Playing matchmaker at events: Interview with Tim Groot – Co-founder and CEO of the networking app Grip

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Tim Groot, co-founder of Grip

In the startup world, networking is crucial to getting your business off the ground. You need to make connections – partners, mentors, investors, clients, and employees – that understand, align with, and are excited by your vision, and can help you on your journey.

American businesswoman Sallie Krawcheck said: “Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. Who you know really impacts what you know.”

Networking comes naturally for some, and remains a challenge for others. Many brilliant minds are introverted – hampering their ability to turn their ideas into reality, as they may never meet the right contacts, or know how to come up with a good pitch. Meanwhile, those blessed with great social skills aren’t as likely to stay up at night ruminating about innovations. The two types need each other to bring good ideas to fruition.

More and more meetup events and conferences are taking place in Europe’s blossoming startup scene, presenting great opportunities for networking. Still, it can be difficult to know where to start as a newcomer, and at a major conference, even a seasoned expert may get lost in a sea of thousands of attendees.

Recognising these problems, in 2014 Tim Groot started the app Grip to make networking easier for everyone. Grip’s AI-based matchmaking solution gives people personalised recommendations for who they should meet at any given event. With Grip, events become more productive – you can avoid wasting time on contacts that will go nowhere, or doubting who you should approach, or what to talk to them about. Over 300,000 connections have been established across 200 events through the app in the last two years.

Below Grip founder Tim Groot shares his journey starting Grip, his advice for other entrepreneurs, and how he hopes to transform events in the future.

What is your background, and how did you come up with the idea for Grip?

Before Grip, I worked at an app development agency in London as a digital consultant. This made networking a very important part of my job as I had to attend events as a speaker, exhibitor, and visitor. No matter which event I attended, I found it really difficult to make sure I was meeting the right people and felt that with so much time invested in going to an event there must be a better, more efficient way to network. That’s where the idea of Grip came from.

Why is networking so important?

To me, networking is about creating relationships with people to gather knowledge and achieve my goals. This can be growing my company through sales or hiring new employees or simply meeting like-minded people to discuss challenges with. I feel that having a network of people that I can work with to grow my company is a vital feature for the long-term success of both my company and professional life.

How does Grip work? How does it help people network?

Grip is the leading AI-powered event networking solution. Our technology provides all event attendees with a higher Return on Time by giving personalised recommendations of people to meet at an event. People like the Grip Matchmaking Solution because it’s both available on web for pre-event networking, as well as a mobile app for networking closer to and during the event.

What really sets us apart is our self-learning matchmaking engine, which uses natural language processing, advanced algorithms and deep neural networks to constantly learn about the professional goals and interests of visitors, exhibitors and sponsors. With every search, swipe and meeting request, it improves its understanding of your interests, and adapts the recommendations based on this.

How has the company evolved over the past four years, and what are some of the challenges you have faced?

In the early days, it was quite lonely with only a very small team. I was the only co-founder that was working on the company full-time which made it extra difficult. Right now we luckily have an amazing team of people that are very passionate about working together to establish valuable connections between professionals across the world.

“Just take a deep breath and give it 100%, as long as you’re doing all you can to make the company successful, good things will eventually happen.”

What have been some of your greatest successes so far?

We work with 9 out of 20 of the largest event organizers in the world and some of the most well-known events we work with are Money 20/20, Founders Forum and Sial Paris. I’m also very proud of the great team we’ve built and the Matchmaking Engine, with which can pinpoint the exact people you should meet at an event, and is valuable to everyone that attends events.

What advice would you give to other startup founders?

My dad used to always say, “The only thing you can make sure you do is your best”. And that’s my advice to founders: Just take a deep breath and give it 100%, as long as you’re doing all you can to make the company successful, good things will eventually happen.

What are your future plans for Grip, and where do you see the company in the next 3-4 years?

We’re growing rapidly working with more and bigger events across the globe. This will continue to accelerate in the coming years, and we’re also launching a large new component of our platform called Grip Teams, which enables exhibitors to have advanced meeting management capabilities for the events they attend. Our goal is that in 3-4 years when you attend an event we will be able to generate your own personalised schedule, consisting of sessions, 1-1 meetings, group discussions, and other events, all completely personalised to you.

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