Meet Grypmat Founder & Inventor: Tom Burden
Tom first faced the problem of ineffective tool accessibility while working as an F-16 Weapons Mechanic in the Air Force, he decided that this was a problem worth solving. He began prototyping in his basement and working through iterations until finally building a product that, not only, solved his problem, but also improved his experience. Not long after, he set out to solve this problem for mechanics across all industries.
When inventor Tom Burden was an F16 mechanic in the Air National Guard he was often frustrated by tools sliding off the aircraft. The time wasted searching for lost hardware and climbing up and down the ladder to access different tools lead Burden to look for solutions in the market. What Burden wanted was a simple way to secure his tools while protecting the multi-million-dollar aircraft that he was assigned to service. Unable to find an adequate product, he decided to create his own solution. With the skills gained as a mechanical engineering student, Burden started prototyping a non-slip rubberized tool tray. After three years of prototyping and perfecting, he created what is now called the Grypmat.
Tom Burden is from the small town of Celina Ohio and is a former F16 mechanic in the Air National Guard. He was frustrated by his tools sliding off the aircraft and the time he was wasting searching for lost hardware. Tom began looking for a solution and wanted a simple way to secure his tools and protect the multi-million-dollar aircraft that he was assigned to service.
Tom spent months trying to find the right solution to this problem. Then, one day, while he was driving with his mother, Tom noticed a small rubber phone-holder on the dashboard to keep her cell phone secure while driving.
This was his aha-moment.
With the skills he gained as a mechanical engineering student, Burden started prototyping a non-slip rubberized tool tray in his basement. His initial aim was to make the tool mats specifically for the F16 aircraft he was working on. After some research, Tom realized that mechanics in other industries had the same issues with keeping their tools organized.
Tom realized that by building a product that would help mechanics keep their tools organized and accessible, he would also be helping them to save time and money. He also realized that this pain-point extended far past mechanics. Thus began his quest to bring the Grypmat to the market.
After 3 long years of prototyping in his basement, Tom finally found the perfect balance of efficiency, simplicity, and effectiveness.
Tom launched the patented Grypmat at the worlds largest air show at the EAA in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The Grypmat was surprisingly a huge success and he quickly sold out of all his inventory.
Tom knew at this point that he was on to something that would change the way people work.
After a grueling journey to his first sale, his biggest challenge was yet to come. Soon Burden was faced with finding a way to produce enough inventory to meet the increasing demand, and of course...the funds to pay for it.
Tom would go on to sell his house and most of his belongings in order to produce more inventory. His next goal was to develop new designs that would compliment his original by offering three different sizes. Soon after, Tom launched a very successful Kickstarter campaign and was funded in less than ten hours. His goal was to pre-sell $10,000 to cover the cost of the new designs but ended up selling over $120,000.00 in Grypmats.
While ecstatic about having a successful Kickstarter campaign, what Tom didn't know is that this campaign would change his future forever...as the producers from ABC’s Shark Tank show also took notice of his successful Kickstarter Campaign.
The Shark Tank Producers reached out to Tom and soon he was in the first round of the selection process of more 100,000 applicants. After multiple rounds, he made the final cut to have a chance to film an episode. This didn’t guarantee of even making it to air but he had learned that there would be a guest shark, Sir Richard Branson. Branson owns Virgin Airlines and other aerospace companies so Tom was overwhelmed with anticipation of pitching to one of his Idles. What happened next was life changing for the young inventor.
Grypmat proved to be as desirable to Sharks as it is to customers. In season nine of ABC’s Shark Tank, Burden received offers from all five Sharks and was ultimately able to negotiate a deal with Sir Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, and Lori Greiner. Today, Grypmat is poised for record growth with help from the best and brightest in business and retail.