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Government enlists startups to develop exporters’ network

The Department for International Trade selects two startups to help it build an artificial intelligence, peer-to-peer knowledge network

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is to work with startups and, as well as peer mentorship network Founders Forum, to develop and build an artificial intelligence (AI), peer-to-peer knowledge sharing collaboration and networking tool in support of UK exporters.

The collaboration will form part of the DIT’s Exporting is Great campaign, which aims to help UK companies increase the value and volume of British exports.

Set to launch in November 2016, the platform will allow businesses to build their own communities to connect and share knowledge between startups, exporters, potential buyers, trade organisations, business leaders and the government.

The government said by working with SmartUp and Grip, it was fulfilling part of its remit to be more agile and experimental by applying some of the methods that startups use to create new services and run their businesses.

“This is a unique collaboration between the private and public sector that will enable businesses of all sizes to support each other to start exporting and growing their international sales,” said Cabinet Office minister and paymaster general, Ben Gummer.

“Our efforts to be a smarter government are focused on innovative and groundbreaking projects such as this, so we can create an economy that works for everyone.”

Smartup, which was developed and launched by Founders Forum co-founder Brent Hoberman, also formerly of, is a mentoring service and application for early-stage and future entrepreneurs that delivers business advice based on responses to various questions.

Grip was founded in 2014, and bills itself as the world’s first AI-powered event networking product. At the front end, it serves as a personal matchmaker for its users by using AI software to analyse social and behavioural data to recommend people to try to connect with.

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Grip has been used at retail sector trade show Retail Expo, and at the annual Cannes Lions tech, advertising and media event.

Alongside Founders Forum and the DIT, Smartup and Grip will build a platform that incentivises users to learn through gamification, using a point and badge system to “reveal” experts, and match users with company mentors using Grip’s AI engine.

The DIT said although the knowledge that ends up being shared over its new platform will ultimately be driven by user need, it expects that it will include information on selling overseas, analysis, geographic and cultural nuances and case studies.

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