1: When did you start ConsumerAffairs.com, and what it does it do?

ConsumerAffairs was started in 1998 by my partner Jim Hood, a former Associated Press executive, editor and reporter. Jim noticed reporters hated the "news works for you" beat because getting consumer sources was a hassle — before the Internet, a reporter literally had to stand in front of Walmart and ask consumers what they thought.

Jim's idea was to leverage the Internet to get consumers to come to us and tell us their experiences directly in the form of complaints and reviews.

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ConsumerAffairs is now the largest consumer-complaint website on the Internet, and we have helped thousands of reporters connect with sources.

And since inception we've collected nearly 1 million complaints, and each month we help more than 2 million consumers research purchases and solve problems by connecting them with businesses and other consumers.

2: How did you come up with the idea? What was the void you saw out there that the company could fill?

I acquired ConsumerAffairs in 2010 and partnered with Jim because I saw the opportunity to make complaints a win for businesses.

Since the acquisition of the business, we've built a Software-as-a-Service platform that both connects brands directly with consumers, as well as helps brands collect more complaints and reviews from their customers.

It turns out complainers are actually brand champions in disguise and are complaining because they still have faith the brand can make it right - in fact, the brands using our premium services see between 15-35 percent of complaints being turned into a recommendation.

Brands also buy our platform because we provide product and service analytics from the text of the complaints and reviews. These analytics provide valuable insights into the inner workings of a brand.

We now have nearly 400 brands who use our platform to connect with consumers.

3: You graduated from a small-town high school near Tulsa and went to Dartmouth? What was it like adjusting to an Ivy League school?

Living in Osage County in the sticks is definitely different than Dartmouth College, but it turns out hard work and good manners look the same pretty much everywhere.

I learned how to work hard from my grandfather. He was a fireman in Tulsa and after he retired cut hay until he was 80. I grew up helping him and my dad pick up square bales on (the then-called) Okmulgee Beeline.

I learned manners from my mother, an art teacher for Tulsa Public Schools, who in her spare time built stained glass windows for churches in Central/South America and installed them on mission trips.

And the state of Oklahoma taught me how to study.

I was fortunate enough to attend the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics the last couple years of high school and could not have been successful without the money invested into my education by the taxpayers or the preparation provided by the faculty.

4: You have a patent? Say more.

When I moved to Silicon Valley in 2002, I co-founded a business that provided video over the Internet using peer-to-peer networking.

Our idea was to displace the local video store by letting people download videos (like Netflix). At the time, the Internet was really slow. To make our product work we needed a way to store content on set-top boxes, so my partner and I invented a technology that controlled the distribution of content using network appliances and access points while respecting Digital Rights Management.

The business didn't work out, but we were granted a patent on our technology, and I learned a lot about what not to do when starting a business.

5: We hear you like to play a lot of hoops. What's your favorite court to play at, and where do you stand on the good defender or good shooter argument?

Hands down, the best place I've found is First United Methodist at lunch. And, since I'm short, really out of shape and a terrible shooter, I am 100 percent on the good defender side of the argument. I tell myself there's always room for a scrappy defender who boxes out.


Zac Carman is CEO of ConsumerAffairs, which has a website — consumeraffairs.com - devoted to consumer news and complaints.

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