How KC Startup Mpruv Sports Wants to Make Golf, Other Sports More AccessibleJake Slobe
Mark Lukenbill’s entrepreneurial journey first began in 2021 when he encountered a surprisingly challenging experience — hiring a caddie to golf with on short notice while on a bachelor trip with his friends.
Frustrated with the tedious process of finding someone to play with, Mark began to explore the world of caddies and lessons. What he found was a manual process that left much to be desired in terms of convenience and accessibility.
“It was nearly impossible to find a caddy, so then my curiosity led me down a rabbit hole of researching how someone would go about booking golf lessons,” Mark says. “And it’s not a simple or easy process. You have to call all these clubhouses one-by-one to see if they have instructors available and they’re usually booked out months in advance.”
Determined to create a solution, Mark decided to start a company that would make learning sports easier and more accessible. That company, Mpruv Sports, plans to release a series of peer-to-peer, on-demand, sports education marketplaces.
Fast forward to today, and Mark has launched the beta version of the company’s app premier app, Mpruv Golf. The app officially launched at the KC Golf Show on Feb. 24, 2023.
Inside the app
Mpruv Golf works by connecting coaches and caddies with players and aims to drive the golf community forward by making the sport feel more accessible. The app also serves as a social networking site for individuals to connect with one another over their shared passion for golf. Mpruv’s social function allows players to find new playing partners, fill additional tee times and see how their friends and family are progressing with their game.
Mark says that he’s received tremendous feedback from the Kansas City community since launching the beta in February.
“What we’ve utilized the beta launch for is getting all this feedback from the community,” he says. “Since launching, we’ve redesigned the entire user interface, changed a lot of the experience inside the app and have added a lot of social features. Basically, we used it as a sounding board before taking the product nationwide.”
Receiving valuable mentorship and early-stage funding from Digital Sandbox KC
Mpruv Golf was one of four companies to receive funding from Digital Sandbox KC for its first-quarter 2023 application cycle. The company will receive up to $20,000 in project funding to help accelerate toward commercialization.
“The preparation for Digital Sandbox KC was tremendous,” Mark says. “Being able to get that kind of pitch feedback and have somebody direct me on what key areas to focus on. The process of applying itself has really helped me shape my investor conversations going forward. I’ll be utilizing that experience, mentorship and guidance that I got up from pitching to Digital Sandbox KC long down the road.”
Since its inception in 2013, the Sandbox has awarded over $3 million in proof-of-concept project funding to a total of 185 KC-area startups. Those Sandbox companies have gone on to raise nearly $200 million in follow-on funding.
Mark says the funding from the Sandbox will primarily be used to add security features to the app.
“Receiving funding was phenomenal,” he says. “I’ve bootstrapped the entire company up until this point, so it’s great to have some additional outside funding. We’re planning to use that funding to implement some key safety features within the app itself, making the user experience safer and easier.”
In addition to receiving funding from Digital Sandbox KC, Mark says he also received help and mentorship from other Kansas City resources including KCSourceLink, Douglas County CORE and Kansas Small Business Development Center at Johnson County Community College.
When the company feels it’s ready for the full product phase, Mark says his plan is to push the product in golf-heavy areas, like Phoenix, Dallas, Southern California, New Mexico and Orlando, Florida.
“We’re almost there,” he says. “This proof-of-concept phase here in Kansas City has been tremendous, and the local community has been great in supporting us.”
Mark says his long-term plan for the company is to have a series of peer-to-peer applications that will provide instructors of different sports with a platform to build a business.
“Golf is just the first app,” he says. “The way we’ve built the tech itself, we’re scaling this out to tennis, softball, baseball, volleyball, football — you name it.”