Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
After finishing her engineering studies in France and working in product development at Adidas, Pauline completed the Msc Technology Entrepreneurship at University College London. The idea of Trackener came from all the anxiety and frustration Pauline saw in horse owners always doing their best to take care of their horses but still experiencing health problems. Since then she became obsessed about using the latest technologies available and data analysis platforms to answer the needs of the horse owners and carers and revolutionise the horse health and welfare sector. Trackener is based in London, where Pauline met her co-founder Jeremie.
What is your idea / project and how did you come up with it?
Trackener is a connected device for horses. Thanks to some sensors worn by a horse 24/7 (on a horse vest or on a girth sleeve), we can give alerts in real time should there be any critical health issue and help the owner/carer understand their horse better to avoid health problems.
At the moment, the daily horse care relies exclusively on visual assessment and gut feeling, which are both very limited. Horse owners are doing their best to take care of their horses but still experience health problems. This lead me to creating Trackener, an intelligent horse care technology, improving the lives of horses and of their owners and carers. I’ve been riding and taking care of horses all of my life, so the need to improve the horse healthcare by using the existing technologies. This seemed obvious to me.
When did it all start and do you have other members in your team?
The idea of a wearable for horses came up around April 2015 as I was doing the Msc Technology Entrepreneurship at University College London. More and more customer development has then be done over the summer to validate the idea and the company was officially created in Sept 2015. I met Jeremie, my co-founder, in June after working in symbiosis with him during a hackathon. It was simply a perfect match! We now also have in our team a hardware engineer, a UI designer and a fashion designer.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It’s been almost a year and a half since Trackener is born. After a couple of months refining the idea by discussing with potential customers and making them test some mock-ups, we've spent one year developing and testing our prototype. We are now very happy to launch the second version of our prototype (device and app), which will be worn by 100 horses and used by their owners in the coming months.
Do you have any other women in your team? If so, how many women are in your team and what are their roles?
We don’t have any other women in our team at the moment. We used to have a really good intern who’s a women. She is a very talented developer and I wish we had the money to hire her. We are very much looking forward to get some other women onboard!
What was the biggest obstacle?
The hardware development without any hesitation! We keep hearing hearing that hardware is hard but I can’t agree more with this sentence. Especially as finding sensors that work on horses and make it resistant enough to not be destroyed by the horse is a challenge! But we are very lucky to be well surrounded with mentors which we can reach out to.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder in the country you live in?
More than being an entrepreneur in the horsey world, it’s developing a innovative technology for this niche market that is a bit of a challenge. There is very little technology developed for the equestrian market so the people are not used to it. It is a very conservative world, so it’s a love or hate for our product.
As a female founder, I navigate between women dominated (and non techy at all) environments when I go to horse related events and hardware/IoT events where there are very few women! This is sometimes a challenge because the way I introduce Trackener changes radically from one environment to the other. But being a female founder in London is really easy. There is a great community of women in tech and women entrepreneurs and I never felt disadvantaged so far in comparison to men founders.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Getting our prototype v2 ready was our latest big achievement. Before that I was finalist for the Royal Academy of Engineering Launchpad grant and we got into Startupbootcamp IoT Connected devices accelerator programme!
I’ve also managed in 2 years to build a strong network around me of advisors and supporters, both in the horse world and in the tech world.
What are your projects you are currently working on within your company?
We’re currently intensively working on the finalisation of our v2 prototype so that we can launch our pilot testing in March and open the sales in May.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and IoT industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I think the miniaturisation and design improvement will be a key trend in the next 5 years in the connected devices. Now the technologies are becoming more and more advanced that we should be able to have the benefit of the product without having to wear something bulky and not really nice.
In my opinion there will be more and more health tech in the wearable and IoT industry as there is a huge potential for using data for health problems (like cancer) risks factors analysis and predictions.
Why is #WomenInTech movement important to you?
Being an engineer myself, I’ve always seen the lack of women in tech and this needs to change. We need to fight against the false ideas that boys are more interested by engineering related subjects and make the young girls discover the engineering professions as early as possible. I am convinced that the movements like #WomenInTech play a big role in that.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Never stop reaching out for feedback and advice from more experienced people (other entrepreneurs or corporate), and always try to contact anyone you want to talk to even if the person seems unreachable!
Who are your inspirational women in wearable tech?
Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino as woman in IoT, who’s one of our early supporters. Limor Fried is a big inspiration as well as she’s created the amazing company Adafruit, which is making the prototyping in IoT and wearables so much easier.