Turning a Broken Guitar Into a Business
By Cindy Perman , CNBC Correspondent
NEW YORK ( CNBC) -Everyone wants to create the next viral video, but once you reach that Holy Grail, the question becomes, how do you make money off of it?
Ask Dave Carroll.
You probably know him: He's the guy who flew United Airlines, found out when he landed that his $3,500 Taylor acoustic guitar (he's a professional musician) had been broken and got no help from the air carrier's parent, United Continental Holdings (UAL) , to pay for the repairs.
It's got a catchy chorus that really sticks with you:
United United --
You broke my Taylor guitar.
United United --
Some big help you are.
You broke and you should fix it.
Your liable just admit it.
I should've flown with someone else or gone by car...
And it stuck with United, too: He got nowhere after haggling with them to cover the $1,200 repair for nearly a year, but two days after the video went up on YouTube he got a call from United offering to pay him double that amount.
Not to mention, it stuck with Taylor : The company sent him two guitars to use in his next YouTube videos.
But by that time, it was a full on media frenzy and Carroll's inbox was blowing up.
"People were coming into my house like it was election night for a winning politician. Everyone was hugging and everyone was bringing finger sandwiches and casseroles," Carroll said.
He got 10,000 emails in those first few weeks, with people sharing their own customer-service nightmares.
"It wasn't just the millions that showed up to watch the video. It was the reaction and the energy behind it," Carroll said. "I realized that if I could get 10,000 emails that quickly, I could get a million."
So, he decided to launch a website to aggregate all of those complaints, called RightSideofRight.com.
Carroll was tapping into the growing resentment over bad customer service, but just aggregating the complaints wasn't a viable business model.
"It was well-intentioned, but it wasn't very effective. We just ended up asking people to share their stories," said Carroll. "I didn't have the time or expertise to do much about it."
About a year ago, he was approached by a venture capitalist and a web developer who had seen the video and saw potential for the business.
So, they teamed up and transformed RightSideofRight.com into a new venture, Gripevine.com, a site that caters to customers as well as businesses. For customers, it offers a national forum for them to log a complaint -- or a video of their own -- and Gripevine connects them directly with the decision makers at the company they have the issue with -- to save them having to go through the same story 20 times without reaching the right person.