Stirista, a San Antonio-based digital marketing technology company, closed a $13 million Series A funding round, led by Boston-based Wavecrest Growth Partners. Industry veteran Dennis Ainge, a founding executive of TARGUSinfo and a former executive at Neustar, participated in the round, which closed Tuesday.
This is the first-ever growth equity financing for Stirista. The most in Series A funding ever invested in a San Antonio company according to Crunchbase was $13.3 million for Earth Class Mail in January 2008. The largest seed round funding in San Antonio was $6.8 million for World’s Greatest Videos which closed in December 2018.
Stirista specializes in business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) data services and tools. The company, located in San Antonio’s Highway 281 North corridor, developed its software-as-a-service (SaaS) enhanced customer data services. Integrating its technology with a client’s point of sale helps Stirista produce data-driven marketing insights for Fortune 500 and midmarket brands including Great Clips, Oracle and Verizon.
Instead of brands going to an agency to buy ads on social media, Stirista can offer all digital and email marketing services in a single integrated platform. Stirista’s peer competitors are Merkle and Zeta Global, while in data services Zoom Info is their closest peer.
Despite launching the company in 2009, Ajay and Candice Gupta “didn’t start working on the company full-time until 2015,” said Stirista’s co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Ajay Gupta.
The husband and wife duo bootstrapped the growth of their company over the past five years. Most of Stirista’s revenue comes from SaaS sales of its full-spectrum digital marketing platform plus data services. The founders envisioned developing the right technology for companies to be able to take on integrated digital marketing for themselves by using Stirista’s SaaS platform.
“Once Stirista reached over $10 million in annual revenue in 2019, we decided to pursue growth capital financing to accelerate the company to $20 or $30 million in annual revenue,” Gupta said. “We decided to take on a partner to help us grow all aspects of the business, someone strong in M&A [mergers and acquisitions] who could help us in future acquisitions.”
Stirista has experienced double-digit growth each year since its inception while remaining profitable. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the closing of the Series A round by several weeks, which opened last fall, Gupta said.
Despite the pandemic, “business is strong, so short-term revenue drops don’t reflect the strong foundation of the company,” Gupta said.
Wavecrest Growth Partners is a growth equity firm focused on investing in and partnering with leading B2B software and technology-enabled services companies. They recognized the potential in Stirista’s push to become the premier data-driven digital marketing solutions provider for brands to increase conversions and customer retention.
“We are bullish on Stirista’s unique and innovative data assets and potential for long-term growth,” stated Deepak Sindwani, co-founder and Managing Partner at Wavecrest Growth Partners. “We think they will continue to thrive, even in the current market conditions, as enterprise and midlevel market brands look to target and convert more effectively.”
Stirista has 29 employees in San Antonio with another 19 distributed across the U.S. and India. The investment will help Stirista add capabilities to its Customer Data Hub, make relevant acquisitions, and hire 15 employees in San Antonio for its operations, marketing, and sales teams.
“I’m confident that Stirista will continue leveraging its strengths as it moves toward an ambitious future helping its clients solve their most difficult marketing challenges,” Ainge stated. “I’ve watched them come into their own by offering unique data insights and increase their market share by building partnerships with brands looking to accurately reach their targeted audiences.”
Gupta shares from his pandemic experience “the importance of having contracted revenue, from working with your clients to establish a cadence of revenue, it’s what most smaller businesses overlook,” Gupta said. “What helps you are the longer-term contracts relationships with clients that will help your company survive during challenging times like these.”
The Stirista CEO recognized that there isn’t “lots of M&A activity” in San Antonio at this point. Not yet.
“Hopefully, people will see the quality of investments being made here and get inspired to connect with more tech companies in San Antonio,” Gupta said. “With the Wavecrest partnership, we’re going to rapidly accelerate organic growth and put San Antonio at the forefront of data and technology.”
Featured image is of Ajay Gupta, CEO of Stirista. Courtesy photo.