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Summer Startup where are they now series #08: Tayla Johns

24 July 2019

Tayla Johns, founder of Equilibrium Equine, has had a very busy and successful year. Tayla came second in entre’s $85k Startup Challenge, then took part in the UCE EY Summer Startup Programme.

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Equilibrium Equine helps horse owners to remotely monitor the wellbeing and comfort of their horses, ensuring peace of mind. Their first product, the Pocketgroom, is a clip-on sensor which reports a horse’s real-time temperature, humidity and location directly to an app. 

We talked to Equilibrium Equine founder, Tayla Johns, about her progress, changes, and challenges since taking part in the 2018/19 UCE EY Summer Startup Programme.

Tayla being awarded 'Best Commercial Opportunity' and 'People’s Choice' at the UCE EY Summer Startup Programme Final Showcase. Tayla being awarded 'Best Commercial Opportunity' and 'People’s Choice' at the UCE EY Summer Startup Programme Final Showcase.

When you started the Programme, how developed was your idea? 

I had been involved in entre’s 85k Startup Challenge a few months before the programme started, so I had done some market research, had my idea pretty well developed, and got my pitch sorted. Beyond that, I didn’t have anything tangible - none of the technology had been worked out.

What are you doing now? Are you still pursuing your Summer Startup venture?

At the moment, I am testing a prototype sensor and checking the quality of the data coming through. So far, the feedback has been pretty good, but this sensor is only being used under supervision, and connects to an IoT network, so next, we want to move on to developing a slimmer, wifi-enabled prototype. In the 85k Startup Challenge, I won some app development with Smudge Apps, so they are going to start developing the app that horse owners will use with our sensors. Ideally, I will have a product ready to launch early next year!

Is it hard to balance working on your startup with other commitments?

At the moment, my main focus is on graduating at the end of the year. Between university and working on a farm, I have been pretty busy, which hasn’t left a lot of time to develop my business. I am hoping to really focus on Equilibirum Equine over the summer. If I got some investment, it would be great to go full time, otherwise I’m looking for a grad role and hoping to continue working on the business in my spare time!

What is it like to have so many students with their own startup in the same place?

I learnt so much over the summer from the other students in the Summer Startup Programme. It’s really cool to be in the same room with a group of people involved in really different niches. I worked in a room with Luke and Lucy from Vxt, who taught me lots about the more techy stuff, and Jack from Lotus Mat Eco was really helpful with Search Engine Optimisation. Generally at uni, there aren’t many other people around you who have their own business, so it’s nice to be in an environment that solidifies that you’re on the right track, and surrounds you with motivation. 

What was the most important thing you learned from the programme?

The programme taught me so much about the value of networking. Being in your own bubble makes starting up a business nearly impossible, but there are so many people who are willing to help you out and don’t want anything in return! Christchurch has such a great entrepreneurship scene and I have developed relationships with lots of local business people. I have noticed that people are particularly keen to help students - I think they are impressed that we have taken the initiative to start up a business, especially without lots of money or experience behind us.  

Do you have any advice on how to come up with ideas for a startup?

I think being in a market you know well is a big help. If you understand some of the industry’s pain points, you can find a solution to them. I have been riding horses since I was really young, and before I started at UC, I had worked as a stable manager and studied Equitation Science in Australia. Through these experiences, I came up with the idea for Equine Equilibrium. Also, remember that your idea doesn’t need to be super refined - you can do that once you’re in the Summer Startup Programme!

What would you say to people who are interested in getting involved in the Summer Startup Programme but might be doubting themselves?

I have always doubted myself and wondered whether my idea was actually good enough! I’d say they should just put themselves out there and apply - don’t overthink it! It’s a really amazing opportunity to have the time to focus on just one thing, which you don’t often get as a student. 

I also think people should get involved in the Summer Programme earlier rather than later, before they have too many other commitments! I took part at the end of my second year, but I would really recommend getting involved in your first year of university so you have plenty of time to keep working on your business before you graduate. 

 

To read more about Equilibrium Equine, check out their website here.

For more information on the UCE Summer Startup Programme click here

To register your interest in this years UCE Summer Startup Programme email uce@canterbury.ac.nz


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