I just wrote a blog for Founder’s Corner that talked about our Open approach. One of the key elements of our approach is having an Open API. This provides a way for other software programs to interact with data on our platform. For example, it allows a timing software vendor to download all participant information so that the software can produce results for all the participants.
Our open approach can be counter intuitive. I’ve had a couple of, what to me are, perplexing conversations in the past month with people asking me if our API is really open.
It came from a couple of other registration providers who happen to also have timing software. One was concerned about their timing customers having access to timing a cross section of races using different registration providers. The second (and a couple more) were customers who used us for registration and their timing software vendor was trying to say we had closed our API so the customer had to use their registration software if they were going to use their timing software.
This is very perplexing to us. When we say Open, we mean Open. We are not going to cut off a competitor, just like we are not going to try to lock a customer in with a multiyear (or even a multi-day) contract. Customers can leave us at any time without any penalty.
From a business perspective, we obviously have a goal of having high levels of trust with our customers – so we can not really go back on our word easily without hurting that trust. Also, from a business perspective, we obviously want our customers to use our registration platform first and foremost – that is where we make money. So we obviously want any software to integrate with our API so it helps our customers.
To clear up any confusion, we invest heavily in The Race Director and RaceDay Scoring not to make money or to take customers from another timing company. We have them to help timers so that they can easily use our registration system for their races. And any integration we do from that timing software uses the exact same Open API that is available to every other timing software. We are happy that many timing customers use other software like RunScore, Agee, CTLive, RMTiming or others. And we are happy to help any of them create as tight of integrations as they want with our Open API.
And as a side corollary, we think if a vendor is trying to lock you in, then that is a bad short term decision that tries to maximize revenue in the short term but will dissuade customer trust over time.
The other conversation was with a marketing company that helps races bring more participants. They want to use the API and will be going to market with their own registration platform. They want to offer their services to races who use RunSignup, and I told them we were a completely open platform. They want to promote a race, but have registrations coming via their promotions to happen on their registration system and then import those people into RunSignup via the API. They were surprised that we were completely OK with that and were not asking for a cut of their revenue. Our thinking is that if they could bring more participant’s to our customers events, then that was great! By being open and free, we will be their best partner and they will do the best integration with us, which hopefully wins us more customers since the combination might be useful to other customers. We think our promotion tools like free websites, free email, referral rewards, Facebook integration via social sharing, Facebook Fundraising and Conversion API tracking are also useful to customers (not to mention all the other features like results, photos, participant management and sales tax processing), so do not fear them replacing us as the registration provider. And if they do, then we have done a lousy job of running our business and developing important software and don’t deserve those customers.
Hopefully these two examples provide deeper insight to how we view the power of an open platform as a strategic asset for our business.