ARI was co-founded back in 2017 when two college students and one industry expert met in Chapel Hill. After several conversations at the local Starbucks, they identified that the college athletic space was lagging when it came to technology. A lot has happened since the start of the company and we wanted to take a moment to learn more about the two co-founders, Luke Lechner and Gray Dorsett.
I was first intrigued by the recruiting process when I was a high school swimmer. I dedicated a lot of time to the recruiting experience during my sophomore year in high school. After about 2 years of cold emails, hundreds of questionnaires, several unofficial and some official visits; I ended up committing and competing on the swim team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although I had committed and was “done” with the recruiting process, I couldn’t stop thinking about my experience and how it could have been better. It seemed like it was a very disorganized and inefficient experience. I took several entrepreneurial and business classes my freshman year at UNC that inspired me to dive into the problem more and learn more about the problem, why it exists and how it could be improved.
Flash forward 3 years, I had worked on various projects, startups, and with entrepreneurial groups at UNC that revolved around entrepreneurship, athletics and technology. After speaking with coaches that I met through Dan Tudor, it was evident that there was a need for better technology in this space. So, Gray and I began work, and it has been an incredible experience and I am incredibly pumped about the future of the ARI business and platform!
A couple of weeks ago, I jokingly made my internal company Slack Bio: “I like people and ideas.” I did this without putting much thought into it but as I think about it more, it really defines my favorite aspects of business and life in general. I love talking with people about ideas and ways that certain things can be improved. Listening to their experiences (good and bad) and trying to figure out more about what makes an experience enjoyable and fulfilling. That has been the aspect of the ARI story that has been the most fun, rewarding and has taught me the most. Talking with coaches, asking questions, listening, thinking, and coming up with ideas to change, improve, or advance how coaches utilize ARI.
I’ve been fortunate to grow up in an incredibly exciting time. I still remember being a kid accessing the internet and the sound the dial-up modem would make. If I wanted to contact someone I would call their house phone from my house phone.
By the time I got to college, I had access to the world’s information from the palm of my hand and could look up and contact almost any person in the world. This grew a love of technology and its ability to bring people together, a passion I carried into college.
At UNC I worked on and at numerous startups, all trying to solve the problems around me. During this time I began to see a pattern; the hardest problems were those in connecting people. Solving these had the opportunity to create real change in people’s lives, and those became the problems I sought to solve.
Along this journey, I met Luke and then eventually Dan. My senior year they identified a need to improve collegiate recruiting and all the issues within. Together we began the journey to create something new and help coaches and athletes across the country.
To me, the problem at the center of collegiate recruiting then and now has always been the distance between the athlete and the coach. Now here at ARI, we are building the bridge to bring them closer than ever.
What interests you about the athletic recruiting space?
LL: One thing about the athletic recruiting space that interests me is how many people are involved. A lot of times people think it’s only between the recruit and the college coach. They often overlook the other people involved like the parents/guardians, relatives, friends, high school coaches, club coaches, high school admission counselors, college admission workers, college coaches, scouts, and potentially more!
This might sound a little bit overwhelming but it excites me when it comes to the future of ARI. The ARI platform will continue to grow and assist in seamlessly involving all of these people throughout the recruiting process. The more we learn from each person that is involved, the more opportunity arises on how to innovate and build.
GD: The literal “space”, the distance between athletes and coaches. 10 years ago in a city, if you wanted a cab, you’d have to see one and wave it down. 20 years ago if you wanted to contact someone you’d have to look their phone number up in a book.
For all the development and advancement, I feel that collegiate recruiting in many ways is still in that era.
We are working to bring coaches and athletes closer together and shrink the space between them.
What about the future of ARI excites you?
LL: The ARI team. It is one thing to think that you and your college buddy are “on to something” and brainstorm ideas together. It is a totally different feeling when you are surrounded by all the people who make it possible. Our current ARI team is a powerhouse group of people with different backgrounds, skill sets, ambitions, and personalities that share the same passion for growing ARI. We had a company retreat a couple of months ago and it was refreshing and extremely exciting. I know the team that we have and continue to build will continue to push ARI in the right direction.
GD: Automation and connections. There is still so much trivial “office work” within recruiting and collegiate athletics as a whole. Collegiate athletics is about people. The coach connecting with their athletes so together they both reach new heights. The “office work” side of this only gets in the way so I’m very excited about ways we are working to streamline and remove it from the equation. Less time in the office means more time on the field.