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Rivalry’s digital sports betting community is stepping out IRL

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The homegrown tech startup is making big moves on and offscreen

Rivalry’s digital sports betting community is stepping out IRL

On Sunday, Sept. 11, Toronto comedian and Rivalry ambassador Neema Naz is hosting Rivalry’s Tailgate Tour at Etobicoke’s Wingporium from noon to 4 p.m. The free football-inspired meet-and-greet event put on by the sport and esport betting platform promises an afternoon full of trivia, music, food and drink, swag— “and, of course, watching one of the many Sunday football games on TV,” says Steven Salz, CEO and co-founder of the company.

The event, alongside a series of others planned for later dates, coincides with the kickoff of the football season, which Rivalry will have live streaming access for all games in one place for the entirety of its run, including The Big Game, making it the destination watch and bet destination all season long. These celebrations are also a means of honouring the company’s distinct Torontonian roots and can be viewed as a homecoming since Ontario legalized online betting in April of this year, allowing the company to operate here as well. 

“We’re a local, homegrown Toronto sportsbook operator. It’s incredibly important for us to foster community within our backyard to be able to give back to Ontarians,” he adds.

Salz credits Rivalry’s willingness to try new things, like IRL events, to the entrepreneurial spirit it needed to thrive as an upstart in a multi-billion-dollar industry. “When you are still smaller and hungry, you need to be growing exponentially, and it’s only through taking more risks that you can find this,” he explains. 

We do things differently at Rivalry. We are aiming to be the sportsbook for the next generation through engaging content and innovative experiences that entertain and create loyal fans of Rivalry who come back for more.” This “next generation” refers to the growing demographic of Gen Z and Millennials in the online betting realm, who will surely get a kick out of these interactive opportunities. 

Humble beginnings

Rivalry started from the bottom—literally. The startup once operated out of co-founder Ryan White’s basement in Chinatown, that is until early success helped cover the rent on a proper office nearby, at Adelaide and Spadina. 

“​​As with most startups that get bigger, we certainly look back at that time fondly,” recalls Salz, who co-founded the company with White, Kevin Wimer and Steve Isenberg in 2016. “The basement was a great setup for our first year or so. We tore down a wall to open the space. But eventually, things like lack of sunlight got to us,” he adds. 

Since its early days, with just a handful of engineers and a UX designer huddled in a basement, Rivalry’s popularity has exploded. It boasts upward of 845,000 users across about 20 countries, while monthly wagers placed through the site have risen month over month since January 2020. The company’s bet on younger demographics, which are driving an esports boom, is clearly paying off.

Today, Rivalry stands out as a trusted end-to-end platform, developing its own regulated casino games in-house to complement the bets it facilitates, which include wagers on the world’s most popular first-person shooter and multiplayer online battle arenas. It’s also expanded into traditional online sports betting and includes props, parlays, and spreads.

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Having become a publicly traded company since last October, Rivalry takes a more strategic approach these days, but Salz hasn’t lost sight of the scrappiness that got the platform where it is: “When you are still smaller and hungry, you need to be growing exponentially, and it’s only through taking more risk can you find it. Our brand reflects that.”

Don’t miss your chance to take part in Rivalry’s Tailgate Tour on September 11. Click here to reserve your spot. 

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