CHARLOTTE – SignUpGenius has launched a new service to make organizing faster and more intuitive for its users. The new tool offers fewer steps and more utility to support the diverse needs of groups such as families, schools, nonprofits and companies.

The original sign up tool was first used to coordinate soccer snacks in 2008, and Charlotte-based SignUpGenius has grown to become the world’s largest volunteer management site with more than 96 million visitors annually. People use the site to make a difference in communities across the country, whether fulfilling teacher wish lists or joining natural disaster relief efforts.

It makes money from digital advertising, premium subscriptions, and a payments collection feature. It received a majority investment from Providence Strategic Growth, the growth equity affiliate of Providence Equity Partners, in June of 2017.

And the startup has hit impressive milestones since its founding.

They include:

  • 17.7 percent year-over-year growth in sign ups created in 2018.
  • Reached more than 96 million unique visitors in 2018— an increase of 19 million from 2017.
  • Revenue increased 42 percent from the previous year.
  • Users signed up for 76.3 million items from volunteer slots to business appointments.
  • The company recorded its busiest month ever in October 2018 with more than 18 million unique users.
Evolved from frustration

The company, which has grown to 34 employees, originated when its founder and his wife experienced frustration as signups for various activity tasks went awry.

Near the end of 2008, Dan and Angel Rutledge and their kids were in the thick of activities in Charlotte, “We were involved in volunteering at school, coaching sports and leading classes at church,” Dan says. But, he adds, “One thing that was always frustrating for us was organizing the groups of people we were leading. We had several epic organizing failures that were the seeds of the SignUpGenius idea.

“One time we were having a party for our church small group and we instructed people with last names starting with A-M to bring drinks and those with N-Z to bring snacks. We all showed up and were shocked to find that every snack family brought chips and salsa and every drinks family brought Diet Coke. Needless to say, it was a very disappointing meal.”

Another time Dan was coaching a youth soccer team where the team mom created a paper sign-up sheet to organize snacks. “Seemed like it would work… until one mom had a conflict and asked a couple other people to swap around. Everyone got confused… and at least one family forgot.”

He adds, “We ended up having numerous games where the kids sat on the sidelines, without anything, watching the other team eat their snacks.”

Pitching the idea

Rutledge felt like there had to be a better way to manage a group than spending all our time stressing about the details of organizing. At the time, he was a partner in an internet services company with entrepreneur Michael Vadini.

He pitched the idea to him of creating the site SignUpGenius in some downtime between client projects. He then built the first version of SignUpGenius and launched it to some family and friends.

“It really generated passionate reactions from group leaders and started growing virally and exponentially,” Rutledge says. In 2011 the site reached a point where Vadini and Rutledge decided that he should stop the client projects.  Angel joined the company officially at that time and they started leading the company together.

The SignUpGenius team. Company photo.

The company “evolved” over time to what it is now.

Rutledge says, “We started as a free sign up service for simple events like potlucks and sports snacks. Over time we realized users were organizing larger and more complex events like volunteer responsibilities for an entire school or nonprofit.

“So we started building higher-end features and in 2013 rolled out a subscription offering as well as a payment module to handle the increasing needs of our users. We’ve gradually shifted the site from being a simple free tool into a freemium SaaS solution that now handles both simple and very large-scale sign ups.”

A great place for startups

Rutledge said Charlotte is a great place for the company and other startups.

“For us,” he says, “Charlotte is a great spot because our product fits right into the DNA of the city. There are so many growing churches, active sports leagues, engaged schools, and significant nonprofits in Charlotte.

He adds, “Charlotte is a great place for a startup. A lot of business can be so cut-throat… but in Charlotte there was so much encouragement from the media and community that we always felt like people were cheering us on. That’s rare and so great when you’re working through the challenges of getting a business off the ground.”

He continues, “It’s also been exciting in the the last couple years to see the start up community growing in Charlotte. Angel, in particular, has been connecting with other entrepreneurs through numerous events at the Packard Place, through the Charlotte Angel Fund, the recent Seed the South conference – and we’re definitely seeing a growing excitement about what’s going on in the city.”

He offers the following advice to other entrepreneurs.

“Remember the basics. Business is not rocket science. Trust the time-proven principles you learned from your parents, school and church. Build out a budget and don’t spend more than you make. Go the extra mile and treat your customers better than they could ever expect. Carefor your employees like family. Say thanks and give back when you succeed.”