Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City firms to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list, now in its seventh year recognizing founders and startups that editors believe will make some of the biggest news in the coming 12 months. The following is one of 2022’s companies. Click here to view the full list of Startups to Watch — presented by sponsors Husch Blackwell and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Putting technology first has primed Approach by TileFive for significant scale, Luke Lim said, as past success for the startup inspires further ascension in 2022.
“We don’t have any servers, which technically means we can scale infinitely,” said Lim, the company’s co-founder, honing in on his passion for building software and associated products that matter — a quality that’s equipped Approach to power any gym in the United States on a single tech stack, should they choose to sign on as a customer.
Elevator pitch: Approach is a point of sale and client relationship management product, targeting small to medium-size businesses in the fitness industry [and] leveraging the latest technology in order to give businesses the same advantages in technology that fortune 500 companies have — without the extensive cost of large, custom integrations.
- Founders: Luke Lim, Andrew Potter
- Founding year: 2017
- Current employee count: 13
- Amount raised to date: Just over $1.7 million
- Noteworthy investors: Crux Collective, Accelerate Venture Partners, Wichita Technology Ventures, Capital Multiplier Fund, Kansas Angel Tax Credit Program
- Programs completed: Pipeline Entrepreneurs, programming offered by Accelerate Venture Partners
It’s a decision Lim and his co-founder, Andrew Potter, hope they’ll make.
“We have an unfair advantage,” Potter admitted, noting that as recently as 10 years ago, tech founders weren’t building products with the ability to analyze and collect data as a main goal.
Approach, however, has been designed with analytics and efficiency in mind from day one, providing customers of climbing gyms — including his own trio of businesses in the metro, RoKC — with what could be some of the most powerful business intelligence tools the world has seen, streamlining processes that include membership and waiver management, point-of-sale duties, calendaring and scheduling, and check-ins and inventory, and providing users with a dashboard filled with context and insight into the efficiency of their business.
“[As a business owner] I don’t have to try to figure this out. I just have a dashboard that tells me exactly what I’m looking for and it presents it in a manner that’s accessible — and I don’t have to pay Fortune 1000 costs to build an integration to be able to do it. It just comes with my software,” Potter said.
“The business intelligence [RoKC] got [from using Approach] in 2019 drove us to choose where we put our third location. [It] told us, ‘Hey, we’re getting so many users from this area — but its too far for them to [drive] to become a member.’”
The business ultimately planted a location in Olathe. Two additional climbing gyms operate in North Kansas City and Midtown Kansas City.
With more than 70 employees, many of them college students who frequently turnover or pause their employment to attend school, Approach has helped RoKC efficiently train its staff in a virtual setting, before they ever step foot (or step foot back into) one of the company’s gyms.
But Potter knows his word as a founder of Approach is only so good, adding there’s rock-solid proof in what Approach can do for gym owners — and already has done for 65 clients.
The startup landed its first major investment in 2021 — a $1.5 million injection led by Crux Collective, an Austin, Texas-based climbing gym (and customer) with its own VC arm.
Largely driving the software and its future, Lim hopes to use the momentum of fundraising in 2021 to get Approach in the hands of more than 200 gym owners in the year ahead, potentially paving the way for additional funding and team growth, which ultimately will allow for new iterations of the product, he said.
“Our next point of scale is going to be around onboarding and our ability to intake,” Lim explained.
“A lot of companies, in their year two, three, four or five have to scale their technology. And I’m not saying we’re exempt from that, but we’ve created a platform — or a foundation — where we saw that year one and two. We’re not in that position,” he continued.
“We have the system — technology, business processes, and people. [Now] it’s about using that to shoot to the moon.”
While the pair realizes growth takes time, they’re confident that in a few years time, they could possess a team that leads them to unicorn-level scale, they said. 2022 is expected to plant their feet firmly on such a path.
And it feels great, Lim said, noting Approach is ready to climb.
“I’m super pumped. It is my personal belief that climbing is just the beginning,” he said.
“If you do something great, you build something great — that people actually need and people actually love, the money will come. And I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
“We are focused on building a great team, a great culture, and a great product for our customers. As long as we keep our nose down, it’s my personal belief that we will do very, very well and people will start using us in other industries.”
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Startups to Watch is now in its seventh year, thanks to ongoing support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.