With offline events now firmly moved to online for the foreseeable future, startups in the networking space had to pivot fast in the face of the pandemic. One of those was Grip, previously better known as a networking app for physical conferences (including TechCrunch Disrupt, at one point). Since last year, Grip moved into an “omnichannel” experience, combining various event types across virtual, hybrid and live. That strategy appears to have paid off as it has now raised a $13 million Series A funding round, taking its total amount raised to $14.5 million.
The round was led by London-based growth equity fund Kennet Partners. The raise is reflective of the boom in online events, which saw London-based startup Hopin raise a $40 million Series A last year. Founded in 2016, Grip counts some large event organizers as clients, including Reed Exhibitions and Messe Frankfurt.
In a statement, Tim Groot, CEO and founder of Grip, said: “Our mission is to empower organizers to bring professionals together to advance industries. This funding round is going to enable us to take the experience to a new level, leveraging our extensive industry-leading platform, offering unique value for Virtual, Hybrid and In-Person events.”
He said they would now be investing heavily in the product and looking to global expansion.
So why is it that Grip seems to have pulled away from pack in this way?
Groot told me: “We took a slightly different approach in that we managed to work in a plug-and-play method alongside other platforms. So grip gets used as a standalone virtual event platform by lots of these organizers. So they might use Hopin for the conference but Grip for the networking. So maybe we managed to get more traction that way, over the course of 2020.”
In 2020, following the pivot to virtual events, Grip hosted more than 100 events a month and was used by 1.5 million people. As a result, the company says revenue grew almost 4x in 2020, and this year it expects to do over 10,000 events on its platform, with more than 5 million participants.
Grips AI-powered algorithms mean attendees get more personalized matchmaking recommendations based on their interests, including pre-event meeting scheduling. For exhibitors, the software captures business leads and provides post-event analytics.
People can be added to meetings to have group conversations and the startup is also working on a topic-based “speed networking” functionality to hold instant three-minute conversations.
Grip integrates with various streaming platforms such as Vimeo, YouTube, Zoom, BlueJeans and others, unlike “full-service” platforms such as Hopin or Bizzabo.
Hillel Zidel, partner at Kennet and Grip board member, added: “Grip’s ability to organize virtual events with a key focus on networking has meant that the company has seen tremendous growth over the last year. Event organizers and their clients have been able to remain connected with their customers despite the constraints on in-person events. As live events resume in the future, Grip is extremely well-positioned to continue to assist event organizers through the provision of software solutions supporting live, virtual and hybrid events.”
Brent Hoberman, co-founder of Founders Factory and a previous investor, said: “Grip was born out of a need we saw in running events at Founders Forum — how do you use smart technology to catalyze the most relevant and valuable connections between your guests?”