The Innovators: Breedr

TTR Aus NZ’s The Innovators series casts a light on the industry’s innovators. They investigate how those pushing for change are shaping the thoroughbred world. Last week, Oz Wedmore of TTR Aus NZ caught up with Tom Seymour to discuss Breedr which promises to change the lives of all those involved in the breeding process.

Eight years in marketing at Darley Australia was more than ample time for Tom Seymour to analyse every touch point of the stallion booking process. Still today, the vast majority of studs and their clients handle nominations, booking and contracts manually.

Seymour is hoping to change that, however, and he’s made a very promising start. Leaving the security of a salary behind three years ago, he established Breedr, essentially a tech start-up which offers a broad spectrum solution promising to make life easier for those involved, from the farm manager to the mare owner and everyone in between.

“There was plenty of room for change,” Seymour told TTR AusNZ. “The amount of double handling, inefficient practices… That was the driver for me to step back and look at the whole ecosystem through a different lens, identify all those pain points and try to apply digital solutions.

“Once I actually realised that could happen, I had to make the decision to do something about it.”

The result is Breedr, a free-to-use booking platform which offers a paperless and streamlined platform for everyone involved in the mating process. The arguments are compelling. Aside from the digital revolution reaching as far as it has into our lives – from ordering a takeaway to online banking – there’s the changing nature of breeding to consider.

“I’m confident that we’re providing a platform that is improving the systems for breeders as an alternative means. Take, for instance, that 62 per cent of our nomination applications happen after 6pm.

“It’s proving to me that there is a new-age breeder that doesn’t have the time to be making three or four phone calls during the traditional sales person’s working week.

“We’ll never be able to replace the skill of a good salesman, and that’s never been the objective of Breedr. Rather, it’s a tool to try and streamline those laborous administrative practices to allow them the time to concentrate on the important things.”

With Breedr’s platform, amongst a range of features, nominations managers can access mare profiles in one place, stud managers can share stallion booking sheets with their staff and stud secretaries benefit from eSignature contracting, and everyone can access all the information whilst on the move.

The claimed time savings for each type of user equates to hundreds of hours over a breeding season for a busy stud, and makes it sound like Breedr has an answer for everything – which was initially a problem for Seymour.

“I’m continually investing in and improving the systems as we learn and take feedback from existing users,” he said.

“At first, it was a one-stop-shop for all, but we realised we needed to break that down and speak to those individual personas involved.”

Undoubtedly an observation informed by his time in marketing, Seymour realised that offering such a wide-ranging tech solution was almost overwhelming potential customers, and hindering uptake.

So, he broke down the product and targeted five theoretical (but all too real) people: The nominations manager, stud manager, farm manager, stud secretary and mare owner. Seymour reports that, “The feedback has been fantastic.”

The early success

After a year of beta testing, Breedr has now been operational for two full breeding seasons, and Seymour is looking forward to the third.

Catering to the modern breeder and saving time for those on the sales side, Seymour cites further benefits streamlining brings to broodmare farms and agents, and argues that the system is equitable, offering smaller studs a great way to expose their stallions to a broader network of breeders.

The revenue model is a simple 2.5 per cent commission on the negotiated fee (paid by the stud but waived for FBAA agents, homebred mares, stallion shareholders and breeding right holders), and uptake has been rewarding.

“I think what I’m probably proudest of at the moment is the efficiencies created on the stud side,” Seymour said. “Providing their sales teams with instant access to a greater amount of mare data that enables the stallion teams to make a more methodical mating decision. Then, being able to manage that mating decision once an application has been made.

“Last week, we had Swettenham Stud wanting to do an exclusive stallion promotion. Within that, we were able to generate a 20 per cent uptake of the offer utilising Breedr’s resources. It just spoke volumes to those innovative studs that don’t see Breedr as a threat, they see it as a great additional tool to broaden the appeal of their stallions.

“They’re going to their client base, saying, ‘We encourage you to use Breedr as a great alternative, we see it as a great tool to us, but by all means please still contact our guys, the phone still rings…”

Challenges of a start-up

A hobby breeder himself, Seymour’s love for the industry is ultimately what’s brought him on this journey. In forming a tech start-up, he says he’s inadvertently plunged himself into a world of similarly minded entrepreneurs, a path that’s hardly been plain sailing.

“Like any start-up, it was the fear of taking that step and leaving your job, the financial security, to go out and try something completely new, that was rather daunting. A challenge, but I was really motivated at that point in time to try and make a difference.

“Most people in the start-up world, that’s the biggest driver for them, wanting to make a difference to something that they’re passionate about.

“That made it easy, but like any start-up, you’re always very nervous about where the next pay cheque’s going to come from.”

Enthused by the willingness of those in the start-up community to give guidance and help, Seymour has found his own vision has expanded over the last three years, and he has all sorts of designs and ideas on how Breedr can collaborate and pivot in the future.

“I’m now exposed to all the great work of these smart people and the periphery of the industry,” he said.

“Whether it be pedigree matching services or day-to-day stable management systems, we’re all operating independently, all fighting the same challenges. Whereas, what I’m trying to do now is help others navigate pathways into this field.”

A pragmatic approach

Despite the challenges he’s faced, Seymour displays an admirable mindset – perhaps the sign of a true innovator. The first two years of Breedr in operation has produced year-on-year growth, but he’s frank about where his expectations lay at the offset.

Admitting that, “There hasn’t been any organic shift towards digital technology that I was hoping for,” Seymour has responded by creating an events strategy with the aim of bringing peripheral technologies into focus.

The inaugural event will be early next month, in Scone. Teaming up with Thoroughbred Breeders NSW, Breedr is putting on ‘From here on’, a day of talks, workshops and discussions with experts in AI, data use, digital marketing, blockchain, and other innovations that look set to shape the future of breeding.

With guest speakers including Neal French, a director at Google, and John Sutherland, GM Digital at Golf Australia, Seymour clearly hasn’t planned a quiet taster day to test the waters.

“We need to break open that narrative, because otherwise it’s going to be a very, very long, tedious journey.

“It’s about bringing awareness to what’s out there in the marketplace, all the other great products and smart people working in this space.

“But, secondly, trying to make the governing bodies and those that control our existing data flow aware of the missed opportunities.”

On the latter point, Seymour is philosophical. He might have hoped for more organic growth by this stage with Breedr, but his proactive response doesn’t come from a blind determination that he’s found the solution. Instead, he argues that it’s no surprise that parts of the industry are reluctant to change, given the flops experienced in the past.

“Every national rollout of any digital program or innovation that has been produced by Racing Australia around welfare has been poorly executed.

“They’ve had clunky back-end systems, so the user experience has been really poor and the take up has reflected that. I’m empathetic to the breeding and racing community as in most instances, their first time using a digital resource hasn’t been a positive one or demonstrated tangible benefits to their working day. I feel this has stymied their appetite to engage in more technology.”

A vision for the industry

In line with the scope of speakers booked for next month’s ‘From here on’ day, Seymour isn’t just hoping to revolutionise the way the industry manages nominations and sales.

Whilst he would like to see Breedr used to smooth a first-time racehorse owner’s transition into the breeding industry, he also has endless ideas that rest on breaking free of ‘stagnant and antiquated data practice from the governing bodies.’

Ultimately, he argues that the sustainability of the industry rests on such innovation.

“The key for me here is data sharing and making it more accessible, not only for Breedr, but for every person trying to innovate and do positive things for the industry.

“All these fantastic bits of technology and innovation that others are working on, whether it be KYC onboarding technology, G1G pedigree analysis, whether it’s BTX and their blockchain – if only we were able to all plug into a freely accessible data bank, it might create confidence for further investment from new players and create employment opportunities to attract new skill sets into the industry.

“That is what I’d love to see and Breedr to be a part of.”

This article is courtesy of TTR Aus NZ, written by Oz Wedmore.

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