It’s time for the next installment of our series focusing on successful entrepreneurs and innovators across Colorado.
By sharing the experiences and lessons learned from these forward-thinking industry trailblazers, we hope that aspiring business leaders come away inspired to launch new projects and processes within their own companies and startups.
Our next interview is with Jennifer Panning, the chief financial officer of Apto. Apto is a web-based software company providing the commercial real estate industry with a simpler way to manage contacts, properties, listings and deals.
You can learn more about Apto and the work Jennifer is doing in our in-depth interview below, and on the company’s website. Let us know what you think in the comments.
Tell us a little bit about your company, Apto.
Apto is a Denver-based startup software company that provides technology to help brokers organize data, build relationships and close deals. The company was founded by Tanner McGraw, a former broker for Marcus and Millichap, whose experience has allowed us to design our software specifically with brokers’ unique needs and challenges in mind.
What inspired you to join the Apto team?
I was thoroughly impressed with Tanner's passion and vision for transforming the way this industry is able to operate. With Apto's disruptive technology and focus on CRE brokers, I saw a tremendous opportunity to serve a market that wasn't historically receptive to new technology. The CRE space is changing, and we see the industry becoming more comfortable with technology and demand rising for a CRE-focused solution.
What kind of growth have you seen at Apto since you joined in 2016? What is the primary driver of that growth?
We made Inc. Magazine’s list of the top 500 fastest-growing companies in the U.S. for the second consecutive year and have experienced a three-year revenue growth of over 1,000 percent. We've also seen our employee headcount jump from about 50 in 2016 to almost 100 this year.
We attribute this growth to our innovative technology, superior customer service and deep commercial real estate industry expertise — along with the steadily increasing demand among brokers for simple, web-based software that can boost efficiency and improve decision-making.
How have you seen Apto change the commercial real estate business in Colorado?
Nearly 400 brokers in Colorado are using Apto, so we feel like we’ve helped hundreds of local CRE professionals work more efficiently and close more deals. Brokers in Colorado tend to be more tech-savvy than brokers in other markets, so they have generally been very eager to adopt new technology to become more successful and help their clients do the same.
How do you see the commercial real estate and technology worlds continuing to collide in the future?
Apto is at the forefront of a market that’s just beginning to truly embrace technology. Even today, many brokers store vital information in haphazard ways using Excel and Outlook, or even Post-it notes! That means they’re missing out on the myriad ways they could be analyzing that data to their best advantage. Apto and other CRE software providers are seeking to give brokers better access to the tools and analytics that will help them add greater value to their client relationships.
What advice would you give others looking to jump into a tech startup?
Working at a tech startup can be both mentally and emotionally draining at times, but it’s never dull. The gratification that comes with building a product and a company that you can be proud of makes everything worth it.
What’s the best financial advice you can give to other companies looking to grow?
Be transparent about your company’s business plans, goals and what drives business decisions. Do everything you can to prepare for scale, but only once you’ve figured out a sustainable business model.
What role do you think your office space has played in building your company’s culture?
We sought to be in a central area close to transit to be accessible for the different talent pools across the Front Range — so our downtown Denver office, just minutes away from Union Station, was a perfect fit. The building itself has an open layout that fosters collaboration while blending modern and traditional design with both brick and timber. We want our employees to have the opportunity to contribute cross-functionally in an innovative and entrepreneurial environment, and our office space encourages that.
What was Apto initially looking for in an office space?
Apto was looking for a space that bridged the gap between a traditional, compartmentalized office space and the wide-open workspace that tech startups are trending toward. We were trying to get a little bit of both — we wanted open areas so people could collaborate and swap ideas, but we also needed several conference rooms and breakout spaces that would allow us to have quiet sales calls, one-on-one strategy sessions and other meetings.
What are you looking for in the future as you continue to grow?
We just moved to 1730 Blake St. in late 2016, so we don't have any immediate plans to move. However, any future office space needs to help us build and maintain our company culture of transparency and collaboration. We want Apto to be a place where our employees enjoy coming to work, and our office space is a key component of that.