Local market research firm Feedback acquired by former client

The deal includes ownership stakes in CareStarter for Feedback’s Dean Browell and Anna Faux, who co-founded the firm with Jeff Thompson. (BizSense composite)

Coinciding with the retirement of one of its founders, a locally based market research firm is joining forces with a tech company that it previously called a client.

Feedback, a 12-year-old firm that researches and analyzes online consumer behavior, has been acquired by CareStarter, an Austin, Texas-based software company focused on pediatric healthcare management.

As part of the Sept. 10 deal, Feedback will continue to operate as its own brand. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it includes ownership stakes in CareStarter for Feedback’s Dean Browell and Anna Faux, who co-founded the firm with Jeff Thompson.

Thompson retired as Feedback’s CEO earlier this month, an inevitability that Browell said they’d been preparing for when CareStarter approached them about combining. Feedback, which tracks online consumer behavior through a research approach called digital ethnography, had been working with CareStarter at the time on a program for the U.S. Air Force.

Browell, who will serve as chief behavioral officer for both companies, said CareStarter wanted Feedback’s research data on all its projects going forward, and offered to join forces rather than remain a client.

“They were going to end up being this longtime customer of Feedback either way, but they started to see this opportunity where we could integrate it even further, and we had a lot of the same prospects,” Browell said. “They do a lot of work in government but also with health systems and channel partners, and so do we, so there’s a lot that we can learn from one another.”

Dean Browell and former Feedback CEO Jeff Thompson, from right, pictured in 2013 while touring the agency’s future home at 1401 E. Cary St. Thompson retired this month after co-founding the agency 12 years ago. (BizSense file)

Browell will continue to lead Feedback locally with Faux, who remains its vice president of operations. Two other full-time employees and a revolving team of contract researchers will also stay on.

Previously based at 1401 E. Cary St. in Shockoe Bottom, Feedback currently operates out of co-working space Gather, with Browell based primarily at its Midlothian location.

While headquartered in Austin, CareStarter likewise operates remotely with employees scattered across the country, Browell said. The company’s 17 employees are led by founder and CEO Lamarque Polvado, who Browell met several years ago through a conference series called Dent, a version of which Browell has been hosting in Richmond in recent years.

Polvado said Feedback’s contributions to its work for the Air Force, specifically a pilot program for servicepeople with family members with special needs, showed CareStarter what could come out of joining forces.

“We needed human-focused data to better understand how the internal and external stakeholders felt about (the program) and what they needed to have a better experience. The Feedback team delivered a powerful and clear data set which in turn ensured our pilot’s success, connecting families to more than 18,000 resources to date,” Polvado said in an email. “We are now briefing the Pentagon and members of Congress with the pilot’s success.”

CareStarter’s products include a mobile app that helps users connect with healthcare resources, as well as a pediatric healthcare management software platform.

Feedback provides consumer research for various industries including healthcare, higher education, staffing and marketing. Its local clients include ad giant The Martin Agency. Other clients have included Canada’s British Columbia Ministry of Health.

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