HorsePay is the world’s first, online, equine trading payment protection system. Mike O’Flynn based in Cork is CEO of HorsePay which provides an escrow service of up to 7 days, to ensure that all parties are satisfied and enables safe and secure equine trading between strangers who do not know each other. HorsePay is part of the Revenue EIIS scheme which allows investors get 40% of their investment back in the form of a tax rebate. For anyone interested in investing in HorsePay in return for an equity stake in the business they can do so here on the Spark Crowdfunding platform.
You can visit the HorsePay website here
How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
When I was 16 years old, I bought a horse with the plan to train him and sell him on for a bit of profit. However, when I had the horse home for a couple of days, I realised that he had a vice that wasn’t disclosed to me by the seller, he was a “box walker”. This is when a horse just walks round and round in the stable and drives himself and other animals a bit nuts. They can also train other horses to do the same, so you can see why I wasn’t exactly jumping with joy. I had spent every last cent of my savings on this horse and there was no chance that I was going to be able to make any decent profit off of him. As they say, a lesson bought is better than a lesson taught. Anyway, this was when it really hit home that there was a massive problem in the equine industry.
How big is this problem that you are trying to solve?
Every single person that we interviewed or surveyed said they had been misled while trading equines. The issues we are addressing are massive, not only because the value of the horse is drastically reduced, but because horse’s can also teach each other bad habits, so instead of one horse’s value halving, you could potentially half the value of all of your horses.
How secure is the payment processing platform that you have built?
This question has come up quite a bit, and understandably so. HorsePay payments are processed by Stripe, the world’s largest and most secure payment technology company, valued at $36 Billion this year. Stripe is regulated as a bank in the EU and HorsePay’s partnership with Stripe ensures it complies with all AML, KYC and GDPR regulation.
SPUKL (Stripe Payments U.K. Limited) is authorised as an electronic money institution by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority to issue electronic money, enable cash placement and cash withdrawal services on payment accounts, execute payment transactions, make money remittances, and acquire payment transactions (the “Authorised Payment Services”).
In addition to this, Stripe has been audited by a PCI-certified auditor and is certified to PCI Service Provider Level 1. This is the most stringent level of certification available in the payments industry. To accomplish this, Stripe & HorsePay both make use of best-in-class security tools and practices to maintain the highest level of security possible. PCI is the regulation on the subject of processing card payments and storing card details.
Give a brief account of your education background.
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Product Design and Technology, graduating from University of Limerick in 2019. The course is quite broad, which helped massively with HorsePay. The course gives tonnes experience in identifying problems, coming up with multiple solutions, narrowing down your best couple of ideas and then refining them until they are fit for purpose. That being said, my education from being fully immersed in equine culture my whole life is equally as important. There’s a lot to be learned outside of a classroom, which I think a lot of people forget nowadays.
Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
I always liked the sound of it, so as soon as I started to get a bit of money together, I said I’d give it a go. It was with my confirmation money that I bought my first shares in a pony, I bought 25%, my sister bought another 25% and my father bought the rest. Once he was sold on, and I saw what my investment had turned into, the seed was well and truly planted.
Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
Absolutely, my father is an entrepreneur. He set up his own car dealership, O’Flynn Motors near Mallow, north Cork. He has been guiding me down the route of entrepreneurship, through example for as long as I can remember.
How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
What really got the ball rolling for, was coming runner-up in the Irelands Best Young Entrepreneur competition in 2019. We received some prize money that gave us the kick start we needed. Since then it has been a mix of my own funds, private investors, and help from the Local Enterprise Office in Mallow, Cork.
Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?
I think I didn’t have much choice but to follow this route. Early stage investor capital, for developing ideas into solutions, isn’t strong enough, despite what the media would have us believe. Perhaps if I had gone to the USA, I could have raised substantially higher early stage capital, but my responsibilities were in Ireland and my choices limited.
What difficulties, if any, did you encounter when securing funding?
It is incredibly difficult and time consuming. The bureaucracy that’s heaped on the efforts of great staff, who are trying their best to support entrepreneurs, is unbelievable. And because of this, it takes months to get a grant over the line. I must tip my hat to the LEO in Mallow, they have been hugely supportive to myself and HorsePay, it would have been ten times harder to get to where we are now if it wasn’t for their support and guidance.
Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
A start up is always in financial difficulty. All you can do is keep hunting for more money to keep investing in improving and adapting your product until it gets enough traction to take off and be self-sustaining. In the fintech space, where HorsePay operates, developing and re-iterating new products is a cycle that is never ending and consumes cash without generating much return for many years. The best way to surpass these difficulties, is to have a team that truly believes in the idea and have financial supporters that believe in that team.
What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
Stubbornness. Determination. Adaptability.
To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
We identified an enormous problem in a vast traditional market and developed a simple solution to solve the issue. We built a great team of people with complementary skill sets, and we set out short, medium and long term plans of what HorsePAy should achieve. And we work hard. Very hard.
What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
I have my network of advisors and supporters, and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Too many people try to take on big projects on their own, and it’s often a recipe for disaster. I think you need to build your network and ask them for help whenever you need it. People think asking for help is a sign of weakness, when in fact, it’s a sign that you’re not willing to give up.
Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
I can’t say how it was in the old days, due to my youth. Regulation, bureaucracy, and a lack of necessary capital makes it hard to get a new business off the ground. If I was to compare nowadays to the time of the Celtic tiger, when there was an abundance of disposable income, I would have to say it is much more difficult to be in business now. Having said that, I guess maybe that makes me try harder, and it will definitely make the reward that bit sweeter.
Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
I like to fill my mind completely with something while I’m working on it, and it’s pretty full at the moment. So, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I have my hands full with HorsePay and how I’m going to build the business with my team.
If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.