“We started Taboola with a mission to build a search engine in reverse — instead of people looking for information, information now looks for us,” Israeli founder and CEO Adam Singolda said in a statement. “As a company, we focus on culture, technology and tangible assets that our partners appreciate and can measure. This round will help us fuel growth, and launch next generation personalization technology.”

Prior to this round, Taboola had raised $40 million, including a $15 million effort led by Israel’s Pitango Venture Capital, which did not invest in the company this time. The latest round, the company’s fifth, brings total funding to $157 million, Taboola said.

The latest financing is expected to result in the hiring of dozens of new employees at its development center in Tel Aviv over the coming year and more than 100 new hires globally. The company currently has a workforce of about 250, about half of whom are in Israel.

Taboola’s platform for referring users to other content drives additional Internet traffic and produces income for websites that depend on such traffic for their revenue stream. The other major player in the content suggestion industry is Outbrain, which is also Israeli, though Yahoo, AOL and Google also provide the service.

Taboola reported that on a monthly basis, it recommends more than 200 billion content links to 550 million users. Its clients include the websites of USA Today, Business Insider, the Chicago Tribune, Fox Sports and the Weather Channel.

Taboola’s revenues last year topped $200 million, several times more than the year before. Initially the company focused on video recommendations, but it branched out into written content in 2012, at which point its business took off. The fourth quarter of 2014 was the sixth in which it turned a profit.

The company, founded in 2007 and headquartered in New York, chose Boston-based Fidelity Management and Research to lead the latest financing round.

Also participating are Steadfast Capital and the Marker LLC venture capital fund, which invests in Israel and the United States. Both are prior investors in Taboola.

New investors include major U.S. publishing company Advance Publications, which owns Conde Nast; Comcast Ventures, the investment arm of the cable company of the same name; Carlo De Benedetti, the chairman of the Editoriale L’Espresso group; and Groupe Arnault, which controls the LVMH luxury brand company. Also investing was Yahoo! Japan, which is one of Taboola’s major clients, with 8.5 billion monthly page views. Israel’s Pitango Venture Capital fund declined to provide an explanation to TheMarker regarding why it bowed out of the current round.

One of the goals in raising the latest funding is to acquire smaller companies. In August, Taboola made its first acquisition, buying American competitor Perfect Market, although the details of the sale were not disclosed. The acquisition brought Taboola 200 new clients.