Jody Devere, the CEO of, caught up with the brains behind Grypmat, Tom Burden, at the 2017 SEMA show. Find out what she learned about the innovative DIY product.  

Meet Tom Burden, a young inventor/entrepreneur from Celina, Ohio, who has changed the way the auto world manages tools by removing a frustration many of us have in the garage.

Growing up in the small agricultural community of Celina, Ohio, Tom Burden always wanted to be an inventor. He played with Legos and loved to build things. At a very young age Tom set his goal to become an engineer so he could be an inventor and “make new things.”

And that’s just what he did.

Burden began prepping for his career as early as high school, studying engineering technology in a program at Tri Star Vocational School. He later joined the Air Force and attended community college where he earned a degree in Aircraft Armament Systems Technology. While serving in the Air Force Reserve, he also attended University of Toledo and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to study mechanical engineering.

Wrenching on F-16 Fighting Falcons as an Air Force Reserve Mechanic Burden grew frustrated with his tools, and nuts and bolts sliding off the aircraft. He began searching for a simple way to secure tools and protect the multimillion-dollar aircraft he serviced. One day while riding in the car with his mother, he noticed she kept her cell phone secure by placing it on a rubber holder on the dashboard. This gave him an idea.

Burden started prototyping a non-slip rubberized tool tray in his basement, which eventually became the Grypmat. Grypmat is made out of a polymer-silicone blend. The mat is resistant to chemicals and flames, is anti-static, and is non-magnetic.

Burden quickly learned there was a high demand for his product when he won the Toledo Start-Up Weekend in 2013.

“I began to realize the product had many uses in the automotive industry for mechanics and car detailers who need to prevent scratches to the paint, and mechanics who set tools on the battery, which is a bad idea to set metal tools between two electrical poles,” said Burden.

The most exciting innovation of the Grypmat for DIY'ers, mechanics, and technicians is that it is built to stay put. Your tools aren’t going anywhere. The Grypmat prevents scratches and dents and is so versatile that you can have your tools where you need them, when you need them. Its unique chemistry enables it to grip onto whatever surface it is placed on without sliding or falling, while still allowing for easy placement and removal. It also bends, folds, and rolls any way you need it to, always returning to its original shape.

In November of 2017 Burden appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to showcase the Grypmat. Within the same year, he opened a Kickstarter campaign to help finance his “veteran-owned” business launch. The campaign was a huge success, raising over $113,000 in 30 days.

Burden was eventually named the 2017 SEMA Launch Pad winner. The award provides innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs under the age of 40 a platform at the show to present a product to a panel of industry experts. Prior to the 2017 SEMA Show, applicants were narrowed down to 10 finalists via a social-media voting campaign. The judges selected Burden as the winner of the competition.

“My gift is to be an inventor,” said Burden. “Inventors and start-ups create the future; they are the cutting edge of the future. My job is to create the future.”

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About the Contributor
Jody DeVere
Dec 18, 2017

Jody DeVere is the CEO of, Inc, a website and blog that provides automotive education to women.

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