Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Future of Race Directing is Here

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It is with great honor and pleasure that I introduce you to RaceHQ. While I have been in the trenches of event management for a long time, nothing has given me more satisfaction than creating a product that truly empowers my fellow event managers to operate more efficiently. We’ve all stood at the finish line and witnessed the greatness of the human spirit. It is with that same passion and dedication our team poured everything we have into the development of RaceHQ.

Anton Villatoro, President & Co-Founder

It all started when as the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Denver Marathon, I felt overwhelmed by the millions of details our team had to manage leading up to race day. We partnered with one of the best in the business, Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray and his talented team of event professionals at DMSE to focus on the operations, but I still worried something might slip through the cracks. We grew the event from zero to 10,000 participants in just two-and-a-half short years. Our organization went from five full-time staff, to over 50+ on our Organizing Committee, and ultimately to over 1,000+ race crew on race day including volunteers, contractors, City officials, and police. There was so much to keep track of surely there was something out there that would help.

Ultimately we sold the event to Competitor Group, Inc. to become part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series and I joined the company as Vice President of Operations. Now I wasn’t just in charge of my one event, but THIRTY-SEVEN events – 14 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons, 18 Muddy Buddy’s, the Endurance Sport Awards, and we had just launched an inaugural 4-race TriRock Triathlon Series. Quickly I realized the game had changed, although my challenges were still the same. Only now I had more events, more staff, more contractors, way more responsibility, and even more details to manage! On race morning I would pray that everyone would show up when they said they would show up, people would do what they said they were going to do, and that the race would go off without a hitch. In some cases, I was responsible for getting over 30,000+ participants from the start line to the finish line – safely – and leaving things to a hope and a prayer was no way to live.

Subsequently, I set out to discover a project management tool that would give me more visibility over who was doing what, establish standard operating procedures, and take the guess work out of our rapidly expanding portfolio of events. Sure there were a lot of other project management tools out there, but none that were specific to my needs as an event manager. The only real ‘option’ seemed to be to configure Microsoft Project, but that proved to be cost-prohibitive to the tune of six-figures by the time we hired high-powered consultants to configure and implement the system.

When I left the company at the expiration of my two-year employment agreement, I did a lot of bike riding to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and how I could make the greatest impact on the industry I loved most. What kept sticking with me was ‘I can’t be the only one that would benefit from a project management tool customized to the specific needs of an event manager if I can also make it affordable?’. So began the journey of RaceHQ – a first-of-its-kind project management, collaboration and task management tool for participatory events.

The very first thing we did was assemble a rock star team in George Plsek, former and original CTO for Active.com, and Don Mulligan, with over 10 years in the world of events and technology with Demosphere International, Brightroom Photography, and RaceIt race registration. Together, along with a full team of event experts, software developers, and technologists we began the process of creating a product that would truly help make the lives of event managers easier.

Twelve months later, we introduced the product for the very first time at the annual Running USA conference earlier this year. It was our ‘coming out party’ and our way to showcase the product to potential beta users. Up to that point, no one knew anything about RaceHQ and we had no idea how the industry would respond to this innovative product. Had we come back from the conference with 4 – 5 race directors that thought it was great we would have been thrilled, but the reality was everyone that stopped by our booth thought it was exactly what they didn’t realize they needed so badly. From that conference, we formed a very impressive group of beta users of over 50 companies with 350 events, representing 1,000,000+ participants. In the proceeding months, we worked together with these companies to incorporate their feedback into the ongoing development of the product to make it even more robust.

Developing RaceHQ up to this point has been a marathon in itself and the effort and feedback of many people. Our sincere gratitude to everyone that has believed in the vision of the product and contributed to its ongoing development. We are all a part of the same event community that cares deeply about producing quality events so people have a stage by which to participate. When one of us fails, we all fail. When we get it right, we all succeed. It doesn’t take long to understand the significance of the work we do – one must only stand on the finish line of any race for less than 5 minutes. The emotion of the daughter running for her mom stricken with breast cancer, the brother of a fallen soldier, the person that lost 100 lbs. to get there, or the 19-year-old with an Olympic dream. It’s absolutely unbelievable. To borrow something I learned from Dave McGillivray, we are all in the business of raising the self-confidence and self-esteem of millions of people.  Now that’s cool. And if RaceHQ can support you in your efforts so that you can do your job better then we’ve done our job.

Please let us know what you think. Your feedback is important to us. We are all in this together.

Anton Villatoro