Mastering Global Business Connections with Carl Kirchhoff

In our latest Networking Success interview we chat to Carl Kirchhoff. A former athlete turned tech entrepreneur, advisor, investor and mentor, his strategic vision and deep understanding of relationships have fueled his ascent in the global tech world. At the heart of his ventures is Turnbull.app, an AI powered platform revolutionising how businesses connect and collaborate.

His refreshing perspective – that everyone is a potential partner unless proven otherwise – is a reminder of the endless opportunities that await when we approach networking with an open mind and generous spirit.

From a chance encounter that led to a $3M value increase for a startup, to inadvertently connecting a founder with a telecom giant and witnessing their partnership skyrocket, Carl’s experiences offer valuable insights into the art of meaningful connections. But his path hasn’t been without its challenges – Carl candidly shares the lessons from his stumbles, like a pitch gone wrong that, although initially failing, opened doors later.

Join us as Carl shares stories of unexpected connections that turned into monumental deals, overcoming the challenges of networking as an introvert, and the frustrations many founders face at networking events.

Carl Kirchhoff headshot

Carl Kirchhoff
Carl is a former athlete and sports marketing media manager turned tech entrepreneur, spanning roles as a serial founder, advisor, investor, and mentor across the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia. As the co-founder and Managing Director of Turnbull.app, an AI-powered business network connecting companies, products, and services, Carl is passionate about leveraging technology to create meaningful partnerships. His ventures also include co-founding TRue+ Inc, the world’s largest micronutrient database, and holding advisory roles at Hashthink Technologies, where he brings his expertise in AI, ML and blockchain/web3 to tech startups. Additionally, Carl is an advisory board member to Insbuy and Fan Controlled Football, where his innovative strategies enhance user engagement and monetization through technology. Committed to nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs, Carl mentors students from Imperial College London, London School of Economics, and Harvard in creating and launching sustainable and innovative businesses. He is also a member of the Innovation Council at FWD.us a bipartisan organisation founded by tech leaders to tackle critical global issues. With his diverse experience and a knack for “matchmaking” in the business world, Carl continues to influence the tech industry by turning visionary ideas into practical, scalable solutions.

A heartfelt thanks to Carl for joining us and offering a glimpse into your remarkable network-building journey.


Transitioning from an athlete and sports marketing media manager to a serial founder in tech, how have the skills and networks from your early career influenced your success in the tech ecosystem?

Sports and media gave me access to build long-lasting relationships with the most senior and most influential people in sports and entertainment globally. Over the years, they understood the growing importance of technology and I had their ear. Unlike other, most of the time younger tech founders, I had built trust and it allowed me to close commercial deals quicker and for better commercial terms.

As a C-level connector and matchmaker can you share a memorable matchmaking story that significantly impacted a startup or venture you were involved with?

Building valuable relationships with senior executives and key decision makers involves one underlying principle: Never “waste” those relationships! Bring in time or money wasters once and you will never hear from them again.

One start-up I was advising when living in the USA was a video streaming company. Understanding their need for premium content, I introduced the young and talented founder and CEO to one of my contacts, who was on the board of FOX, one of the largest media companies back then. I convinced the founder that this person for a few advisory share options could change the company value significantly with only one phone call, and he did. This deal resulted in a $3M value increase of the start-up.

Networking can often feel daunting or overwhelming, particularly for introverted founders. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who struggle with putting themselves out there and making new connections?

Ladies meeting at a networking event.

I have seen it many times, particularly female founders who do not feel comfortable networking. And there is nothing negative about it. While networking can bring random success, any company and founder can be successful even without networking.

With the funding landscape having turned from a founder to an investor market though, founders need to be more outward going and I noticed last year, there was a shift towards this. What can happen though is that founders pitch to other founders at networking events, just to realise in 90% of those conversations that there is no fit, and most leave frustrated. The art of networking is to listen and ask precise questions to “profile and qualify” quickly, based on your own criteria. Most important of all is: remain humble and authentic!

As an advisor and mentor across multiple continents, you have a wealth of experience in building and maintaining a global network. What strategies have you found most effective for cultivating meaningful, long-distance business relationships?

For my business relationships I only use Linkedin, not Facebook, Instagram or other platforms. Whenever I met a person, I connected with them on Linkedin. My daily routine is engaging with them via comments or DMs on a regular basis. It’s the best way to cultivate relationships and remain “visible” over time.

You’ve shared that Turnbull was born from a chance meeting amid the Corona chaos. Can you dive deeper into that story?

I was singing praises about Linkedin before, because up until now, there is no competition out there. Stranded in Hamburg/ Germany when CORONA hit, I did whatever I did when I was in a new city: I looked in my address book and reached out to my connections to meet. One of them was the former business partner of the founder of XING, a networking platform with, back then, more users in Germany than Linkedin. We both understood that everything which can be done digitally, will be done digitally. Business conferences, meetings etc were all replaced by zoom and Teams calls. Linkedin deteriorated into another social media network. So, we started building a better platform based on trust and transparency, called Turnbull.app. Turnbull leverages ML to match businesses, its people and products/services to generate meaningful and sustainable business.

Turnbull uses AI to connect companies, products, and services in a meaningful way. In your opinion, what role does technology play in facilitating valuable business partnerships, and how can founders balance tech-enabled networking with more traditional, face-to-face relationship-building?

A personal meeting will always be important as long as technology is not able to digitize gut feelings and sentiments, which is probably 5-7 years out. According to our own research and experience, the majority of business deals are done based on gut feeling and instinct. To experience and feel a person will remain important before making a final business decision. And thankfully, conferences and meetings are picking up again post COVID-19. Turnbull leverages predictive analytics and recommends people you should meet BEFORE attending physical events. This technology is still in early stages yet the results and feedback so far are positive.

Can you share a story of a time when a seemingly minor connection or interaction ended up having a major impact?

I once attended a networking event at a business club in London and met this crazy tech founder. He approached me and immediately pitched me his company. I only understood half of it but I heard it was about mobile. Not being impolite, I pushed him gently towards someone else from T-mobile, whom I randomly spoke to earlier that day. A few months later I saw both smiling from a magazine cover. Turned out, his technology was the early invention of what we now know as NFC (near-field-communication technology), being used in millions of locations globally.

In your journey, have you experienced a failure or setback which went on to open unexpected doors or led to valuable lessons in building relationships and networks?

Usually, the saying goes: You only have one chance, so make the best impression!

This is absolutely true and always important to remember when networking.

When I was fundraising with one of my own start-ups and needed to urgently close the round, I found myself under enormous pressure and pitched it really hard to an investor, whom I always wanted to have on my cap table. I failed, he declined.

A few years later with another start-up I met him again. Instead of pitching my new start-up, I apologized for my rather aggressive behaviour back then. He still did not invest in my new start-up, yet, made an introduction to one of his friends from another company, who invested.

What role has your mentorship work played in your own growth as an entrepreneur?

a plastic character helping another character up a hill with a rain cloud.

Giving back is satisfying. Helping other, most of the time younger founders, to steer the ship through rough waters, builds bonds, for life. What I learn myself constantly from mentoring is the ability to listen to, ask questions and understand complex problems. Professional mentoring has now become a business for me, that I started recently with two other serial entrepreneurs.

What advice would you give to your younger self, starting out in the business world today?

I like the way business is done in the US: “Everyone is a potential partner, client, supplier, friend, etc unless you find out differently.” A positive mindset and appearance is the soil for successful networking and meaningful connections. Asking questions, being mindful and doing your own due diligence gets you to successful business. To find this balance of trust and scrutiny, openness and holding back is what makes in my mind a successful entrepreneur.

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