These recent years have seen a great surge in the popularity of running as a sport. Runs and marathons are sprouting up all over the world, and span the gamut from the internationally renowned Boston Marathon to a charity like the Terry Fox run and small, local community events like Singapore’s Jurong Lake Run.
Naturally, many organisations are beginning to look at runs for generating awareness of their causes. This poses a problem because runs are not like other events; they require logistical support for race packs and shirt sizes, and participants are required to submit medical certificates due to liability issues. This is beyond the capabilities of many event organising apps like Eventbrite.
Get, set, go
Where there’s a need, there’s a startup, however. This inadequacy of available event apps has prompted NUS student Allan Teng to create 8packs. An avid runner, Teng was the among the founders of the Jurong Lake Run in 2011. Back then, problems like over-subscription and inventory management plagued the organisers.
“At that time, we were using Excel sheets for everything,” Teng recounts. “There was simply not enough tech for whatever we wanted to do, which was to take care of registration, inventory management for race packs, and results collation. Of course, we could pay for a custom system, but that would have cost us over S$10,000, and we simply didn’t have the budget,” he adds.
As Teng was part of web development studio WCSH then, he decided to build the platform together with his team. Along the way, they tested and iterated the platform, adding features based on the feedback received. By 2012, they had an event registration system and a race pack collection tool.
It was then that 8packs was born. “We found out that the system we created for the Jurong Lake Run can actually be taken to market,” Teng says.
“Where we at WCSH had taken on all sorts of development jobs in the past, it was then that we decided to focus efforts on our race management system. In August 2013, we opened it for other race organisers to use, with the name 8packs,” he shares.
What does it bring on the table, or rather the track
For organisers, 8packs offers hosting for their race event, as well as registration and payment tools. Registration data is fed to its inbuilt inventory management tool, letting organisers match and anticipate demand for race packs and finisher tees. Finally, analytics tools are available for organisers to glean insights from registration data, letting them better plan for their future race events.
With regards to participants, 8packs’ registration tool serves up a few interesting features. In addition to an integrated payment tool that lets participants sign up and pay on the spot online, 8packs offers the ability for a single user to register and pay for a group directly, without having to repeat the registration process for everyone. Other members of the group will have their registration forms emailed to them, which they can complete at their convenience.
For many participants, the race registration form is a major sticking point. As mentioned above, medical certificates have to be attached due to liability concerns, and information such as shirt sizes and previous race timings are not fields which can be found in an ordinary signup form for a conference, for example.
This being the case, 8packs has introduced various features to the form. For one, the form has an autosave function, and all fields self-validate so organisers do not need to contact participants in the case of wrongly filled data. In addition, there is also a system to check for duplicate registrations, saving participants and organisers alike money and trouble.
A social platform for runners
So far, 8packs has gained modest success, having signed up events like the Venus Run 2014 and the Starlight Ultra 2014 run in Malaysia. However, like marathon runners, 8packs is not standing still, and is in fact undergoing a revamp for both, its site and backend system. A mobile app for organisers and participants alike is in the pipeline as well.
“Currently, we need to build separate systems for different events,” Teng notes. “We are working on standardising our system so we can offer it to organisers as a platform for them to use and customise as they wish. We may also ask participants for permission to store and use their information in the future, making it possible for them to auto-fill forms for different runs instead of registering for each run separately,” he adds.
Teng’s goal is for 8packs to become a social platform for runners and sporting people. “Our aim for 8packs is for it to become a ‘LinkedIn for sports people’, where you can create timelines of all the races you’ve participated in, your times, as well as official race photos of you at you at your best,” he concludes.