VirtualVet

This week we caught up with Sinead Quealy.

Sinead is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of VirtualVet and has over eight years of experience in managing software development projects, often with partners across the EU. From a farming background, she lives on a busy beef and dairy farm in Waterford.

Both of these roles have given her valuable insights into how technology can be best deployed to meet the needs of all stakeholders in the agricultural industry, from farmers, through to vets, consumers, government agencies and industry suppliers. Sinead has a keen interest in strategy development, a PG-dip in Adult Education from University of Limerick and MBA from Waterford Institute of Technology. Since she has established VirtualVet and the business has gone from strength to strength since.

Virtual Vet Team

So, what does VirtualVet do?

VirtualVet is an online drug book allowing farmers and vets to build a synchronised medicines compliance report in near real-time and therefore cutting out duplication. VirtualVet's platform includes an Android app for farmers, synchronised to a dynamic web portal which builds a complete drug-book for farmers, supported by a phone service ensuring animal treatments on-farm are recorded as required by food quality compliance regulations in the EU. VirtualVet also works with partners to implement a data aggregation and mapping service, which delivers value to all stakeholders in the value chain.

Sinead first had the idea for the business while at home on the farm preparing for a quality assurance audit for the farm. She says, "While at home on the farm we always had the records and information on file, it was not laid out as required and really from this direct experience of pulling all of this information together in advance of an audit, I realised that there was a need for a service like VirtualVet and that's really how the business idea came about."

Sinead contacted the Waterford LEO office quite early in the business development, she says, "Initially the business that is now VirtualVet started off as an EU funded project through WIT and following the competition of the project, I quickly realised after all of the research and analysis that there was an opportunity to develop a business from this project."

"I was referred to the Local Enterprise Office in Waterford by SEBIC (South East Business Innovation Centre). I met Jacqui Gaule and learned that there were stages of development and stages of funding all available to me through the LEO. These funding stages and development stages all very much suited our business plan and suited what we were capable of doing and also it very much suited the pace that we knew we needed to work at in order to develop the business correctly.

Sinead Queally

Sinead says that it took three years of, research, more research, analysis, and planning in order to take VirtualVet from a business concept to an actual business. Upon commencing the business a feasibility fund from the Waterford LEO helped her to carry out the software development required in order to launch the service to the market and test it as a potential business.

She then advanced onto the second stage of support and funding from Waterford LEO with a grant towards salaries. This has enabled Sinead to hire two members of staff who are now onboard with Sinead working to grow and develop the business. "I have also now just received approval for a Technical support fund which enables me and my team members to work towards building the business in export markets and at present we are focused on Brussels and the UK."

Sinead and her team also featured at the Local Enterprise Village at the National Ploughing Championships through Waterford LEO. She says that this platform has been invaluable to her, "We get to reach our target audience directly but also a huge advantage of this platform is that we get to meet policy-makers, the Minister and members of the Agricultural Committee, the CEO of Bord Bia and the team from the Department of Agriculture. It really enables us to communicate what we can do to key decision makers."

Finishing off our chat, Sinead offered some advice to budding entrepreneurs, she says, "There is a huge amount of research required in developing a new business and business plan and I would recommend that any potential entrepreneur takes the time to do this thoroughly. I highly recommend a visit to Waterford LEO for many reasons, one of these being; ‘the speed of their decision making’ and this is something that can often be a barrier elsewhere. Waterford LEO often has a 24 turnaround on decisions for support and funding, this is invaluable to a business, to have this feedback so quickly. Even if the answer is a ‘no' it arms you with the knowledge that there may be something wrong with your proposal and you can then rectify that."

The Local Enterprise Office offers support services for a range of start-up and existing SMEs in Waterford. For further details visit the team at 35 The Mall or at the Civic Offices in Dungarvan; call 0761 10 2905 or email info@leo.waterfordcouncil.ie

For further details on VirtualVet see http://www.virtualvet.eu/

 

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