Hi! I'm Angus - one of the founders and the Chief Operating Officer of TipStart. For me, TipStart is about building connections that wouldn’t have otherwise existed. A major part of my role as COO has been to design an algorithm capable of making high-quality professional connections and so, with our launch fast approaching, I’ve sat down to tell you the story of how the algorithm came to be and describe some of the choices we had to make along the way.
First, some background. TipStart is an application that creates connections between two groups that interact far less than they perhaps should: people in sought-after professions (e.g. lawyers, management consultants, investment managers, diplomats); and university students from non-privileged backgrounds who are approaching graduation or have already graduated, and want to be in these sought-after professions. They are our TipSters (the professionals) and TipStarters (the students).
It is clear why these two groups should interact more often: it is through professional connections that we unlock an otherwise inaccessible understanding of a place we want to work and possible entry points. With technology, we can circumvent the unequal social structures that prevent connections across these groups being formed. Our algorithm brings together potential TipSters and TipStarters who would not have otherwise met, but just bringing two people together is only part of the story. The algorithm also has to bring together the people who are going to be the most helpful to one other and have the most impactful relationship.
Not all connections are created equal. Much of my time working for TipStart has been spent thinking about how to pair people together in a way that guarantees they can help each other. What information should organisations, TipSters and TipStarters provide for the algorithm to determine matches? Which characteristics should the algorithm make a high-priority? Is preferring mayonnaise over ketchup a better determinant of a good connection than going to the same university? These types of questions have been running through my mind ever since we started TipStart in May 2020, with the answers becoming clearer as we’ve learned more about the people who use our platform
When we started TipStart, we connected people together as long as they worked in or wanted to work in the same industry, or ‘sector’ (consulting, law, journalism etc.). We prioritised pairings within industries who went to the same university (e.g. Nottingham Trent students with Nottingham Trent alumni) or who studied the same subject (e.g. geographers with geographers), putting little thought into personality traits or other more nuanced characteristics (e.g. being more detail-focused than imaginative/visionary, or preferring to work with numbers than letters).
We learned quickly that the most impactful connections are between people from different backgrounds but who have more characteristics, skills and interests in common and are, at the most basic level, likely to get on. Sure, it’s important for those who have a very clearly-defined career ambition to be paired with someone who has experience and knowledge of the specific industry or role they aspire to. But, many university students don’t know the nature of different professional service industries well enough to really know which industry or role they want to go into. More often that not, we have a greater sense of what activities we are good at and enjoy than what industry we would like to work in, particularly if we haven’t yet had the tangible experience of working.
We now encourage employers to sign up as organisations and set out the broader characteristics, skills and interests that are best suited for their graduate roles, and the algorithm then identifies TipStarters with similar characteristics, skills and interests. Organisations that tell us their graduates need to enjoy working with numbers and analytical reasoning, for example, would likely be matched with TipStarters who say they enjoy these types of activities.
Once the most suitable group of TipStarters has been found for an organisation taking part, the algorithm looks at the personal interests and traits of the staff nominated by the organisation as TipSters. The TipStarters and TipSters with the most shared personal interests and traits are paired together, ensuring that connections have things in common beyond just the world of work, making it so much easier to build a relationship with someone new.
We are now just a few weeks away from launching the TipStart app, complete with this redeveloped matching algorithm. We’ve put a lot of thought into it and we think the approach can deliver on our aim of building meaningful connections between our organisations, TipSters and TipStarters. We will, no doubt, learn even more about what makes good connections as people begin using the app and start interacting with each other.
If after reading this you think you can harness the power of TipStart’s algorithm for your organisation’s graduate recruitment, or for your personal career development after university, reach out to me for a chat at firstname.lastname@example.org.