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Gripe-O: What’s your gripe Greater Buffalo?

A new tech startup called Gripe-O is picking up speed in Buffalo. The founding partners (Nicholas Campanile, Mark Taylor, Jim Proulx, Richard Panek, Stephen Makula and Michael Klanac Jr.) all worked together at Liquid Matrix, a Buffalo tech start-up that was purchased by Datatel (now Ellucian).

The premise behind Gripe-O is to take the art of “business complaint management” to the next level. For instance, a customer complains to Gripe-O through its website or phone app. Gripe-O acts as the middle man essentially. After the complaint has been registered , the company that is presented with the gripe has the ability to make things right, resulting in Gripe-O mediating both parties until appropriate satisfaction is met on both ends. The end result can vary… from simply identifying a customer error or prompting the business to issue a coupon to remedy the complaint. The unique part is that if a company decides not to respond to a complaint, then the ‘gripe’ gets put up to bid to competitors that hope to win over consumers (via coupons, discounts, etc). Gripe-O will even help to orchestrate the switch in brand loyalty. “We’re happy to launch this in Greater Buffalo,” Jim Proulx, company partner and Director of User Experience, told me. “Because this app allows smaller businesses the ability to compete against larger corporations where products and services are concerned. There’s a lot of technical talent in Buffalo that we are hoping to tap into, thanks to our higher education resources. We’ve been working with Z80 Labs locally, which has been an incredible opportunity as they are the leader in the tech incubation space in Buffalo.”

Gripe-O (Check out this video link for a demonstration)

Gripe-O is currently being developed in Buffalo, and the city will soon become our regional launch pad. The business is now in QA phase of its MVP stage and is seeking additional seed funding. So far, Gripe-O has been incubating with Z80 Labs, which happens to be the lead investor. At the same point, the team is wrapping up with a second investor, and is in diligence mode with six other investors. Ultimately, the tech company is one third of the way towards closing its seed funding round which is $530,000 – a sum that will cover operation and marketing expenses for one year. “It’s been almost a year now since we began this project,” said Jim. “Our goal is to disrupt the complaint management space. Only one of 26 people that have a legitimate complaint actually end up delivering it to a company. At the same time each of those people will verbally tell 20 of their friends. So we want to streamline the complaint process, and the data provided to businesses will help them to identify systemic issues with both customer service and product quality. There are other players in the space, but they are mostly communicators of complaints from consumer to business… we are an actual mediator.”

At this point, Gripe-O is launching a Greater Buffalo customer service survey in which they are hoping to gain insight into consumers’ perspectives as they relate to customer service in the region. From there the tech start-up will use that data to entice businesses to authenticate with the service. If you have a spare moment, why not take the survey… and help a local start-up in the process?


Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is ‘queenseyes’ – Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world’s largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

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  • townline

    “Greater Buffalo”?  What is this, 1992?!
    There’s my gripe.

    • townline 
      hey, it beats the utter meaninglessness of “western new york.”

  • Rand503

    So I wonder how they make money.

    • MichaelKlanac

      Rand503GripeO makes money by selling complaints and providing a tool set to convert complaints into leads via the complaint marketplace, charging a subscription fee on businesses with larger numbers of gripe mediations (thousands), and through intelligent targeted advertising.

      • Rand503

        MichaelKlanac Rand503 Thanks.  I hope that you have strong barriers to entry.  It seems from what I see that this would be very easy for another company with deeper pockets to copy it and co opt you.  
        Additionally, your success will depend on getting consumers to actually complain to you, and in order to do that, you have to constantly be reminding them that they can seek remedy through your website.  That is going to be very expensive.  If you can convince a top marketing specialist who is experienced in selling to consumers and to corporations, he will cost you a lot, probably a percentage of your company plus salary.  That doesn’t leave you with much of a marketing budget.  You can burn through 300K in no time.  One of the biggest mistakes in early stage companies is underestimating how difficult it will be to market their product or service.

        • MichaelKlanac

          Rand503 MichaelKlanac We appreciate the feedback.  While we do respect that any new model has the ability to be co opted by a larger player, we have tried to pragmatically defend GripeO as much as the law and resources allow.  By truly innovating this space (mobile complaint) at a decent clip, we’ll ideally position ourselves far enough ahead, with a technical team that any larger company would be envious of (at a time when larger players are literally buying companies to absorb talent).
          I do not believe that spending money equates to adoption.  Multiple members of our team have co-founded websites that have grew to several hundred thousand members.  We believe that a quality service, with appropriate viral hooks (twitter/facebook), builds not only consumer loyalty but consumer evangelism.  Our adoption strategy also involves running strategic survey promotions in geographic areas, leveraging press contacts at various local and national tech outlets, and features a minimal yet healthy market budget appropriate for our size.  Remember:
          “A dissatisfied consumer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience. About 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.”  
          It’s been good talking with you.  Please feel free to reach out with more feedback!

  • Michael DiPasquale

    Looks good. No gripe here.

  • markss

    May GripeO live long and prosper.  Best of luck Jim & Co. !

    • JimProulx

      markss Thanks, Mark!

  • jvgriffis

    “GripeO” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue… but interesting in concept, hope it makes money!