Welcome back to Baby Breakerdom! This week's quest to find budding Rule Breakers reveals a twist on mystery shopping and a place for your mom.
First up this week is Market Force Information, which seeks to consolidate the mystery shopping market nationally. That makes sense. Trolling through stores to document customer service, product placement, merchandising, and the like has long been an individual or regional business. (Indeed, mystery shopping providers even have a global member network.)
Now, however, it's more important to have a broader presence. Here's why: Brick-and-mortar retailers depend on delivering a consistent, quality experience in order to beat back the advances of online threats such as Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN ) and Overstock (Nasdaq: OSTK ) . Mystery shoppers can inject a degree of accountability into the shopper-retailer exchange, and where the value proposition fails to deliver, provide feedback unto shortcomings.
Several investors see promise in consolidating the market, including Centennial Ventures, Vista Ventures, Boulder Ventures, and Hercules Technology Group. The four joined together to fund Market's Force's $19.3 million Series A funding round, according to VentureWire. The company immediately put the proceeds to use for expansion, acquiring Shop'n Chek in Atlanta.
Next up is -- really -- A Place For Mom, which is a telephone referral company for those seeking nursing homes and other assisted living services. It received a $9.5 million Series A infusion of cash from Battery Ventures, according to VentureWire.
I was a little confused by the deal at first. I mean, really, it has a good feel and all, but this smells like just a glorified Yellow Pages business. A story in the company's hometown newspaper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, explains why it isn't. Writer John Cook points out that the number of Americans aged 65 or older is expected to double in the next 15 years, and that the burden for making sure this burgeoning populace is taken care of falls to sons and daughters who have little information for making informed decisions. A Place For Mom, which already offers advice on more than 11,000 facilities, can fill that gap.
The funding, it seems, is aimed at beefing up staff and services while maintaining the extraordinary growth rate that has seen the firm expand from 30 to 140 advisors in three years. According to VentureWire, Battery says there's room for at least three times that number.
Sadly, there were no Baby Breaker public offerings this week, which means it's time to say goodbye. See you back here next Friday when we continue the quest to find the next ultimate growth stock.
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Fool contributorTim Beyerssays his wife would love to be a mystery shopper, and that scares the bejeezus out of him. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what is in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.