Baby Breaker Birth Announcements

Welcome back to Baby Breakerdom! This time, our ongoing quest to uncover budding Rule Breakers finds us getting in shape and watching our valuations.

First up this week is RedBrick Health, which helps employers create incentive programs for healthy employees. Or, as co-founder Abir Sen puts it, "The industry should never punish people for their sickness. But we should reward them for their health."

Interesting take. At first, I was skeptical. But then I saw the data. Since 2000, employment-based insurance premiums are up 87%. Employers pay an average of $8,500 a year per family for coverage, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Surely that's a boon for insurers such as UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH  ) , whose stock has pummeled the market over the past five years. Peers Aetna (NYSE: AET  ) and WellPoint (NYSE: WLP  ) have enjoyed similar success.

But for Scotts-MiracleGro (NYSE: SMG  ) , rising health costs amounted to 20% of profits in 2003. Now, the lawn care specialist has its staff on a wellness benefit program, in which employees are rewarded for excellent health, and punished for poor health.

And I do mean punished. The Feb. 26 cover story of BusinessWeek told the story of a former Scotts employee who was fired on his 30th birthday because he didn't quit smoking. Seriously.

A lawsuit has since been filed, challenging Scotts' right to oversee its employees' health. Billions are at stake in the outcome. If Scotts wins, it could create national demand for managed wellness programs -- exactly the sort of services RedBrick provides.

Investors smell an opportunity, and in May, RedBrick announced that two venture firms had provided $15 million in first round financing. With health-care spending now equal to 16% of total U.S. economic output, my guess is they'll be rewarded many times over. Put this one on the IPO watch list, Fool.

Next up, we'll look at private equity valuations. They're getting better, even in the midst of the fever that's swept the P/E market.

Hard to believe, you say? Believe it. VentureWire reports that the median pre-money valuation -- that is, the value placed on a firm before it receives a dime from venture investors -- was $20 million in the fourth quarter. But that figure fell in Q1, to $18.3 million.

Before anyone excitedly proclaims that the market has finally gone rational, realize that firms were commanding $16.4 million this time last year. Obviously, it's still a sellers' market for entrepreneurs.

Yet I'm optimistic. Valuations had been rising continuously, up from a median of $10 million in 2003 to $18.3 million last year. That's 22% annual growth rate, and probably unsustainable. At least, not without foisting IPO garbage upon unwitting investors.

Fortunately, there's still time to prevent that from occurring. All that's required is a few more quarters like this one.

See you back here next time when we continue the quest to find the greatest growth.

For more Rule Breaking Foolishness:

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UnitedHealth is a Stock Advisor selection.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers, who is ranked 4,655 out of more than 29,800 in our Motley Fool CAPS investor intelligence database, is a sucker for growth stocks and a contributor to David's Rule Breakers team. Tim didn't own shares in any of the stocks mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Tim's portfolio holdings can be found at his Fool profile. His thoughts on growth stocks, Foolishness, and investing in general may be found in his blog. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a rebel on Wall Street.


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