Gratitude is in season all year round. And a Dallas startup makes sharing it a whole lot easier.
Dallas-based online recognition platform Grata has raised $6 million in seed funding to fuel its next phase of growth. The company, which was founded in 2019 by Mark Bunting, is the first of its kind to allow customers to deliver recognition directly to a brand’s frontline employees in real time.
Investors who have joined to support the success of Grata include Capital Factory, Clutch, Hall Group, and Perot Jain, the company said.
In addition to the funding, Grata has also added industry experts and startup veterans to its executive team to lead the culture-shifting brand. The new executive team includes Patrick Brandt, Wesley Bryan, Allison Swope, and John Rabara.
Thanking workers in real time
Bunting, Grata’s founder, says that recognition is the app’s core mission.
The Grata online platform aims to create a community of frontline workers, consumers, and brands. With its app, customers can recognize a business’s employees for great experiences in real-time, while employees in the service industry can publicly receive gratitude for their exceptional service.
The app is free and available on the Apple App Store and in the Google Play store.
Brands using Grata are able to recognize, reward, and retain the most effective staff, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction, the company says.
Recognizing critical customer-facing contributors
Grata came about as a solution to a problem Bunting noticed while interacting with employees at local businesses.
After several “above and beyond” service interactions, Bunting contacted their supervisors to recognize them for outstanding customer service. However, after receiving lackluster responses from management, Bunting realized there wasn’t an accessible forum to endorse individual business associates who provided exceptional experiences. He also saw a high turnover rate due to employee discontent.
The founder saw the need to showcase the value of individual customer-facing workers beyond sticky notes or praise buried within their current employer’s reviews.
“The idea comes from the inherent importance of frontline employees: those critical customer-facing contributors,” Bunting said in a statement. “These employees serving customers are largely responsible for their experience with the brand, yet there was no way to record those moments of individual excellence for both the employees and business until Grata.
Bunting, who was a C-suite executive with Rackspace, Apollo Education, McAfee, and SkyTV, owned a chain of restaurants where he observed firsthand the challenges for both employees and employers in the hospitality industry, he says.
Grata uses a variety of tech-enabled methods to instantly recognize an exceptional service experience. Using a QR code scan, SMS message, or NFC link, customers can recognition individual employees. That, in turn, supports businesses in their efforts to recognize, reward, and retain those with a strong reputation of outstanding service.
Companies can also identify the types of people and experiences that are most valued by their customers.
Grata’s executive lineup
Grata CEO Patrick Brandt (seen at top of story) says he “immediately” chose to become involved with the company as an investor and CEO. and is proud of the team Grata has assembled and the investors that have come on board.
Brandt—a long-tenured founder, CEO, investor, and board member of companies—most recently served as the president and co-founder of Shiftsmart and the chairman of One Day.
The CEO’s leadership in software and internet companies has resulted in a proven track record of leading companies through rapid growth, acquisitions, and successful exits, Grata said. Brandt is also known for his impact work as co-founder of Get Shift Done, the nationally recognized and award-winning hunger relief initiative during the pandemic.
“We’ve put together a team of passionate leaders who all have an innovative and contribution-focused mindset, as well as the skill sets to bring Grata into every consumer-facing brand interested in elevating both the recognition of their staff members and the experience of their customers,” Brandt said.
Tech leader Wesley Bryan joins Grata as CTO, bringing with him over two decades of leadership experience and expertise in everything from product development to capital raising.
Most recently the COO of data analytics platform Sapience Analytics, Bryan also co-founded OneSource Virtual, a payment processing and payroll company serving over 1,300 companies globally. He’s held various executive positions including chief technology officer, chief operating officer, and president.
Allison Swope is chief product officer bringing her deep and successful experience leading high-performing teams and creating experience building products that shifted culture and became integral to a generation’s lifestyle, Grata said.
Swope has led teams across product, partnerships, and operations at Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and VSCO. Swope advises, coaches, and invests in technology startups, including through her role as a partner in Hanover Technology Investment Management.
As VP of customer service, John Rabara, has over two decades of experience in customer success. Previously, Rabara held key executive positions at Synacor; Telligent, which was acquired by Verint Systems; Oracle, and Skywire Software, which was acquired by Oracle in 2008.
Rabara has helped grow top-line and bottom-line results by focusing on perfecting all aspects of the customer experience, Grata said.
Founder Bunting will remain executive chairman of the company.
“Grata has proven to be an exceptional tool in our business,” Simon Sorpresi, of SLS Miami South Beach, said in a statement. “We’ve been able to collect actionable data on the types of people and experiences that make the biggest impact on our business and more importantly, see our employees receive praise they deserve from our customers through an easy-to-use platform. Grata has positively impacted our bottom line and employee satisfaction in many ways.”
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