Adam Torres and Jason Kennedy discuss motorsport technology solutions.
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Motorsports technology solutions for point of sale, digital ticketing, communications and event management have lagged in many markets. In this episode, Adam Torres interviewed Jason Kennedy, President & CTO at Trackside Systems. Explore how Trackside Systems is on a mission to modernize motorsports when it comes to technology and the fan experience at the track.
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About Jason Kennedy
Jason is a compassionate leader who has decades of experience building and leading teams. After 20 years in corporate IT, achieving global, executive leadership roles he found himself in a toxic corporate environment. Jason decided working independently in an entrepreneurial manner would be key to future success.
Today Jason leads two businesses – AutoInterests, LLC and AI Services, LLC. These combine his passion for both motorsports and technology.
AutoInterests is a leading high performance driving school business operating approx. 35 events seasonally in the Midwest US, and is the 3rd largest company in the industry. (https://autointerests.com)
AI Services provides a variety of technology services. The Trackside Motorsports Operating System provides everything a race track needs to efficiently operate its ticketing and back-office operations. (https://tracksideapp.com)
AI Services also provides fractional CIO, IT consultancy, private cloud hosting and network infrastructure services both in motorsports and a variety of other industries. (https://aiservices.llc)
Jason’s leadership style builds trust among teams to enable high performance, transparency and camaraderie. His approach builds an unparalleled level of collaboration where a fail-fast, fail-forward approach allows mistakes to be made with minimal risk and fast rebound, always delivering progress. He believes in a no-nonsense approach where politics and toxic behaviors are quickly squashed and not tolerated.
About Trackside Systems
Trackside is a cloud-based ticketing and event management platform for motorsports. Trackside integrates all key business processes: marketing, online registration and ticketing, on-site workflow/process management, communications, advanced analytics, point-of-sale and more! Trackside is the only single-source, unified solution to operate a motorsports events business!
Full Unedited Transcript
Hey, I’d like to welcome you to another episode of Mission Matters. My name is Adam Torres, and if you’d like to apply to be a guest in the show, just head on over to mission matters.com and click on BR Guest to apply. All right, so today’s a special episode. We have Jason Kennedy on the line. He’s president and c t O over at Trackside Systems.
Jason, welcome to the. Thanks for having me. Glad to be. All right. Well Jason, I’m excited to have you here and we got, we got a lot to cover, so we got a, we got a book that we’re working on together that we’ll be releasing. So more to come on that. We’ll talk about Trackside systems, really the amazing growth and and what’s going on with the company.
So excited to get into that as well. . But to start off this interview, we’ll start it the way that we start them all with our mission matters minute. So, Jason, we at Mission Matters. We amplify stories for entrepreneurs, executives, and business owners. That’s our mission. Jason, what mission matters to you?
So our declared mission at Trackside Systems and my personal mission is to modernize motor sports. And the way we do that is allowing especially grassroots level motor sports venues to get the modern systems they need to compete with all the other forms of entertainment that exist in.
Yeah, it’s great. And it’s a great story. And and I wanna, we’ll go further into it. So I want to know, like, first off, how did you get on this like, like the motor sports making that your career, like how, how did all that come about? Did you grow up in the motor sports industry? Like, how’d that happen?
Not specifically. It was kind of a hobby turned into. A business, which I think happens to a lot of entrepreneurs. But it all started for me with a car club that I was in and they were organizing events at road course racetracks. And I kind of fell in love with driving on the road course. It wasn’t really racing, it wasn’t competitive.
It was just a bunch of people with some cars having fun and learning what they can do in a safe environment and. for me. We actually had a group that, that turned into a business of running these events at racetracks, and then we built software around that because we realized we had kind of an opportunity on our hands and we, we kept branching that out and mm-hmm.
building software to run it. We went from running about two events a year to about 36 events a. With that, and people kept asking me at our events, they’re saying, Hey, where did you get your software that you’re using, that I registered through and that sends these text messages and does all this digital paperwork for me and all this stuff?
And I, you know, told ’em we wrote it and they kept asking if they could have it for the longest time. I said no. Then I finally decided enough people asked that I was gonna say yes, . Wow, what a story. So you, when this started, you were looking at just you know, solving a solution for yourself and really for your club and the individuals you were around, like your, was your original intention.
Did you think that Trackside systems would grow into what it was now? And I’m sure maybe the name wasn’t even there then, I don’t know, but like did, was that your vision originally or was it really just focusing on the problem at. It was just focusing on the problem at hand. So I, I had no vision at that time of, of doing anything with the software business at all.
Yeah. And, you know, we just, we sort of fell into it. We did start to internally call it Trackside cuz we didn’t know what else to call it. So the name kind of started before we really even thought about it being a separate product. But But yeah, that’s how it happened. Oh my gosh. That’s a, that’s a great story.
And when I think about like a lot of individuals that maybe kind of had something that they started, they were maybe working a full-time job doing something else, and then what, whatever the business is, they start it and they, it’s a side hustle. Maybe they’re not even charging for it at first, and it’s just something that they want to do, or they have a passion for it, and they grow that passion into, you know what then ends up being a business.
Those are some of my favorite stories. So if you, as you. as you’re, you know, you’re, you’re getting your, your, your initial clients and your, and you’re, you know, maybe developing that vision in the early days. When did you, when did the light bulb go off for yourself or the group that you were with working with?
When did the light bulb go off? When you’re like, you know, this is a real business. Like, when did that moment happen?
it was at some point in 2018 we really said, okay, you know what? Enough people have asked about this. We’ve, we obviously are solving a very real problem since people keep asking us about it. And so we did a pilot program with a drag strip in Ohio. And they were our first kind of pilot customer.
And they started trying it out. We collected a lot of feedback. We did, we had a lot of work to do, you know, to adapt it. So we were a traveling roadshow type of events organization, whereas they were a fixed. Facility. Mm-hmm. . So we had a little bit of work to do to adapt it, but we just did the classic thing where you listen to the customer and you keep, you know, evolving the product.
And after a solid year of, of iterating with them we started getting referrals through them. Started to get word of mouth. You know, we did no real marketing of it at all. Mm-hmm. Until, kind of starting last year where we started going to some motor sports industry trade shows and things like that, but it all spun off of that early, you know, proof of concept pilot customer.
Mm-hmm. , let’s go. And let’s maybe stick with the may, either the early days or maybe o obviously there’s a lot of, maybe there’s some tracks out there that are not currently using track site system. So what is the problem and what is the, what are some of the things that you were solving with, with the, with the software?
Like what’s some of the initial problems that the, the venues were having?
So for what we noticed was especially at the grassroots level tracks, and what I mean is, you know, you’ve got the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, you know, all these big NASCAR tracks, IndyCar tracks. That’s not who our market is. So those tracks, you know, they’re, they’ve got a lot of robust systems and things that they’re using.
So when we say grassroots level track, it’s more your regional. . Mm-hmm. kind of drag strips circle tracks, dirt tracks, things like that. So probably most people in America with live within an hour or two drive of one of those. Mm-hmm. . And so what we saw at these grassroots level tracks was that to get into an event, it may take you two or three hours and it’s, it was just crazy because they were only accepting cash at the gate.
Mm-hmm. , the waiver that you had to sign was on paper. The drivers have to fill out what’s called a tech card, which just basically says that their car meets the requirements to race in the event, and they’re doing all this fumbling around with paper and cash at the gate. And that’s, that’s kind of the number one issue was, you know, when you go to a higher end, Motorsports, you can buy your tickets online.
You’re scanning a QR code, you’re in there in seconds, right? You can get dozens of cars through every few minutes. You know, these things, you’re, you’re spending three and four minutes per car just to get them in. So that was the number one issue we aimed to solve. . Yeah. And so I’m just thinking, I’m just thinking user experience for these tracks.
So you’re, you’re, you’re going, you know, you have your family, you’re going to watch it, you’re going to watch an event or something, and you’re waiting in line for two hours or, or maybe even more sometimes, like, like how many events would you go to? Like, I, I feel like this has to Kind of kind of eaten away a little bit at, at the, at the user experience for the people attending the events.
Like, I don’t know, I don’t necessarily wanna wait a couple hours in line to do this. Like, it seems like after solving that problem, it’s possible that revenue and things would go up for these events. Am I off on this or No, you’re absolutely right. And, you know, we learn about it firsthand by going to these regional.
There’s track owners meetings they’re called, so it’ll be kind of a small conference setting where you know, a set of track owners get together in an area. I was just at one of these out in, in the Midwest, mm-hmm. last week. And, you know, part of the discussion is how do we get new and younger people into motor sports?
Because at the grassroots level, it’s been said for years, you know, oh, we’re really struggling to get new people into. . Yeah. And so I’m the only one raising my hand and saying, Hey, maybe we have to do business the way that younger people expect to be able to do business. Maybe they need to be able to sign up online.
Maybe they need to not have to pay with cash. How many people even carry cash these days? So, you know, to me it’s, it’s absolutely imperative. To let people pay the way they want to pay and let them transact the way they expect to. I mean, even fast food has all that stuff these days, so it’s, it’s just unavoidable.
Yeah. That makes so much sense. How, how was that message received in, in that particular meeting? I’m just curious how that looks. . It’s, it’s a mixed bag, that’s for sure. Yeah. . So, you know, you, you’ve got longstanding track owners that have, have made things work for 20, 30, 40 years. And, you know, if if they’re happy with their business performance and they can operate that way, then, then that’s, you know, that’s fine that they can be happy doing that.
But what we’re seeing is the time has come where, you know, drag racing was really in its prime with a lot. Drag strips and things going in, you know, kind of really 50, 60 years ago at this point is when like a lot of new ones were being built. Yeah. And so a lot of these facilities have stayed either with the original owner or the original family, at least for a long time.
The, you know, we’re talking very much family run businesses here. These are not. in most cases, big conglomerates or anything like that. So they, and when they don’t have outside perspective they do the way, do things the way they always have. But now what we’re seeing is it’s time for kind of a generational turnover.
Mm-hmm. . And so there’s a lot of new track owners that have. Business experience in other areas. Mm-hmm. and they see the need to modernize. And so that’s, that’s kind of been what our early successes have been is when a track changes hands and there’s a new owner with kind of a new vision. But you know, some of the ones that have been doing it a long time are coming around too.
It just, it takes time. . And in the presentation I gave last week, I even said, you know, do any of your, do you think any of your customers buy concert tickets, travel on airplanes, go to amusement parks? You know, all those industries are digitized. So if you think that they do any of those things, and probably everybody does some of that then they expect you to be able to do it.
Yeah. And so it seems to me like that when you look at o other industries, right? Like that have gone through this digitization process, usually there’s a definite li like lift. Once they’re, once they’re on the other side of it, it can be painful right? As as they’re going through it. Like many, many other industries Sure.
Outside of just entertainment, but. on the other side of that, it’s like usually the audience grows, usually the content gets better, usually there’s more resources to reinvest in the experience, whatever it be. And usually the market can expand and some good things can happen. So it sounds to me like this, this whole industry’s ripe for maybe another, another renaissance as it goes through that digitization.
I, I think so. And you know, these, these track owners are good at, you know, producing a quality show. You know, they work hard to get different types of racing at their venues, A lot of different cool kinds of cars to see. So they do a great job producing their shows, but the, the business operation hasn’t really kept up with the times.
And so I’ve, I’ve kind of jokingly told people I’m going back, Seventies and eighties marketing materials, the credit card companies used just to show like how much more people are willing to spend when they can pay with a credit card. You know, it makes a difference of not just selling the event ticket, but maybe you sell some souvenirs and some food and all those other things.
If people only have, can only pay with cash, they only have so much and then they can only spend so much. But when you have more flexible options, the sales. Really go up. And we see that with our customers all the time. You know, they get kind of hung up on, some of them get kind of hung up on credit card processing fees and things like that, which we can make very manageable.
But once they see the lift they get, it’s like, this is well worth it. And so, and everybody has a better experience. Everything is, works better. And everyone’s. . So we talked a little bit about the, you know, about the starting of the company really, and its roots. Let’s talk about the growth of the company and maybe where you’re at today.
So, you know years later after that, those early days of, you know, just creating the, the software for yourself to solve your own problem. Where are you at today with the business?
So we’ve hit some, some very significant milestones. . So one of them is we are now the official technology partner of the World Drag Racing Alliance, which is amazing, a new sanctioning body. So we’re not only digitizing the actual event operations and event transactions, but now to apply to get a race license is now digital, which believe it or not, in 2023 is the first, first in the industry.
So there, there were just no systems to manage that. And there’s, there’s kind of this whole side of motorsports that most people don’t even see. So like if you go to a drag strip and you watch a weekend of racing, you know, the people doing that racing could be your neighbors. You know, these aren’t, you know, high paid professional.
Racers in most cases. Some are, there’s very certain, you know, funny cars and jet cars and really high end stuff. But like your average weekend, you know, these are, these are people that do this for fun and you know, they’re there to compete. There’s a lot of prize money at stake and all that. And their experience hasn’t changed in a very long time.
So you know, it’s important to, to modernize that side of it too, so that we can get younger people that want to get. To racing and, and keep doing that. Hmm. Where do you see the the future of the, of the industry going? Really just motor motorsports in general in relation to each of your market? Like where do you see that going?
You know, there’s a lot of talk of electric vehicles and that’s, that’s very unignorable. So there are electric vehicle drag races. There are numerous different forms of electric vehicle racing. It’s kind of a whole different technical aspect to it. It’s interesting. I mean, people are still learning a lot of how that works, but,
You know, I think as a whole, the, the industry has grown very significantly. It has overall attracted mm-hmm. Some new people. But, you know, I think what the industry needs to keep working on is not just the visibility of Formula One and NASCAR and IndyCar, but the, the visibility and the experiences that are available, you know, in, in your home.
And a lot of small towns throughout America where these grassroots tracks are. But I, I think if these tracks continue to modernize, whether it be with our systems or houses
And I, I think the future’s bright. If, if the industry continues to modernize and do the business the way people want to. . Yeah. This is great. It’s, it’s a great story and and i I, from the roots of where it started to where you’re at now it, it’s interesting to me and then to see really where you’re at, at the intersection of digi digitization for the industry overall it just seems like there’s a lot of potential, a lot of growth.
I know that this story’s just getting started as far as I’m. Fey as the whole industry starts. I think it’s just gonna open up so much more opportunity for people. Jobs participation revenue for the owners. I mean, I, it’s just a lot of win-win scenarios that are being created here. Great entertainment, of course.
Better access to that entertainment. There’s just a lot. I wanna, I wanna jump around here a bit for a. So I do wanna spend a minute or two on talking about the book, the upcoming book that we have together. I, we’re not gonna do for everybody watching this, just so you know, we’re not going to do a deep dive into it, that we’re just gonna spend a little bit of time on it because we will be bringing Jason back onto this and, and onto the platform so that he can also do a deep dive into the book once it’s actually live and available to be purchased.
But again, today we’re gonna keep it high level. So Jason, what are some of the things that you maybe plan to propose or present in the upcoming book?
You know, it is gonna be a lot of the, the theme of that modernization and that type of thing, but it’ll also be a little bit of my personal story. I mean, I had a whole 20 plus year career in corporate it and. , you know, that that whole world of, of corporate America I’ve learned is just not for me. , . And I’m, I’m having a much better time with, with working with these racetracks and track owners.
I, I think that you’ll hear a lot in, in the book about just entrepreneurship and identifying opportunities, acting on those. And, and you’ll probably kinda get an undertone of, of how much I enjoy the small business world. Against the corporate world. . Yeah. All right. I’m, I’m gonna cut that off there just for everybody.
Watch. Don’t worry. Again, we’re this, that’s just, that’s what we call the teaser. Okay. So you’re being teased, but Ja, Jason will be back on the show and the book will be out then. And we, we do sell books, so we’ll definitely sell you some books, . But Jason I just have to say it has been great having you on the show today.
Let get to know more about your story, your journey, track size systems, the, the, the phenomenal growth you’re having, the differences you’re making in the. Families and and, and really in entertainment. So I think it’s awesome. That being said, if somebody is watching this or listening to this and they want to learn more about Trackside Systems or to follow your journey what’s the best way for them to do that?
You can check how trackside systems.com that tells you all about our product, what we do, how it works, all that good stuff. Otherwise, If you want to connect with me for any reason or follow my story, I try to post kind of what’s, what’s going on in my world as much as I can keep up with on LinkedIn.
So you can find me. LinkedIn. Fantastic. And we’ll put all that in the show notes. So I’ll put the, all the, all the hyperlinks and all that good stuff in the show note so that our, our audience can just click on the links and head right on over. And speaking of the audience, if this is your first time with Mission Matters we’re all about bringing on business owners, entrepreneurs and executives, and having them share.
Their mission, the reason behind their mission, and really, you know, what gets them fired up to go out into the marketplace and make a difference. If that’s type of content that sounds interesting or fun or engaging to you, we welcome you Hit that subscribe button because we have many more mission-based individuals coming up on the line, and we don’t want you to miss a thing.
And Jason, really thrilled to be working on this book with you. Excited to have you back on the show. And again, thanks again for coming on today. All right.