There is a wave of consolidation coming in the race registration business, as we’ve written about several times. Between a flat industry and too many smaller vendors who do not have the critical mass to build a complete platform, many registration companies will be sold or close (as we’ve seen already with RaceIt and RacePartner in the past year).
RunSignUp will be a consolidator given our market and technology leadership for a couple of reasons:
- Customers leaving declining, sold or closed platforms seeking better technology and pricing.
- Merger and Acquisition.
This blog is meant to explain our thought process as this next wave hits over the coming 2-3 years to races, timers, potential partners, and even alternative acquirers. While this approach may sound a bit different, we feel it is best to be clear about our positions in an open manner. We have been running on this open business model since we started in 2010, and our customers appreciate knowing our directions.
Why Do Acquisition and Mergers Happen?
The search for 1+1=3 is the typical reason. This was our motivation for acquiring RaceJoy and The Race Director. They brought technology and people with capabilities that RunSignUp did not have, and we brought a broader platform and full lifecycle company to these small organizations. Both have been very successful for all parties involved – Roger, James, Shelly, RunSignUp and most importantly our customers.
In a market consolidation, the idea is to increase efficiencies. Does it make sense to have 50 companies developing registration software – especially as the market definition has expanded to full race lifecycle management from Promotion to Registration to Fundraising to RaceDay. Even large markets do not support that many vendors (autos, computers, phones, social networks, etc.). So there is a phase of consolidation where many fewer companies will be developing and marketing and selling registration software.
This implies the financial justification is based on more efficiencies and fewer people. Last year there were a couple of large private equity investors who wanted to do a “roll up”. The plan was to acquire us and several others and consolidate the tech stack and operational management on RunSignUp. We ended up declining this because we did not have an interest in being run by financial people, and we felt that there was a natural evolution that would wind up in the same place in 5 years time – and we were not in a rush.
Why Would RunSignUp Acquire a Company?
Given the coming consolidation, we are very interested in acquiring other companies in this market (all the caveats are below!). There are a bunch of good reasons:
- The company may have other products or services that would be a good partnership with RunSignUp and benefit both companies long term.
- Bring on other talented people.
- Bring on additional technology solutions for races and timers.
- Generates more gross profit for us that we can reinvest in continuing to grow the platform for our customers and reward our employees hard work.
- Helps expose more customers to our great technology. Seriously, it is a kick when races using RaceIt and RacePartner moved to RunSignUp and saw the benefits of better software that could expand their races and save them time and money.
Why Would a Company Want to Join with RunSignUp?
Again, there are a number of reasons why a company might want to be acquired by RunSignUp:
- Knowing your customers will be taken care of from a technology and customer support perspective.
- Knowing RunSignUp is in this business for the long term, and is not going to be sold and change drastically.
- Fair value for technology and customers in the form of sharing gross profit from the customer base.
- Potential career path.
- RunSignUp depth of experience in M&A (Bob has been on both sides of about 20 deals in his career).
RunSignUp has become the leader in the market because of our strong technology platform and commitment to customer service. We have also proven our scalability as a business so we can handle an influx of say 1-2 Million registrations per year.
Depending on the desires and capabilities of the founders, we are also open to people joining our team especially int he areas of software development and customer engagement.
How Much Will RunSignUp Pay?
We wrote about this 3 years ago. There are 3 sources of value we would be looking for:
- Technology Value
- People Value
- Installed Base Value
While we have a strong technology base, there is always room for improvement or specific solutions that might make sense. The technology value is tough to figure out generally, so would be done on a case by case basis. The one thing to note, is that we would not have any interest in paying value for one of the many registration platforms in the market as we feel we have a strong advantage on all other platforms.
People value would be paid via hiring current employees where it made sense. RunSignUp pays competitive compensation and benefits, and has the added advantage of all employees getting options so they can be co-owners of the business.
The value of the installed base for us still is the 2X Gross Profit. This would typically be paid out over time so that there is shared alignment. RunSignUp also has a fair amount of flexibility in terms of revenue share, timing, and also since we are an S Corp, potentially shares if appropriate.
We understand that EventBrite is currently value at 14X gross profit, but that is a false flag. Given our long term perspective, we feel that any customer who we are a fit for will eventually partner with us, it does not really matter that much if we accumulate the market share now or later. And we do not want to put ourselves in a position where we overpay for something and it puts our customers or our business at risk.
Additionally, we also look at the alternative of companies being acquired by a competitor. We feel these acquisitions force customers to make a move, and if they are forced to do that, they may as well look at other alternatives. In the case of RaceIt and Race Partner, a large number of those customers moved to RunSignUp, and we paid no acquisition costs. Said another way, if we acquire a company and pay 50% of the gross profit for 4 years to the founder and investors, we make the same amount of money if 50% of the customers from that company wind up on RunSignUp.
First, there will never be only one company in this market. There will always be room for at least a couple of approaches to the business and technology. So while this blog may seem a little too self-confident, we are very humble in our approach to our business – focusing on technology and customers.
There will likely be a few mergers as some of the smaller vendors try to get big enough to compete. As stated above, that will create some good opportunities for races to switch to RunSignUp. It will also create a 1+ year integration transition as the companies try to figure out which platform they are going to go with (see the current RaceWire or GetMeRegistered two platforms/approaches for one company confusion).
Some companies will be acquired by some of our competitors in their efforts to get larger and fairly quickly integrated (like the couple we have done) or disposed of (Like WTC/Ironman did with RaceIt). RunSignUp will definitely offer transition plans to those customers as we have in the past.
There may be a lucky couple of vendors who get acquired for a premium valuation in the post-EventBrite hype by unsophisticated buyers who will have overpaid and weakened themselves in the long term. For example, there are a couple of small acquisitions one of our competitors made because they offered more than RunSignUp to the acquired company – and in both cases, the largest customer of the acquired company wound up moving to RunSignUp, devaluing the deal.
Over time, there may not be any real buyers in this consolidating market as there will not be any real investor money coming into a slowly declining market with a very strong leader already firmly established and growing.
And finally, RunSignUp is likely to do some acquisitions. Most of these will be done based on something close to the above analysis by the company and RunSignUp. We are looking forward to having a number of these conversations over the coming couple of years. If you are a company thinking about the future, feel free to reach out to bob.bickel at runsignup.com.