RunSignUp Philosophy Over the Years

When researching the blog on the RunSignUp History, we came across these blogs where we rambled about the meaning of our company, why we work, how we treat customers, and who we learn from, etc. Here are a bunch of them, with links and highlighted content (from old to new – and you will see we have stayed pretty, pretty consistent):

No More Fun?

March, 2012 – There was an article in the NYTimes today “No More Innovation for the Fun of It”.  The point of the article was that many of the big companies like Apple and Google have turned into businesses that really only care about money.  And in that pursuit they do things like capture information and figure out ways to use it to gain more money.

At RunSignUp, we are all about running and having fun.  Our privacy policy is pretty simple: “we DO NOT sell or share your information with anyone except the Event Director for races you register for at”  And we love creating new ways for runners to come together – for example our new, free Sites offering that allows any running group to create a website for free.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

April, 2012 – While sitting in the movie theatre, I kept thinking about RunSignUp.  How our ambitions were similar to Jiro’s.  Focus on one thing and do it really well.  Make improvements each and every day.  The focus is on doing the right thing – not the money.

Sweat the Small Stuff

July, 2012 – We have a couple of big things coming in the next week or two, but we are also paying attention to the little stuff.  We love to get feedback from users and while we may not always get to them right away, be assured we file them away and will get them done!

Stakeholders – Not Shareholders

August, 2012 – I read an article in the New York Times titled “Down With Shareholder Value“.   This has been something that I have thought a lot about the past 20 years.  It always struck me as strange that the reason for a company would be to serve shareholders.  To me it is an equal balance of Customers, Employees and shareholders.  If any of those are out of sync, then the company is lost – or at least not a place I want to hang around.

Free Services Strategy

2012 – A couple of years ago when we started RunSignUp, our basic strategy was to charge a processing fee when it cost us to process a transaction.  We uplift our cost for the charge to pay for our salaries and infrastructure and hopefully make a profit.  We figure this is a pretty decent way to associate value with cost for races – meaning larger races pay us more than smaller races.

We also came up with a strategy to not charge for our services that cost us relatively nothing to deliver on an incremental basis.  As an example, you can let volunteers sign up for free since there is no charge.  Or you can enter paper registrations for free.  It basically costs us some money for storage and processing, which is really, really cheap.

Open Running API Released

2012 – “We are trying to do two things with our Open Running API,” said Bob Bickel, founder of RunSignUp.  “First, we want to make it simpler for race directors and timers to use various tools from different vendors to serve runners better.  Second, we want to encourage a new wave of innovation for Mobile and Cloud technology.  The best way to do this is in an open and free way.”

Paying our Customers

2012 – We take our fiduciary responsibility seriously here at RunSignUp.  We’ve done a number of upgrades this year that help our customers understand exact details about how we pay them and the ability to drill down to the transaction level on what for.

Thank You

2013 – The key to our success from a business perspective is if our customers think highly enough of what we provide to recommend it to their friends and colleagues. The good news is that most of the new races and timers and clubs that are using us are actually referred from someone who has used us.

So Thank You very much for taking the time to recommend us!  And of course let us know how we can keep getting better!

We Screwed Up

June, 2013 – This is the first registration interruption we have had since last September.  As we have said in the past we try to learn from our mistakes.

Strength of the Pack

2013 – “The Strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the Strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

The idea of working together as a team is probably the reason why RunSignUp is having so much growth and success today.  On our own, we are a strong wolf. But to really do something useful takes a team.

No Advertising and No Spam

2014 – Several races have asked us recently for help in marketing their races.  We offer a number of ways for races to help promote themselves (like giving you free email marketing, providing natural search, Facebook and Twitter integration, the best Mobile reach, integration with Google and Facebook advertising, Coupon integration with sites like Groupon and Living Social, ability to embed YouTube videos, etc.) and will be coming out with even more in the future.

But we do not sell runners names, we do not send our own email with suggestions for races to runners, and we do not sell advertising space on Some of our large competitors do offer these services with fancy names like Event Graphing and “intelligence” to bring event ideas to individuals. That is something we have ZERO intention of offering.  Our contract specifically does not allow this. We think runners are smart enough to decide on their own what they want to do, and there are plenty of targeted advertising solutions on the market already.

Right to Deny Service

2014 – We hate to do this, but we have just had to add a sentence to our contract. It basically gives us the right to deny service or withhold funds from races where registrants are complaining or there are repeated chargebacks. This is due to a couple of race directors who have put up bogus races and are simply trying to take money from runners without providing any real value. They have not held races and not delivered what was promised. And that is not why we got into this business.

Worrying About Details

March, 2015 – We worry about the details, and we are getting feedback from large customers who have moved from other systems to RunSignUp that says it matters. One race has seen a decline of 80% in support requests from runners. Another race series has seen a drop of over half.

Of course that means less of a burden on the race, but the real benefit is making life better and easier for the runner. And that is the core of our business – making things better and easier for runners, race directors and timers. So we will keep refining and improving.

Continuous Improvement

March, 2015 – Culturally, we seek to continuously improve. We try to develop good solutions for customers, but they are never perfect. We learn from the feedback and then make improvements. You can see this by how we issue new releases of old functionality like Teams, Donations, Results, TXT Messaging, etc. This cultural acceptance of not being perfect and always listening for ideas for improvement give us literally thousands (we had over 1,800 releases in 2014) of micro-improvements.

Investing in Innovation

As a RunSignUp customer, you are investing in innovation.

Every profession produces both private returns — the fruits of labor that a person enjoys — and social returns — those that society enjoys.

As individuals at RunSignUp, I can tell you we get a kick out of trying to create technology that makes a “social return” – whether it is better registration on mobile phones, video results or GPS tracking – they are things that the running community enjoys. To be clear, we are definitely not saving the world (and we certainly want and need to make money), but we and our customers and their participants are having a bit more fun because of the work we do. And we strive for that good, healthy balance of a Three Legged Stool that I wrote about on my personal blog.

Amazon and RunSignUp

The quote that struck me this year applies so well to what we are trying to do at RunSignUp:

We’ll approach the job with our usual tools: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, heartfelt passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and a willingness to think long term.”

RunSignUp Foundations

RunSignUp is a company that provides a set of web services for the endurance market. We have two differentiators – the fact that we know how to build really a good and open technology platform that makes our customer’s lives better, and the foundations our company is built on.

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 3.11.40 PM

this is all obvious and boring stuff. But it is surprising how few companies really implement this whole system. Which is great for our little (fast growing and highly functional) RunSignUp community!

Change & The Internet’s Third Wave

“The third wave of the Internet is about to break. The opportunity is now shifting to integrating it into everyday life, in increasingly seamless and ubiquitous ways.”
Steve Case

The RunSignUp community is a great example of this third wave. There are so many opportunities to bring change and improvement to races. We get excited thinking about all the areas of development we are working on and the great feedback we are getting from our community as we continue to roll out these changes.

Future Trends in Registration Systems

Sept. 2015 – Registration systems are growing from just collecting money in two primary ways:

  • Marketing Events
  • Race Day Services

Technology Market Critical Mass
This article from the WSJ on RackSpace partnering with Amazon AWS caught my (Bob) attention:

Rackspace Hosting Inc., a seller of cloud-computing services, is teaming up with Inc. to make it easier for corporate customers to move computing operations from their own facilities to Amazon Web Services, the retailer’s cloud computing platform.

The reason this is interesting to RunSignUp, is that we have worked with a couple of companies already to help them migrate out of the race registration market to focus on other parts of the market like marketing or consulting services. As we pointed out in our blog about the future of the race registration market, smaller vendors will come under increasing pressure. Much like Amazon AWS, we want to be a friendly partner for companies, who much like Rackspace refocus on other areas of expertise and work with them and their races cooperatively with our open platform.

RunSignUp – Built for the Long Run

I tend toward tech, business and economics reading and the collection of readings only reinforced the guiding principles and structure we have put in place at RunSignUp. Creating a long term organization with a synergistic balance of meeting the needs of Employees, Customers and Owners.

The key problem that many organizations have is they are structured too much around short term thinking.

When we created RunSignUp about 6 years ago, I was not sure what would happen and if customers would like what we built. By 2012 we became convinced that we were building something that could be very useful to the running and endurance community. I also met Alan Jones of RunScore and Roger Bradshaw of The Race Director during that time period, and very much respected them both for building small, focused businesses around their passion that have served the endurance community for many years. I became focused on building a long term organization even though we were very tiny.

While most of our customers only use us a few times over a few months each year, we view these interactions as part of a long term relationship. It is our responsibility to continue to provide technology options for you to improve your races. With the fast pace of technological advancement with Cloud, Mobile, Social, Advertising, Marketing, Race Day Technology, there is a lot of work for us to do for many, many years. We want to make sure you can continue to count on us for those few months each year when you ramp up promoting your race and then having a great Race Day. We look forward to many decades of a fun, productive partnership!

Hedge Fund Talents

It upsets me when I see companies in our industry making stupid moves. We should be collaborating to work together with open platforms and solving customer needs – not doing stupid, unproductive stuff…

The Big Short and Registration Payments

Funding with Float
The key potential problem for some registration providers is if they depend on the float of registration payments to fund their business. Some registration providers process money within their own bank account and then make payments from that account. The longer they take to make payments, the more money they have in “float” in their bank account to use for other purposes.

Was Friends the Downfall of Western Civilization?

two incidents where RunSignUp was the “Ross” and laughed at by large organizations who thought we were too technical and too worried about features.

A fairly prominent organization is looking at replacing their home built registration system. A Board Member stated flatly all registration systems are the same and they should just pick the cheapest.  Senior Management has been pretty passive about moving forward on the initiative and seems to be more worried about 0.1% credit card fees than providing a great experience to their partners and customers.

Amazon Annual Letter from Jeff Bezos

As he wrote in his first Annual Letter:

“But this is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for”

We feel the same way about RunSignUp and the technology we can bring to the endurance community. We can’t wait for the future!

Outliers Book Report

My wish with Outliers is that it makes us understand how much of a group project success is.”

Clearly, we have a great team here. We could not achieve what we have done or plan without this combination of talents, experience and dedication.

One of my favorite was the “10,000 Hour Rule“.  He gives a number of examples like Bill Joy and Bill Gates in technology, the Beatles playing thanklessly together in Germany for several years before they hit it big and others. If an average work year is about 2,000 hours, that means you hit your stride when your company 5 years old.  That feels about right for us. We hit 5 years old in early 2015 – about the time we had completed our first year of over 1 Million paid registrations and had begun to win some larger customers and grow quickly at scale.

RunSignUp Structure
We have done a number of blogs about our culture, such as Built for the Long Run and Technology Really Does Matterand the Three Leg Stool of Customers-Employees and Owners being equal partners in RunSignUp.

In this blog, I (Bob) wanted to review the actual legal structure of the company.

The Right Side of Technology

At our core, we are a technology company. Yes, we are completely focused on endurance, but so are many races. Yes, we care about our customers, but so does every race. But races simply do not have the focus or expertise to be technology experts – and that is where we come in. RunSignUp makes bets on the advancement of technology to meet the needs of the endurance community. Those bets are proving out.

Technology is Hard

Amazon, the leading Cloud provider had some major issues today. “People reported outages and delays on services like Slack, Trello, Sprinklr, Venmo and even Down Detector”

This is the last day of the month – a day in the race industry is usually pretty big because a number of races have price increases. About 25,000 people signed up for races today and RunSignUp processed over $1 Million in transactions. If we had been down like many other sites it would have been a very bad day for us and our customers.

Day 1

“obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality”

RunSignUp is in our 7th year, but it still feels like Day 1 around here.  There is so much that we can still create for our customers. Even though our focus is much, much tighter than Amazon (we only focus on providing technology to the endurance market), we still have an unlimited number of things we can do to make our customer’s lives better.

Non-Exclusive Contracts

One of the first decisions we made at RunSignUp was to have a non-exclusive contract. This meant we were not locking customers into using just RunSignUp, and gave them the right to use any platform(s) they wanted to help their race. We did this for two reasons:

  1. We do not want the burden of an unhappy customer.
  2. Modern cloud services change fast, and customers demand the right to move to serve their best interests.

Why Software Dies

When Software Dies

The Risks of Declining Registrations

Lessons for Races and RunSignUp from Forbes 100 Essays

Why AWS is RunSignUp’s Business Model too

Guiding Principles – December, 2017

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