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Could Curalate be Philly’s next big win?

The visual marketing company just raised a whopping $27.5 million and plans to double in size, to more than 200 staffers, this year. “Our goal is to be the employers of choice among tech startups in Philly,” said CEO Apu Gupta.

At the Curalate holiday party at The Fillmore, December 2015. (Photo via Facebook)
The elusive big win.

Everyone agrees that the Philly region needs big exits to get to the next level. They help us tell our story. They spin off talent. They create wealth. Josh Kopelman’s was one. As was Michael Rubin’s GSI Commerce.
Could Curalate be the next?
The tech company, which helps big brands monetize the visual web, just raised $27.5 million in a Series C round led by VC giant NEA. It’s the fourth round the bicoastal firm has led for the company.
The news was first reported in TechCrunch, which took a deep dive into Curalate’s product offerings.
Other investors include First Round Capital and MentorTech Ventures, both local venture firms that have consistently backed the company since its first seed round in 2012. That’s one noteworthy way that a Curalate exit will be felt across the region: through its impact on local venture firms, especially on MentorTech, which is smaller than First Round and NEA.
It’s one of the biggest venture capital raises in the Philly region in recent memory, rivaling Zonoff’s $31.8 million Series B last year.
Curalate has enormous growth plans: they employ 115 across New York, Seattle and Philadelphia and plan to double in size this year, CEO Apu Gupta told us on the phone Tuesday evening. They don’t have specific projections for each office but Curalate has serious plans to staff up its headquarters at 2401 Walnut St., he said.
“Our goal is to be the employers of choice among tech startups in Philly,” Gupta said.
One recent, notable hire was former city staffer Luke Butler, who will lead strategy and operations for the company.
Right now, the company’s Center City and Manhattan offices are roughly the same size, at about 50 people each, though it wasn’t always like that. At the kickoff for and Comcast’s Tomorrow Tour last week, Gupta said the company had to make a concerted effort to grow the Philly office because, after an office expansion and a sudden uptick of New York-based staffers, the space felt empty. It killed the vibe. (Curalate now has an in-house recruiter based at each of its offices. Trisha Noel, hired in December, is Philly’s.)
Curalate has raised $40 million since 2012. When asked about the decision to raise this round, Gupta said it was necessary.
“If you are gonna reshape a $1.6 trillion market, it’s gonna take some money,” he said, “and that’s not lost on us.” (Loftily, Gupta is referring to the global ecommerce market with that figure.)
Still, he said the amount of capital Curalate has raised is modest by software-as-a-service standards, especially for those companies that go public.
So, is he thinking about going public?
It’s not out of the question, he said, though it was just two years ago.
“When you shake off the shackles of being built to flip, all of a sudden you can build great things,” he said.
And OK, we had to ask: where is Curalate celebrating? (We always knew them to be the partying type.)
At that point, after 10 minutes of Gupta in serious CEO mode, answering our questions with seeming mastery and confidence, he changed his tone and laughed. They had rented out The Fillmore for the company’s annual holiday party, where they bring everyone to Philadelphia, he told us, so that might be it for now.
We’ll keep our ears to the ground for the next one.

Companies: Curalate / First Round Capital / MentorTech Ventures / NEA

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