Tell us what your business does?
Equine MediRecord develops, sells and maintains a revolutionary software platform to allow for the proper recording of horse’s health and to help automate compliance to animal welfare and anti doping regulations throughout the global equine industry. This is the first application of its type globally to replace a paper-based system which has become unfit for purpose. We launched in Ireland in 2018 and quickly expanded into the UK, France and last year into the USA
Pierce Dargan, and Finlay Dargan
Number of Staff:
Where did the idea for your business come from?
It is really hard for those with horses to keep up with changing regulations. Even before Brexit, our family yard in Kildare had trouble keeping track of medications, vaccinations and a manner of regulatory paperwork. A huge part of the problem was everything was still done on paper. Pierce, realising that if a small yard was having trouble keeping up with everything the big yards must have a harder time, decided to go to the regulator and see if we could create a digital solution that would be approved officially as a regulatory document to solve this problem.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I have always wanted to start my own business as I relished the challenge and knew I would have a lot to learn. (Pierce)
What planning did you do before you started up?
We had a huge amount of work to do before we launched our first product. We had to go to the Irish regulator to change the rules, because at the time the law stated that all these documents had to be kept on paper. We then spent over a year going through more than 40 iterations of our software. We had to ensure the final product was easy to use and intuitive and we did this by creating a version and then watching our test users interact with it. Because our customers tended to have larger hands for example, the buttons on our mobile app are larger than the average app.
Which entrepreneurs do you admire?
Iseult Ward, co-founder of Food Cloud, sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane, founders of Izzy Wheels, Devan Huges, co-founder of Buymie, or Sharon Cunnigham, co-founder of Shorla Pharma
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The initial challenge was getting the Irish regulator to agree that if we provided a software solution that they would allow trainers to use it. At the time we were some young guys with an idea, we’re glad we’ve managed to validate their trust. Obviously the biggest challenge to the business has been Covid. It has been stressful for us as well as the industry as a whole. We had planned to launch across the US in 2020 and had to change our entire roll-out plan. Suddenly we were pitching our service online instead of in person. We’re happy with where we are and with what we have accomplished in 2020 considering the circumstances, but 2020 has proved to be more challenging than we had ever imagined.
How have you promoted your business?
We started with word of mouth, social media and hitting the pavement. We’ve visited hundreds of horse yards across multiple countries. Once we had the first few customers, we started doing videos presenting our customers and how they were finding the system. Our video with back-to-back Grand National winning trainer, Gordon Elliott, (https://twitter.com/EquineMediRec/status/1148592884779814915?s=20) was a strong moment for us. In 2020 we also decided to spend some funds sponsoring races in Ireland. Sponsors had been pulling back so it was great to be able to support the industry during this time (video here: https://twitter.com/EquineMediRec/status/1277190829879242755?s=20). We have found the racing industry is primarily focused on Twitter, so this is where we focus the core of our social media effort. (Our Gordon Elliot video has 6.9k views on Twitter vs 2.6k on youtube)
Where do you see the business in 3 years’ time?
We hope that in 3 years time we’ll be present around the world. Right now there are plenty of regulatory barriers to horses racing in their own country, and that only becomes more complex as horses move to race internationally. The rules in France differ to those in the UK and in the US it is state by state currently, so different from Kentucky to Florida, but this may soon change with the new bill passed in Congress. We hope our system will be able to help trainers ensure they follow their own regulations and also help those who wish to race across regulatory barriers. This is a service we already provide, but the more countries we operate in, the more helpful we can be.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Don’t be shy about asking for advice. We’ve consistently received support from multiple successful business people along the way. Also, if you are in university, look for what support they have for entrepreneurs. Trinity College was a huge part of our success, particularly the support of Tangent’s Trinity Launchbox. Also the Media Cube at IADT and TU with the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers development program was very important to helping us shape our business program. The first place I would go to if you are very early stage would be your Local Enterprise Office (LEO). We have had such great support from our LEO in Kildare from mentoring, grants or representing them at national competitions, such as at Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur where we were a national finalist in 2019. So there are so many great supports for entrepreneurs in Ireland so make sure you avail of that support as everyone who has started a business before knows the more help you are able to get the better as it is extremely hard to launch a business.