Best Event Registration Software: An Interview with Asaf Darash, CEO of Regpack

Best Event Registration Software: An Interview with Asaf Darash, CEO of Regpack

It’s not an uncommon complaint in the event management industry that you never get everything you want out of your event registration software – it seems like you’re always heavily compromising somewhere. But there’s an up-and-coming event registration system looking to change that by taking an innovative, research-driven approach to the technology. We sat down with Asaf Darash, CEO at Regpack and an all-around smart dude, to talk about how his software is changing the face of event registration.

What’s the Regpack origin story? Who’s behind the software, and what motivated them to create the platform?

Regpack was founded in Oct 2010 in order to commercialize the 7 year research I did in my Ph.D. My research focused on how computer languages and computer networks are able to function in a way that there are only variables and no constants. I also wanted to see if it was technically even possible to build a database that would work that way. At the time I was working with a number of educational institutions advising their IT departments, so I went to them and started to discuss my idea. From what they said, I gleaned that the whole field of registration, client management, event management, onboarding processes and workflow practices in general really really needed this type of flexibility but it was never offered. That’s when I knew there was a real problem that needed to be solved and that maybe I had the solution.

We really wanted to make a platform that would be so flexible that it can always meet 100% of our client’s needs without any programming knowledge needed on their end. We constantly heard people talk about finding systems that meet 65% of their needs, or 70% of their needs. We thought that was wrong. The system should meet 100% of the needs all of the time. That’s what motivated us, and we also knew we had the technology to do it.

In the beginning we were only 3 people working from a small office in San Francisco trying to make a technology that worked for research[ers] into something that would work for real people in real situations. It took us nearly a year and a half to get something ready that we could present to clients.

Today, there are more than 3000 organizations using Regpack, and we’re adding about 40 new clients every month. We register 100K people a month in the low season and 3 times that during high seasons. Our clients claim we have saved them at least 60 hours a month, which means we’re saving the world more than 180,000 work hours a month. We’re really proud of that, and of our contribution to helping people enjoy more free time doing things only humans can do (like think).

Where is the Regpack team based?

Regpack has two offices: one in Oakland and one in Jerusalem. In the Oakland office we have the account management team, the sales team, and accounting teams. In Israel we have development and account management for European clients.

Tell us a cool story about somewhere Regpack has been used successfully.

There are a lot of these stories! Here is a list of some client spotlights that highlight how Regpack has helped them.

I see that Regpack supports payment plans for registrants – that’s unique. Can you tell us a little bit about how that might be used and how that works?

Yes, it is unique, but like everything in Regpack it is something that came about as a result of client demand. We have a lot of organizations that are using Regpack for programs that are expensive. For example, we have a lot of educational tourism clients that offer various organized educational world tours. These programs can last for 5 months and can cost upwards of $20K.

We also have a lot of organizations that open registration for their events or programs 6 or 8 months before they begin. For these organizations there is an issue: people come in, register, complete everything, and then they need to make installment payments or need to pay the full amount only 3 months down the road. They found themselves needing to remind people to go in and pay, and that process wasted a lot of time.

That’s where “payment plans” or “scheduled payments” came in. They allow an applicant to select a plan that is best for them, and then the system will automatically charge them in intervals determined by the plan. Basically, it makes the whole issue totally go away by completely automating it.

We tend to find that most third-party software – not just registration software but all software packages – have to walk a line between customization and usability. In other words, the developers have to decide whether they’re catering to non-techies that need a plug-and-play system, or they’re making the software extremely flexible so that developers can get their hands into the code. This is the biggest issue we’ve personally run into with registrations. What’s your outlook on this? For example, we see you have a robust form builder – can we also tweak at the code level?

As explained above, Regpack works in a very unique way, and because of its flexibility, this questions is a little moot. You can stay with the Regpack defaults, or customize every little thing.

When you build your forms, the system is automatically creating data points that allow you now to set triggers based on answers in the forms. This means you can ask a simple question like “What color are your eyes?” and then you can create a totally different flow for people that have blue eyes as compared to people that have brown or green eyes. You can do that for any question you like, and for as many combinations you can think of.

This basically means that there are very few situations that you really need to get into the code, since you can control what happens through the triggering and meta programming system the triggers enable. That said, Regpack has an extensive API that allows users to create custom code just for a specific form, or just for a specific action in a form (submitting, completing etc…).

I think that we have found a happy medium between our software being programmer oriented and being a system just for the layman.

Regpack also offers all of our clients a project manager that does the initial system structure setup according to their needs, making it easy for our clients to start editing. We have found that people are much more comfortable with editing and altering something that already exists, even in a rough or draft format, than starting with a blank page that allows them to do *anything*.

For the nerds among us: what language is Regpack written in?

Regpack uses the following languages: Python, PHP, Javascript, Node. I would say that 70% of the system is built in Javascript. The most important part of Regpack is the conditional logic engine and the triggering meta programming language that allows its flexibility. That is written in C++ and interacts with a document base database structure that is unique for Regpack.

What’s the Regpack approach to mobile registrations? Is the interface mobile-friendly?

Yes. Regpack is mobile friendly. We have a unique presentation for phones and tablets that is different from how the system is presented on a desktop.

We’ve run into situations where we have to gather sensitive personal data as part of a registration process – for example, when we’re signing people up for an event at the White House, we’re required to gather social security numbers. Is Regpack equipped to handle secure data transfers like that?

Yes. All the information passing through Regpack is SSL encrypted and then we use a dual database mechanism where the key of the value is stored in a different place than the value. Even if an unauthorized party gained access to the Regpack database, they cannot extract protected information since they need the conditional logic engine and algorithm in order to connect between the two.

We have clients that gather SSN, health information, legal information etc… We are in the process of becoming HIPPA compliant and we are already PCI compliant. Getting these certificates is pretty easy for Regpack since the unique structure of the database makes it very very hard to manipulate any data outside of the system (we have not found a way to do that yet 🙂

What’s next for Regpack in terms of expansion and upcoming features?

In the last year Regpack added 560 new features into the system. I always try to explain that it is not important what “features” a system has but actually what real-world problems the feature solves. Our next goal at Regpack is turning it into an overall “onboarding system”. After all, registration is a private and complicated case of onboarding. So we are seeking to go after that area come June 2015.

Anything else you want to highlight?

I think it’s important to note our pricing structure since we strive to be incredibly budget friendly to seasonal and small organization’s without compromising the quality of the product all of our clients receive. A custom built system can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build and maintain. Regpack costs hundreds of dollars a month, if that! We are trying to bring the latest technology, the best in customization and fulfilling the needs and solving the problems of ALL of our clients 100% for a price that is affordable for all. I think the quality of our product and the price we charge make us stand out amongst our competition.

Thanks for taking the time to interview me and learn more about Regpack!

David Sonntag
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