A Charlotte-based tech company whose anonymous digital reporting service started with college athletic departments is making gains in that realm — and in farther-flung areas, too.
Those farther-flung areas include professional sports, governing bodies, universities as a whole, and, within the next couple of months, international sports clients.
RealResponse was started by former college basketball player David Chadwick to give athletes a way to share concerns and opinions anonymously with school administrators. In turn, administrators can learn about potential problems big and small in real time and seek more detail while offering assistance to athletes.
Chadwick, in a recent interview with CBJ, said that athletic departments at schools across the country continue to embrace RealResponse.
The service costs $1,000 to $10,000 per month. At least 120 schools’ athletic departments have signed with RealResponse to date. Clients include Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, TCU, Baylor, Texas A&M, Maryland, Miami, Illinois, Kansas, Davidson and UNC Charlotte.
While he emphasized that college sports will always be a core focus, Chadwick said that what was a nascent expansion into pro sports and Olympic national governing bodies has gained momentum.
RealResponse is privately held and does not disclose financial results. Chadwick said the company is profitable. Last year, revenue increased by 70%, he said.
The company has 10 full-time employees and expects to add more this year.
Last summer brought the addition of Major League Baseball and USA Swimming and, in December, RealResponse added NASCAR as a client. In each case, people at all levels of the sport or league gain access to a messaging system that provides confidential protection to report competitive, safety and abuse concerns, among other issues.
In October, Clemson University became the first RealResponse customer to broaden its focus from its athletic department to the entire campus.
Working with the pro sports leagues unlocked the potential for full college campus programs.
“For years, we’ve had universities ask us if RealResponse could be expanded beyond the athletic department into the broader campus population,” Chadwick said.
“Our answer was always no because the system was designed originally to meet the needs of a very specific group of people. When we built out this more external-facing product for these pro leagues and players associations, we then realized that system did have a potential utility on the campuses where anybody would have a chance to report.”
Chadwick expects to announce a second university-wide client soon. And he said much of this year will be dedicated to working with other schools interested in going beyond athletics reporting.
The prospects, he noted, are good, since administrators at athletic department client schools are already familiar with the product and the company has already been vetted during the initial sale.
“Campus-wide implementation is one that’s taking a lot of my time,” he said. “It’s already generating significant interest and it’s one that is a no-brainer for us to scale.”
Schools, teams, leagues and governing bodies all use the system for anonymous reporting to protect players and employees, but most tailor it to serve additional needs, such as surveys of practice and training facilities, academic support, and so on.
Clients include sports organizations that, under previous regimes, have been involved in high-profile scandals, including USA Gymnastics, which paid a settlement of $380 million after years of sexual abuse by a former team doctor, and the National Women’s Soccer League, known as the NWSL.
Fallout from the NWSL abuses — first reported in 2021 — continues.
An independent investigation led by former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates determined that sexual misconduct and verbal abuse by coaches are systemic problems in the NWSL and in women’s soccer overall. The findings were released last fall.
A subsequent, separate study of the NWSL commissioned by the league and its players association reached similar conclusions.
The NWSL’s league office and a handful of teams began using RealResponse as the crises surfaced. Half of the league’s coaches were fired or resigned in 2021, and the league has installed a new executive team.
In December, as part of the league-specific investigation and report, it noted that all NWSL teams are now using RealResponse, one of many steps taken to improve player wellness and rid the league of abusive behavior.
Chadwick did not disclose the name of the company’s first international client, but he said the agreement is complete and will be announced in the next two months. More international business is anticipated this year, he added.
Earlier agreements with the NFL Players Association and 12 NFL teams (for administrators and team employees) as well as USA Track & Field helped RealResponse begin building its client roster beyond college sports.
Founded in 2015 and expanded in 2020, RealResponse is a partner with more than 100 colleges and universities as well as with the NFLPA, USADA, the NWSL, and USA Gymnastics, giving more than 100,000 college, amateur and professional athletes with the ability to anonymously share feedback and concerns in a safe and secure manner. Organizations can also benchmark metrics to peer and national averages to identify areas of competitive advantage and vulnerability. In 2021, RealResponse was recognized by the Charlotte Business Journal as one of the “Fifty Most Innovative Companies in the Region.” For more information about RealResponse, visit realresponse.com.
Charlotte Business Journal: https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/inno/stories/news/2023/01/09/realresponse-tech-startup-colleges-sports-business.html