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This week has already been active for new startups in Colorado. On Monday, the news broke that my friends Don Springer and Tim Wolters had closed on a $2.6 million financing led by Appian Ventures for their new company, Collective Intellect. Tim has blogged some about the fundraising process from an entrepreneur’s perspective – good stuff.
Yesterday, my friends Paul Berberian and Karl Maier announced that they’d raised $19.3 million for their new company, Market Force Information. This equity piece was $11.3 million and was led by Centennial Ventures with participation from Boulder Ventures and Vista Ventures; the debt piece was $8 million from Hercules Technology Growth Capital. Market Force also announced that they have acquired their first company, Atlanta-based Shop’n Chek, one of the largest mystery shopping companies in the country.
Paul was one of the first entrepreneurs I go to know when I moved to Colorado. We met at the first YEO Colorado meeting in 1996 at the Boulderado and he helped me start up the YEO Colorado chapter. I funded – with Centennial – Paul’s second company Raindance, which he co-founded with Jim Lejeal and Todd Vernon. Raindance went public in 2000 and was recently acquired by West Corp.
I met Karl Maier through my very close friend and attorney Mike Platt at Cooley Godward a couple of years ago. Mike and Karl are best friends and Karl has worked closed with Centennial on a number of their companies, including Vector, VIA Net.Works, and Cordillera. Karl is well known throughout this area as an extremely strong operating exec.
I watched Paul and Karl as they got to know each other over the past year and developed the idea of transforming the established (and technology unaware) “mystery shopping business.” They learned this business extremely well, determined that there was a huge opportunity to apply technology to it, and decided to acquire a number of mystery shopping companies, consolidating what is currently a very fragmented industry, applying contemporary technology, and building the dominant company providing “store-level, customer experience information for retailers, restaurants, consumer packaged goods companies and the financial and hospitality communities.”
Cool vision. They’ve taken the first big step by closing both the financing and their first acquisition. Market Force is now a 130 person company with real operations and a market leader. It’s a nice new company on the Boulder scene, funded by a strong syndicate of Colorado investors. Congrats to all.