Canton startup Vlipsy lets the stars speak for you

May 7, 2017
by Dan Schingler, Crain's Cleveland Business

You know the feeling: What you want to say is really best summed up by a quote from the great George Costanza. Maybe, for example, you need to convey exactly how you feel about getting stuck with the bill for someone else's big salad.But where to find it — especially if you don't want to wade through a whole episode of "Seinfeld," let alone spend time editing out what you want for a three-second clip.Enter Canton-based entrepreneur Chris Nickless and his new website,"It's a video clip search engine soundboard," Nickless said.What that means is that the site offers video clips the way some other places, like, provide users with GIFs that they can use in their emails, tweets and other online communications. However, Vlipsy's pieces are actual video clips with sound."Face-to-face communication is no longer prevalent," Nickless contends. So, he said, it is increasingly important to communicate online in ways that properly convey things like humor or sarcasm."Expressive media, like emoji and GIFs, have really grown in power. Vlipsy is the next wave in that trend," he said.The site is new. Nickless has been rolling it out since April and is working hard to increase its content and exposure, he said. But he's already got an app available for use on Apple devices and clips can be shared through Reddit, Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest, or just embedded in the form of a URL link.If he succeeds, Nickless said, using the site will become second nature to a growing base of users. He's counting on ease of use and convenience to make that happen.As an example of how the site makes video clipping easier, Nickless used a famous Tom Hanks' quote from the film "Apollo 13.""Let's say I want to say, 'Houston, we have a problem.' That's a four-minute video, and it takes Tom Hanks about two seconds to say, "Houston, we have a problem," Nickless said.Vlipsy, however, gives users just the two seconds of video with the famous quote, no editing required. All you have to do is type the phrase into Vlipsy's onboard search engine.To be sure, the site is hardly a compendium of every quote a user would want. But, like YouTube, Vlipsy will be driven by users who post their own videos, so it's no surprise that not every video is there now.And some clips will never be there. Like other sites, Vlipsy will be limited to materials already available online — so as not to violate copyrights — and there will be standards prohibiting things like hate speech, sexual content or other offensive materials.If he succeeds, Nickless could be a very wealthy man. Giphy, for example, has a reported value of over $600 million even though it's just 4 years old and has yet to turn a profit.Nickless has a second-tier strategy as well. "Our goal is to be doing specific branded accounts, not unlike a YouTube channel," he said.That will hopefully bring him sponsored content.What might be the most surprising thing about Vlipsy, though, is that it's based in Canton and not a more trendy location. Nickless, a 2007 Ohio State University grad, moved back from California to start the company."I love Northeast Ohio. So for me, it was, 'Why not here?' " Nickless said."We've seen a lot of talent from this area get moved out to bigger cities or have to find a job remotely working for someone else. … I want to make sure they can stay here," he added.So far, the company is extremely lean — just Nickless and his childhood friend and now partner Matt Tew, who, like Nickless, is an Ohio native.The company probably will never need thousands of employees, but as it grows, the plan is to hire additional people to edit content, manage the site and help market it, Nickless said.Once he does begin to hire, he'll likely look for office space, too — possibly in Akron, his hometown.For now, Nickless is compiling new clips and meeting with local economic development officials. Some have been impressed with what they see."He has returned to (Northeast Ohio) to launch a tech startup that sounds to me like it has exciting, high-growth potential," said Heather Roszczyk, an Akron entrepreneurship fellow for Fund for Our Economic Future. "He's very enthusiastic about Akron, and purposely chose this area to launch the business because of his desire to assist revitalization and bring tech jobs to the area."

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