Are the days of “goody bags” packed with a variety of products for participants at events such as road races over?
Could be, if a Charlotte startup has its way.
Virtual Race Bags, a team of 10 people, is already working with event organizers around the country to replace the standard goody bag with virtual items. Its big partner to date is Eventbrite, the website that provides event information and registration services around the country.
The company is finding traction with investors as well. On Wednesday, Virtual Race Bags disclosed the raising of a $900,000 Series A round of venture capital. New investors include the Inception Micro Angel Fund of Charlotte and the Piedmont Angel Network. The Upstate Carolina Angel Network, a previous investor, and other individuals also participated.
To Gary Schwake, president and co-founder of the company, the funding helps further validate the idea Chris Bradle, the other co-founder and chief creative officer, developed.
“The idea of the Virtual Race Bag began with Chris, the founder of Eye Design Studio, a branding and graphic design agency in Charlotte, who is also a competitive marathoner,” Schwake told WRAL Tech Wire.
“Through personal experience, he realized that the traditional marketing medium for events, the physical goody bag, was fundamentally broken for everyone – participants, sponsors and events.”
Schwake, a client of Bradle’s, teamed up with him in October 2010 to launch Virtual Race Bags, which provides a package of digital marketing and e-commerce solutions. Their initial focus on endurance events.
Sponsors and goody providers benefit from gaining better information about event participants, Schwake explained.
“National brands are using the Virtual Race Bags network to efficiently reach active lifestyle athletes,” added Bradle in announcing the funding. “Because the Virtual Race Bag is available
exclusively to event participants and only open a few days before and after the event, we are seeing engagement rates many times higher than all other forms of digital media.”
The two see a target-rich environment.
“With over 28,000 endurance events annually in the U.S. alone, the vision is to create a highly efficient and effective network that enables national brands to reach participants at the grass roots level,” Schwake said.
So far, the two appear to be winning the race for business.
“We currently have over 250 event clients across the U.S. and Canada, with 20-30 new events added every month,” Schwake explained.
“Over 1.5 Million participants will receive a Virtual Race Bag in 2012. Our integration with Eventbrite is indicative of our goal to make the Virtual Race Bags platform extremely easy for endurance events of all size to implement.”
The new funding will be used to expand Virtual Race Bags’ sales, client service and engineering teams.