The race organizers hired local company EventsOnline.ca more than 10 years ago to manage its online registration, and the company created custom software to provide a two-week online window during which runners can properly sell their bibs to one another.
EventsOnline began in 1999 as a Canadian online registration company for sporting events as well as club, corporate and charity events. It was founded by Ottawa businessman Marc Roy and John Litherland, a business acquaintance in British Columbia.
The firm's largest (and only) competitor was Active.com (now known as The Active Network Inc.), a U.S. company offering standardized services. EventsOnline, on the other hand, offered a custom-created solution for each client.
But 13 years later, the founder of Active.com, Mitch Thrower, announced he was investing $4 million in EventsOnline to become a minority owner of the company. The founders of the first two online registration businesses have now come together under the Ottawa-based company.
As EventsOnline has grown, so has its ability to attract ever larger races as clients. The Honolulu Marathon, the fifth-largest of its kind, hired EventsOnline to design its website, provide on-site live media updates, race bib printing and online result updates.
It has helped the Motorcycle Ride for Dad in Ottawa bump up its digital registration by 60 per cent since it took on the job two years ago, as well as increasing the event's online fundraising by 40 per cent.
An even bigger coup is its relationship with the Ironman World Championship since 2007, designing its 100-page, full-colour results magazine overnight. Yes, overnight - to be available for participants at breakfast the next morning.
As well, the company has worked with Ottawa's Army Run for the past four years, along with approximately 100 other events in the region each year and more than 1,000 annual events in total.
Since 2007, the company has grown its employee head count from four to 28, and increased its revenues by more than four times by serving several thousand clients, says CEO Stephen Partridge.
Ninety per cent of event organizers never see an invoice from EventsOnline, Mr. Partridge says. Revenues come from user fees generated from the event. Services are provided on a formulaic basis - a client of X size equals X numbers of hours worked, with the option to upgrade for an additional fee. But those fees and user surcharges are paid on a results basis, which means if the event is cancelled or malfunctions, EventsOnline is on the hook to cover all costs.
"The biggest risk is you stand to lose 100 per cent more than you stand to make with any one client," Mr. Partridge says of the business model.
The industry is also seasonal, with most business taking place during the summer months. However, with additional verticals including events for corporations, clubs and charitable organizations, the business is able to keep full-time staff on year-round, Mr. Partridge says. The business is also focusing on increasing its presence with local charities.
"There are a lot of events in Ottawa that still look far away to find the services that are available right here and now at a higher quality and at a lower cost," he says.
EventsOnline's success has come from its emphasis on people first, technology second.
"Technology is the easy part," Mr. Partridge says. "So many people think that's the important part and they'll fill the gap with people afterward. In my humble opinion, it's exactly the opposite."
His advice is to flip the model - build a team and use them to build the right technology that you will be able to service right out of the gate.
In 2007, the company was working out of a basement on Colonnade Road. In March, it moved into an office further down the street with more than triple the space.
During the past few weeks, the firm has hired five people, but that isn't the end to the business's plan for immediate growth - Mr. Partridge says he is still looking to hire a chief technology officer and a chief operating officer, a position he currently holds on top of his title as CEO. Offices are set to open on the West Coast, including one in San Diego, where Mr. Thrower's company La Jolla Holding Group is based.
In 2005, EventsOnline noticed a need in the sporting industry for race bib suppliers. The specialized product can't be created by just any print shop, and the wait times were long for businesses that did provide the service.
From this was born Bibnumbers.com, a bib production company that ships internationally with as little turnaround time as 24 hours.
The company was started internally and is run out of the same office as EventsOnline.
Claiming to be the largest timing company in North America and serving over 500 events each year, Sportstats provides professional computerized finish line timing and results.
The company was founded by Mr. Roy and operates out of the same building as EventsOnline, but is a separate entity run by Mr. Roy and his wife, Isabelle Fradette.
Earlier this year, it acquired www.raceheadquarters.com, a British Columbia-based timing company.