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Retailers can’t afford to ignore social media chatter anymore. With Yelp and Urbanspoon reviews and constant discussion on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, retailers need to keep track of those discussions and many more if they want to stay on top of the trends in their individual stores.

Venuelabs, a Seattle area startup led by former Microsoft and Jobster employee Neil Crist, just scored $1.6 million in funding to create what it calls a “real-time pulse of local store activity.” Part of the financing was previously reported by GeekWire, but the new capital will be used to accelerate the company’s customer acquisition plans and hire new employees.

Crist said that the company typically sells the service to company’s marketing department, but the interest has begun to spread to other parts of a company such as operations, customer service and research.

“We are also seeing a lot of growth with large brands that already use social and brand monitoring solutions like Radian6, but find they need to augment that effort with storefront level insight,” Crist tells GeekWire. More than 50 companies have signed on this year including McDonalds, Wyndham Hotels, Pizza Hut and BP.

Investors in the round include BuddyTV co-founder Andy Liu and a number of other Seattle and Silicon Valley angels.

Last November, Venuelabs, launched a new service known as VenueRank which is best described as “Klout for storefronts.” The company now has more than 137,000 storefronts that it is tracking through the service.

“Today brick-and-mortar storefronts are overwhelmed with the vast number of pages and sites capturing consumer content about their specific location,” said Crist said at the time of the launch of VenueRank. He added that the service provides an “at-a-glance daily score to let them know how they are doing.”

With the new cash in the bank, Crist said that he will be growing the team from 23 today to about 30 by the end of June. The company was formerly known as ValueVine.


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