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Toronto’s Woodbine seeks young talent to disrupt horse racing

Woodbine Toronto’s Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG), in collaboration with iBoost and Ryerson University’s Office of the Vice President, Research and Innovation, is launching Horse Racing 3.0: Changing the Game, an innovation initiative aimed at encouraging start-ups, entrepreneurs, developers and students to to use technology to help bring the traditional sport of Horse Racing to “the next level”.

If you were to roll through your mental list of things in day-to-day life that need to be “disrupted”, perhaps horse racing wasn’t top of mind, but it has become a symptom of modern business to feel a pressure to modernize, usually accompanied by the need to draft young entrepreneurs and developers in to help radically transform the ancient practice of activities like playing the ponies.

“At Woodbine, we are continuously looking for ways to modernize our industry to ensure a sustainable future for Horse Racing in Ontario and gaming is a key piece of the equation,” said WEG CEO Jim Lawson. “Our plan in leading the industry is to develop ways to reach and engage a younger demographic. We are excited to partner with Ryerson and work with Canadians pushing the boundaries of technology in traditional industries that help transform our sport for generations to come.”

That objective to “engage a younger demographic” must be key to this initiative.

If you’ve been in or anywhere near a horse racing track in the past 25 years, you’ll notice that it’s mostly middle aged and older men watching and placing bets on horse races playing being shown on TV screens, broadcast live from other countries, with only a little action actually taking place on the actual physical track outside.

Participants in the initiative will engage in a 1.5 day long “Design Jam” where they will work with WEG staff to develop their ideas, after which they will have three months to refine their idea through bi-weekly workshops with WEG mentors, and then have a chance to win $21,000 in cash prizes (dived among the top three teams) along with an eight-month enrollment in Ryerson’s iBoost incubation zone.

“Our goal at iBoost is to connect the best talent with industry challenges,” said Dr. Rafik Loutfy, Director of the Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Ryerson. “This opportunity will help entrepreneurs develop creative solutions that would be relevant for the horse-racing industry and accelerate their time to market.”

Participants will receive dedicated workspace, as well as access to mentors and WEG’s innovation team to help drive product development.

Teams will have access to data from Woodbine, as well as industry briefings, to better tailor their product for the particular challenges and opportunities facing today’s horse racing.

At the end of the process, teams will be hooked up with prospective customers, partners, industry experts and investors to potentially agree to a pilot agreement with WEG.­­

“This is a unique opportunity for people to innovate the traditional sport of Horse Racing and work with mentors over an extended period of time to develop their ideas, as opposed to the typical 1-3 day hackathon,” said John MacRitchie, Senior Director, Business Development and Strategic Planning at Ryerson. “Horse Racing 3.0: Changing the Game is a program dedicated to providing the time and support required in the prototyping phase to set people up for optimal ­success. We are excited to be working with Woodbine to bring this program to life.”

Application deadline is September 24.

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