A Cattle App And Getting Fed To The Dogs By Donald Trump: An Interview With Herdwatch Co-Founder, Fabien Peyaud
Over the coming weeks we'll be interviewing each of the eleven finalists taking part in The AIB Start-Up Academy. This week we caught up with Fabien Peyaud, co-founder of Herdwatch, to find out what it's like to be part of an Irish start-up and the key pieces of advice he has been given so far in his career.
Herdwatch is “CRM for cows.” It's an innovative mobile app which helps cattle farmers stay compliant with the complex regulations regarding animal welfare and traceability.
It also gives them access to valuable farm records and animal history. Herdwatch was launched in Ireland in February 2014 and has already attracted over 700 farmers on an annual subscription of €99.
It is fully approved by the Irish Department of Agriculture and a UK version is currently being developed.
You can check out our interview with Fabien below.
What prompted you to start your business?
I worked as an IT Manager for FRS (Farm Relief Services), a farming sector organisation, for 4 years. While doing this job, I became aware that farmers, just like most other business people, could benefit from the clever use of mobile technology. So with the support of FRS, I started looking for ways to help cattle farmers become more efficient and that is how Herdwatch was born.
Why did you choose to go into the agri-technology industry?
While I didn’t grow up on a farm, I do come from a rural background in France. Also, my employer FRS has been providing services to farmers for 35 years. So there has been a wealth of farming knowledge available to me.
What research did you undertake before starting out?
We looked at the use of technology on farms and were shocked to discover that 9 out of 10 cattle farmers didn't use any form of digital herd management system.
We ran focus groups to find out the reasons behind this. This process identified a gap in the market, which Herdwatch was created to fill. Farmers needed a truly mobile herd management solution, which is both easy to use and value for money.
We spent the next 12 months researching and developing Herdwatch.
What did you do to make you stand out from the competition?
We took a mobile first approach and made sure we delivered on this promise. We ensured most features in Herdwatch would work offline.
This is a unique feature in our market, which farmers have responded to very positively. We also put a lot of emphasis on ease of use, as our goal was to build something that anybody who can send a text can use.
Finally, we wanted Herdwatch to be for the masses, so we priced it at a level that made it a “no-brainer” for cattle farmers of all sizes.
What is your USP? How did you decide to market your USP?
Herdwatch is the only mobile herd management app & software package fully approved by the Department of Agriculture.
It works on smartphones and tablets, as well as laptops and computers. It even works offline.
With a limited marketing budget (to put it mildly) we opted to be as active as possible online.
We put a lot of effort into our website, our Twitter and Facebook pages.
What has been your biggest barrier since starting up Herdwatch?
There have been a few barriers and challenges along the way, but by far the biggest one was to achieve the technological standard expected by farmers for our app.
For example, we had to build a cloud infrastructure capable of handling high volumes of data and of interfacing with the Department of Agriculture’s systems. This also required us to go through a tough approval process.
And we wanted to offer Herdwatch on as many platforms as possible.
Have you had many mentors? What has been the best advice they have given you?
I have been lucky to have the full support of FRS and in particular their CEO Peter Byrne. He is a co-founder of FRS so has a wealth of experience in business and farming.
Peter’s advice has been invaluable, and the best advice he has given me is to keep talking to farmers.
Recently, through The AIB Start-Up Academy I got the chance to meet some fantastic mentors, including Johnny Ryan from the UCD Innovation Academy. His contribution has been essential to the success of Herdwatch.
What has been your greatest moment since starting up?
Without a doubt, the most rewarding moments are when farmers contact us to let us know Herdwatch has changed their lives for the better.
Of course, it was also fantastic to win some awards.
The Innovation Award at the Ploughing Championships; the Emerging New Business Award from the Small Firms Association and to top it all off, being selected for The AIB Start-Up Academy final 11 out of 300. Bring on 2015!
And your worst?
The 18-hour days trying to get it all done.
What’s the bravest decision you have had to make in business so far?
I think the bravest decision was to commit to going the whole way with Herdwatch very early on.
I was determined not to give up, but sometimes I did wonder if I was a bit mad…which I probably was.
But it all worked out in the end.
Name three things you have learnt from The AIB Start-Up Academy so far…
- The true power of networking (if done well).
- The potential impact that a few well-chosen words can have on a pitch (“CRM for Cows”).
- The benefit of a systematic approach to business planning by using the lean business canvas.
What three pieces of advice would you give to somebody starting off?
If I was to give advice to anyone starting off, it would be to be prepared for a bumpy ride and to do a lot of research before you spend too much time and money.
Make sure you have a unique, attractive and valuable proposition and after that, stick with it all the way.
What Fortune 500 company would you MOST like to be in charge of?
To be honest, I love the small and medium business world, so I have never really lusted for the world of a Fortune 500 company.
That being said, if I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse, it would probably come from one of the top tech software companies, like Microsoft or Google.
Those two companies have the power to influence and improve the lives of literally billions of people through the power of technology.
What Fortune 500 company would you least like to be in charge of and why?
I would hate to be in charge of a company that tries to squeeze every supplier to their limits. So Walmart would not be at the top of my list of prospective employers.
What are your “cheats” or “hacks” for making life easier in the business world?
Google. It has been my most important research tool, and I have rarely, if ever, not found what I was looking for.
If it’s out there, Google will find it. Whether it's technology or business related.
PS: I do have and enjoy human contact too.
Who would you prefer to face off with in a fight to the death: Bill Gates or Donald Trump? Keep in mind that the winner keeps the loser’s business…
That’s definitely the most interesting question I have ever been asked.
Today’s technology owes so much to Bill Gates and Microsoft. I know they're not perfect, and they have been under pressure recently, but the fact is that 90 per cent of computers in the world still run on Windows, and that all goes back to Bill and a few of his associates 35 years ago.
I also like the fact that Bill and his wife Melinda do so much good with their fortune.
Donald Trump, on the other hand doesn't do technology, aside from the “hair-raising” kind. But he is a fearsome business mogul with global interests worth a fortune, including a certain golf club in Ireland.
I think I would take on Bill Gates, in the hope that he would let me live even if I lost, whereas Donald Trump would probably have me fed to the dogs.