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Buffalo startup aims to revolutionize workforce training

Nigel Brown, Ekua Mends-Aidoo, Pretty Mary Phillips, Brian Balayon, Derrick Parson make up Graspie's content team

Corporate training for employees can be dull and tedious. But as WBFO's Chris Caya reports, an entreprenuer based at the Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has developed a new way to train workers. 

"Mobile is the new way," said Derrick Parson, the founder of Graspie.

Parson says as the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers retire, the workforce is getting younger.  
"But the problem is we're still using binders of documents, we're still putting people behind computers for hours at a time, expecting the results to change in the way they're training and engaging. And that efficiency isn't transferring over as most businesses would like it to," Parson said.

In 2017, Parson founded Graspie, a mobile platform for smartphones and tablets.

Credit Graspie
Workers can now participate in required training through an app on their mobile device

"What it does is, it allows employers to quickly on-board train and engage their employees from any place and anywhere leveraging dynamically designed content as well as mobile technologies."

The 38-year-old Parson has a masters in Educational Technology from the University at Buffalo and over ten years of experience in instructional design. To help with the business side of his startup, he has been working with Launch New York. The Buffalo-based Venture Development Organization offers local high-growth startups mentoring and seed funding to help entrepreneurs realize their dream.

The organization's president and CEO, Marnie LaVigne, says Graspie received an initial $50,000 in funding and $25,000 in "follow-on capital," which attracted more co-investors.
"While $50,000 and $25,000 may sound like small dollars, these are incredibly mighty dollars pulling in as much as 12 times our investment from others. So it's really making a difference in the ability of Graspie to make real progress," LaVigne said.    

Other companies offer mobile training, but Parson says, Graspie is different because it's not available on the web and it provides micro-learning. 

"So these micro-burst trainings are smaller increments so they foster retention. And they're finding that when you foster retention through micro-learning that transfers over to more efficient employees."   

Parson says if they can retain information, workers will put it to use throughout their time with the employer.

Credit Chris Caya WBFO News
Graspie founder & CEO Derrick Parson

"That's not only to compliance pieces but that's also to standard trainings. So, if you're in marketing, what trainings can you give your marketer to actually build and grow within themselves as well as the company. Because if they grow within themselves now they have more of a onus, like 'I've learned this, I want to quickly apply this and then I want to help my company achieve whatever goals that we need to do,'" Parson said. 

Parson says Graspie now has a team of five and they are piloting the platform in the market. Lavigne says that is a critical step in the process because Launch NY clients must be able to describe how they tested their concept and who their target market is.

Credit File photo: Chris Caya WBFO News
LaunchNY president and CEO Marnie LaVigne

"That's exactly where Graspie is. So, I do like Derrick's story because it shows that this is not a one-hit wonder. This isn't the typical Shark Tank where people think, 'I go in front of a bunch of investors. I get a bunch of money, then I'm off to the races.' No. This is a journey and we're here to support that journey," LaVigne said.  

Parson says he knows that Graspie has the potential for high-growth and to become a global brand.
"We're excited to be merging technology with instructional design which we feel is going to be a game changer," Parson said.

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