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Founder Friday: Derrick Parson, GRASPIE


Part of being a successful entrepreneur is knowing when you need to pivot the business. Needing to pivot doesn’t mean you’ve failed – it means you’ve discovered a better path to fulfilling a need or solving a problem.

Derrick Parson realized that his end user wanted to access employee on-boarding and training materials on the device they use more than any other – their smart phone. So it wasn’t the content he was creating that was the bottleneck, but the delivery method. Derrick decided to pivot the company, and ultimately GRASPIE™ was born.

Today, GRASPIE™ is participating in Launch NY and working with their first enterprise client of over 2,000 employees. They plan to bring on several additional enterprise companies over the next few years as well as expand the team here in Buffalo.

Learn more about Derrick’s journey and how his “Brooklyn grit” led to the creation of GRASPIE™ in today’s Founder Friday!

How did your startup, well, startup?

I love telling this story because I actually had the “aha” moment that all successful entrepreneurs describe. At the time I just transitioned from freelance work to forming a small boutique instructional design and development firm called The AppleTree Agency. I landed my first client and already began working on learning content for them. The content was sourced via the web through a learning management system, or LMS, and would be house on-site. Halfway through the project, the client backed out.

Needless to say, I was crushed! I decided to put my bruised ego to the side and asked what we could have done better. They said it wasn’t the content, but the delivery. At the time, they were sourcing pieces of training to a part of the Buffalo community that had little-to-no access to computers at home, as well as a lack of transportation. Ultimately, their decision to continue was based on how effective the delivery of the trainings we created would be. I asked, “what do they have?” They responded “mobile devices,” and that response changed my life! It was at that moment GRASPIE™ was born!

What do you do? Your startup?

I am the founder of GRASPIE™. I am tasked with taking my vision, adding key people to help make the vision a reality, and leading our team to success. GRASPIE™ is a mobile-first learning and engagement platform for the new workforce. We allow businesses, large or small, to train and engage their employees directly from their mobile devices. This allows for on-boarding, training, and refreshers to happen faster and employees to become more efficient now that learning is just a swipe away!

When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?

Our first “aha” moment was when the client told us that mobile devices were the tool of choice for learning, and most of the learning taking place in the households of the community they served was led by Millennials and Generation Z’s. It was at that moment I knew that how training was currently conducted was missing the mark. The next “aha” moment was when businesses began showing immediate interest.

What has been the biggest accomplishment for your startup to-date?

Besides going to market in June 2018 and significant funding from Launch NY and the Buffalo Urban League, there are two big accomplishments that we loved, one of which happened sooner than we expected. First was being featured nationally on TVONE for the State of Black America, highlighting minority entrepreneurs and building tech startups in unlikely places. Second, we landed our first enterprise client with over 2,000 employees. This, after we launched less than two months ago! Exciting and scary times ahead!

Goals for the next year? Three years?

We have several goals over the next 3 years. In the next 12 months, we are trying to grow by adding 3-4 new key hires, expand our learning suite of content, and reach a goal of 5,000 employees training on GRASPIE™. The 3-year goal is to have a minimum of 3-5 enterprise companies using GRASPIE™, have our COAR™ product line launched (shhh it’s a secret), and be one of Buffalo’s fastest growing minority tech startups.

Why Buffalo?

I get asked this all the time. More specifically, how is it that a Brooklyn born and raised entrepreneur is betting on Buffalo to be where his startup’s success story begins? My answer is simple: across the nation something special is happening in cities like Buffalo; entrepreneurship is growing and helping to change not only the city, but the people within the city! I want to be a part of that, I want to be a part of the inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem that is driving Buffalo’s change, something not seen in a lot of other areas.

How do you do it? What drives you?

How do I do it… honestly, GRIT! I’m from Brooklyn, NY, where you need to learn things quickly and move even quicker. GRIT gets you there. I honestly believe what drives me is my faith! Faith in knowing that success is no longer building this business just to solve a problem, or for myself, but for all those other entrepreneurs who are scared to take that leap of faith! If I can do it… I want them to see they can too!

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

If you have already begun and you have a proven viable product…don’t quit! Plain and simple. It’s easy to give up; this lifestyle takes a toll on you, but you’re running a marathon and those that understand this are the ones who see success!

Tags: Buffalo, Founder Friday, startups

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