A Quick Chat with Kurt Hansen
So, who exactly is Kurt Hansen? Drum roll please.......
The coolest guy you'll ever meet.
The absolute best story teller of our time.
The world leader in patents and inventions for the race timing industry.
A pilot and classically trained musician.
An amateur radio operator with his own satellite uplink/downlink center at his home.
A former Ironman (TM) athlete who retired after finishing Kona!
An undeniable animal lover..... (Jaguar, duh!)
Yep, that's him! Oh, and did we also forget to mention he's the CEO and Founder of Innovative Timing Systems? Which means we should most definitely add timing system extraordinaire to his list of credentials. We caught up with Kurt to ask him a few questions about Innovative Timing Systems and the timing industry. There's no better way to get to know our company than from Kurt Hansen himself.
1. Why did you create this company?
Back in late 2006, a friend asked if I could build a system for his company that would be more innovative and cost effective than the only solution on the market. He didn’t want to deal with reusable chips and heavy mats and thought there had to be a better way to time races. He also wanted real-time results and the ability to time everything from kayak races to marathons to bike events. His focus was on delivering a better experience for the athletes and I thought it was good idea. I never intended to create a company from this effort. I simply thought I would build one system for my friend. We timed a lot of events and as the word spread, I started getting phone calls from people who wanted to buy it. Before we knew it, I had customers all over the country and the company was expanding rapidly.
2. What are some goals you want for this company to accomplish in the next five years?
I want our company to continue to be the world leader in technology solutions for races, while also delivering great value and benefits to charities, non-profits and race organizations around the world. We want to make it possible for more individuals to get in shape and enjoy the health benefits that come from participating in races. In addition, every year we donate our time, services and money to worthy organizations that help rescue animals including lions, tigers, wolves, bears and jaguars. In the next five years, I hope we are able to do even more for these organizations as we help fund rescues of abused animals from around the world.
3. What sets you apart from your competitors?
There are a number of differentiators when you look at our company and our technology. First, we are privately owned and not held by a larger firm or a venture capitalist (VC). This means we can invest millions of dollars on things like R&D, Support, Training, etc. Most VC owned firms have to achieve financial targets that make it difficult to invest in these areas over the long-term. This is why our company has over 24 patents and a massive R&D pipeline, offers amazing levels of support, and can deliver the best technology in the world at low prices. For example, on Monday morning, we have 4 dedicated support engineers who are available to help our customers should they need anything after their race weekend. A timer can call us on New-Years day and know that our engineers will take remote control of their race at 7:30am should they run into any problems.
Furthermore, we offer extensive free training throughout the year and our engineers regularly travel to customer sites to help with complex events. Perhaps the biggest difference in our company is that we are truly a family of like-minded individuals. ITS is more than just a business. My staff and I know many of our timers personally and have attended birthday parties, weddings, funerals, races, etc. When our timers show up every year at our annual conference, it’s like a giant family reunion. Finally, we care about the environment and the animals on our planet. The majority of our waste is recycled, our manufacturing plant is very green, and our company has donated a lot of money to help save animals that are endangered or at risk.
4. Are there any races that you’ve attended that have meant a lot to you?
I have attended so many races where I was truly moved and found myself in tears. For example, 7 years ago I was at a race where a 100 year-old woman wanted to complete a 5K race before she passed away from terminal cancer. The race organizer asked if we would allow her to use a golf cart as needed with her family around her on the course. We of course said that would be fine. She had a lot of passion for completing the event and only used the golf cart a couple of times, however, we had to keep the finish line set up for an extra hour as we waited for her. This was an event with 12,000 participants, so the finish was massive and about 45 feet wide with scaffolding large enough to have newspaper reporters and photographers standing above the finish line. When she crossed the finish line, she walked over to the timing table and thanked us for waiting for her. There wasn’t a dry eye around. I will never forget that experience. In another example, we assist the team at White Sands Missile Base every year with their Baton Memorial Death March Marathon. It’s an amazing event held in the desert with about 7,500 participants.
At the starting line, about 8 surviving veterans from that event during World War II are sitting to the side and most of the participants line up to salute or shake the hands of every survivor. It takes a long time to start the event, but people recognize that these amazing survivors are far more important than anything else that day. Two years ago I was standing at the finish line at about 10:30pm and most of the crowd was gone and the place had cleared out. All except some medical personnel, perhaps 15 volunteers, the timing staff at the base, myself and our crew, and a General and several Colonels. Coming down the 1,000 foot finish chute, you could see a young man with two prosthetic arms and legs making his way to the finish. He lost his limbs while serving our country. What makes this even more special is that he was just about to complete the Marathon on a hot 98 degree day in the desert with a 50 pound rucksack (a military backpack) on his back. When he was 50 feet from the finish line, the General and other military leaders walked out and stood and saluted until he crossed. I teared up as I realized how much this young man had sacrificed so that we could live in freedom in this country. It was a sobering reminder that our company is more than just about timing, registration and results. We’re helping individuals and organizations around the world put on great events.
5. Why a Jaguar?
I choose to name all of our products after large cats because I’ve always loved and admired them. My wife and I have supported animal charities most of our married life. Our first product was called Jaguar because they have unique capabilities that I thought were quite interesting. They are highly intelligent, very fast, stealthy, powerful and even warm and affectionate if they like you. They are amazingly beautiful and my hope was that by naming our product after them, we might bring more attention to the continued problems of habitat elimination, pollution, and abuse of these majestic creatures by humans, who care little for others. It’s our way of being a responsible corporate citizen and giving back.
Have a question for Kurt? Feel free to email or call anytime!
About Innovative Timing Systems, LLC: Innovative Timing Systems, LLC is a privately-owned company, providing leading-edge sports timing solutions and race timing services through a network of over 500 locations around the world. ITS provides advanced chip technologies, race kiosks, large athlete displays, live web updates, automated race photos, social media integration and mobile apps. Founded in 2008, ITS is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri and has sales, support, and engineering facilities in numerous locations around the world.
About ITS YOUR RACE: ITS YOUR RACE is the leader in online event management. An all-inclusive endurance event platform, ITS YOUR RACE offers easy registration and results with custom features including sponsorships, advertising opportunities, GPS tracking, athlete photos, finisher certificates, fundraising, and more. Over 10,000 events have chosen ITS YOUR RACE.
Innovative Timing Systems is a registered trademark of Innovative Timing Systems, LLC. RaceTimes is a trademark of Innovative Timing Systems, LLC.