Conductor announced its first round of financing since company executives orchestrated a well-tuned buy-back from WeWork in 2019, to form an independent employee-owned business called Conductor Founders Inc.
The $150 million funding round led by Bregal Sagemount revealed Tuesday will support growth. Bregal Sagemount, partner at Michael Kosty, joins the company’s board. The latest financing round brings Conductor’s total valuation to more than $500 million.
The funding, one of the largest raised for a search engine optimization company, represents growth in categories Conductor serves, and how critical unpaid channels are for brands, said Seth Besmertnik, Conductor CEO and co-founder.
“Companies are going through a combination of transformation and acceleration,” Besmertnik said. “Not being able to access some private consumer data also has contributed to why companies are creating more content. They are looking for different ways to market.”
He said people are searching on YouTube and asking Amazon Alexa for answers, contributing to the explosion of organic marketing in the past two years, as companies rush to update their websites. Google and Bing algorithms rely heavily on relevant information to respond to search engine queries, searches for everything from local restaurants, to near-by product availability.
Conductor plans to use the funding to accelerate its progress in driving the push in organic marketing, and will enable the company to pursue merger and acquisitions, expand globally to support enterprise brands and companies, and continue to innovate in the organic marketing technology category.
“We are open to opportunities for M&A,” he said, “but nothing too crazy. We’re not going on a buying spree. If there’s some really good technology to help our customers, we’re in a position to make the purchase.”
After being acquired by WeWork in 2018, Jason Finger bought back the company, creating Conductor Founders Inc., naming its 250 employees as co-founders. This means all received co-founder equity in Conductor.
As part of the proceeds from the transaction, Conductor is providing “a liquidity opportunity to all shareholders.” There’s money going to a secondary stock that employees can cash out.
Since then, Conductor has added customers such as Microsoft, GlaxoSmithKline, and AT&T. It also grew its leadership team. In December 2020, Irene DeNigris, who spent six years at Johnson & Johnson, joined as chief people officer. In the past year, Conductor also hired a chief technology officer, chief revenue officer, chief product officer, and took on a vice chairman of the board of directors.
Today, the company has just over 300 employees. Most all of the companies it supports, which now focus heavily on content, are multinational and global with headquarters in the United States.
Mike Blumenthal, co-founder of Near Media, which also focuses on content, said too often “crappy blog content just drags a site down. In terms of current content, the highest return on investment is likely to come from regular email campaigns, but that content can and should be repurposed to the web where it can do double duty.”