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Ironman tests his on-line mettle with Active.com:
World-class athlete Thrower quick to collect accolades and success
By Brett Hanavan
La Jolla Village News
June 7, 1999

To be a world-class athlete, commitment, focus, ability and training all have to become part of the psyche of the competitor. Being a marathon runner is hard enough, let along targeting one's sights on Ironman-style triathlons that combine running, swimming, and bicycling (throw in visionary efforts for a participatory sports-based Internet company).

Mitch Thrower is all of this and more. Thrower is co-founder of Active.com and is now the vice president of strategic planning and international markets for the La Jolla-based company. Contacted over Memorial Day weekend while in France, Thrower is currently leading the worldwide expansion and relationship architecture for Active.com in Europe, Canada, South America, Japan, and South Africa. Combine all this and there is one dedicated, busy man.

Just how busy is he? Thrower has competed in six Ironman Competitions, with his seventh approaching this fall. He writes, he advises, he philosophizes, he works as a volunteer at San Diego's Children's Hospital. He seemingly has little extra time. How does he do it? Thrower's day is about 15 hours long. In addition to his responsibilities at Active.com, he is also co-founder of the La Jolla Holding Group, a private investment company. Walking along Prospect Street, one can often glance up above Forever Fondue and see him writing and working late into the night.

Thrower is single, and at age 28 in 1996 was one of San Diego Magazine's bachelors of the year. He missed the photo shoot for the story due to his busy schedule. With the start of Active.com, he had to give up his volunteer job at Children's Hospital. He said that is the first thing he wants to add back to his chaotic schedule.

Thrower's sister, Stacey, passed away at age 16 from cancer. "When you see how fragile life is, you really want to run around and see and do everything," he said. Living life to its fullest is seemingly a hobby for Thrower, who ran in last year's San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. But, this year he'll be resting. He completed the Ironman California over the May 20-21 weekend and finished 201st out of 1,496 starters. He's recharging his proverbial batteries.

All a part of Thrower's world--he was the founder of the participatory sports community called Racegate.com that launched in the August of 1999. He is the strategist and the visionary. Active. com is a Web site for sports enthusiasts and sporting event directors (Racegate.com was the original name, changed to Active, post-merger with Active USA). It provides on-line registration capabilities and information on thousands of participatory events worldwide. Active.com is similar to Ticketmaster-CitySearchOnline that plays to a $2.5 billion market capitalization. Ticketmaster-CitySearchOnline represents more than 150,000 events annually and sells more than 75 million tickets per year. There are about 310,000 participatory events that people register for, according to Thrower.

"It used to take longer to register for the Ironman that it did to complete it," Thrower stated. "I found myself buying books, running shoes and Broadway show tickets online, yet I was filling out the Ironman registrations by hand. It stood out as a real waste of time." Enter his motivation and opportunity and why he created Racegate.

"The Internet is not all about content--it is about wisdom and sense and making life easier for people," Thrower said. Thrower took his real-world disciplines to heart and put them to work on the World Wide Web. Despite the old Field of Dreams adage, "If you build it, they will come," Thrower knows that philosophy is not necessarily true.

Racegate.com provides timesaving services to sports enthusiasts, and adds value and unique editorial content on top of it. With this in mind, Thrower is in it for the long run and he's in it to win.

It all started at the age of 14. It was then that Thrower got his first computer, a Commodore 64. At age 15, he was motivated by the movie "War Games" and became fascinated even more with computers and their abilities to change the future. At age 18, Thrower completed his first triathlon. At age 22 and with the help of credit from 16 credit cards, he launched his first entrepreneurial venture from a small dormitory room at Saint Lawrence University. He went on to study Strategic Thought at Yale University. In 1989 authored his first book, "The Small Business Guide". In 1991, he committed to the sport of triathlon.

His success trail has continued uninterrupted--he went on to revamp and breathe new life into the then-flailing Triathlete Magazine in 1998. He and parter Scott Kyle increased the publication's subscription base by 60 percent and advertising sales by 70 percent. Now, at age 32, Thrower's success requires him to address an aggressive takeover/partnership policy that is common among Internet business competition.

Thrower says the on-line business would has created a whole new set of rules and functions. His point is that Web deals occur often, move fast and often look very solid to the analyst. He is quick to move, taking advantage of merging and acquiring formidable competitors into Racegate's community. He recently finalized the acquisition and integration of Racegate's two largest rivals, GoSetGo and EnterOnline, and is working on a merger with another competitor.

"I was not the first to think of on-line registration for athletic events, "Thrower said. "In fact, I came up with the idea three years after the first on-line registration. What I did do was provide the relationship architecture and the initiative to contact and bring several companies together, because on the Web, the only way to win the race is to get big fast, and with the right people." Thrower Said that Active.com is a company filled with founders and passionate people.

"We have almost no turnover--who would want to leave La Jolla? Thrower said. "The way to achieve success on the Web is to merge and partner with your competition, and put your headquarters in paradise, on Prospect."

At press time, Active.com was preparing for formal announcements of a strategic partnership with a major internet portal. "Traditional business plans focus on transactions and revenues, derived from added value," Thrower says. "The online business world demands you focus on providing a time-saving service or access to a resource--something that will make consumers' lives easier. Active.com merges the two."

What is his advice to young competitors who might be considering triathlon endeavors (or entrepreneurial for that matter)? In his lectures at kids' triathlon camps, his advice to kids is that "Motivation is the foundation of youth. Doing anything active keeps you young and playful. Whatever you do--as you are growing up--always remember to just move."

Thrower's most recent accomplishment is yet another writing compilation, called "Forward Culture: Internet Impact." Thrower's father, Frederick Thrower, was a television pioneer in New York City in the 1940s and '50s, working as vice president of WPIX for 23 years. His mother was an executive assistant to Jackie Kennedy Onassis.

Thrower extended an ongoing welcome to the La Jolla Community. "Feel free to stop by and say hello, our offices are at 1020 Prospect, and Active folks can even check their email from our lobby, or register for races and events around the world from our Web site," Thrower said. "We are one of the largest employers in the Village and we are pumping a significant amount of money into the local economy. Our staff bikes, runs, and even swims to work."

Racegate changed its name to Active.com following a merger with ActiveUSA in March of 2000. Thrower can be reached at mitch@active.com.