BeMyEye, a start-up that crowdsources people to carry out mystery shopping and data collection tasks for major brands like Coca Cola in exchange for money, has raised 6.5 million euros ($7.2 million)and announced an acquisition as it eyes international expansion.
Brands from Nestle to Samsung need to find out if stores are stocking their products properly, how they are being promoted, and where they are being placed against their competitors. But for a giant conglomerate whose products could be in hundreds of stores across the world, this can be difficult
This is where the five-year-old Italian firm comes in. BeMyEye allows people to sign up to its platform and brands to send out requests for people to go around and take pictures of their products in certain shops or even the outside of store fronts for services like the Yellow Pages. These people are rewarded with money.
Users – who are known as "eyes" – are notified when a job pops up in their area and they can choose whether to accept that or not.
BeMyEye is taking advantage of the growing "gig economy" – short-term jobs brought about by on-demand and marketplace apps such as Uber.
The company was founded by Gian Luca Petrelli while he was working for his family's olive oil business. He had signed a promotional deal with Whole Foods in the U.S. for his product but couldn't see how that agreement was being implemented. That's where the idea of BeMyEye came from.
As well as the 6.5 million euro funding, BeMyEye announced it had acquired rival LocalEyes, making it the biggest European player in the mobile data crowdsourcing space.
The money, which came from Nauta Capital, P101 and previous investors, including 360 Capital Partners, will be used for product development, growing the team, sales and marketing to grow the user base, and international expansion.
Moving out of Europe is the start-up's focus at the moment.
"We believe there is a phenomenal opportunity out of Europe and obviously the U.S. is an attractive market for us. It's a big opportunity for growth," Luca Pagano, chief executive at BeMyEye, told CNBC by phone.
Pagano also said emerging markets were a key area because retailers have "zero visibility" where there are lots of little local retailers that may not have advanced data collection methods.
But BeMyEye is not alone in this space and will face stiff competition as it looks to new markets. U.S. start-up Quri, which provides a similar service, raised $17 million last year, while Gigwalk and Field Agent both play in the same space.
Following the acquisition of LocalEyes, Pagano said the company is looking to expand aggressively and this could include further buyouts.
"We don't rule out further M&A (mergers and acquisitions). We want to be aggressive in establishing ourselves," Pagano told CNBC.