4 Pet Startups Share Industry Insights Into Pet Care Market

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Pet adoptions and fostering are soaring to record levels with owners changing to new ways of buying things for their pets. That’s led to several hundred Pet Tech startups, all taking advantage of an increase in opportunities across the pet care ecosystem.

Pets Can Be a Startup’s Best Friend

For STL StartUp week, EQ brought together a panel of pet experts and entrepreneurs to discuss the latest trends in the pet industry. How are they driving the success of the pet care market? What opportunities are there waiting to be filled? Read on to find out, or catch the entire discussion on YouTube:

A Window Into the Homes of Pet Parents

Pet owners want insight into their pets and a better understanding of how to feed them, given that eating and drinking behaviors are good indicators of health and happiness. That’s according to Hilary Jensen, founder of the digital pet wellness company, Obe.

Her company has become a ‘health insights’ tool which facilitates individualized nutrition for dogs.. “We began by focusing on dogs because their owners typically spend more money on their pets but that’s changing,” says this former Arch Grants, Capital Innovators and Pet Care Innovation Prize (PCIP) winner.

She capitalized on the power of IoT which brought with it a real understanding of pet behavior in the home. This was something that’d been lacking in the world of pet care despite its global reach and colossal size.


“I see our company as offering a window into the homes of pet parents,” Hilary says.

An ‘Uber’ for Dog Walking?

Don’t be afraid if you set out with what you think is a great idea for a business, get proven wrong and then have to tweak your initial concept to fit the market.

That’s what happened to Dave Comiskey, a co-founder of Barkly Pets, a site that’s now a national community of local, independent dog-walkers.

His lightbulb moment came after he and his co-founder asked themselves, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just tap on an app to find a dog-walker?’ They set out to create a kind of ‘Uber for pets.’

What they soon realised was that dog-walkers were an extension of the home and that there was a need for pet walker consistency. This was in contrast to the initial scattergun approach which meant animals constantly paired with different walkers.

Dave is also current Entrepreneur in Residence at Pet Care Innovation Prize and Pet Care Innovation Network (PCIP/PCIN) for whom the Startup Opportunity Map in Pet Care was produced this summer.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience,” he says. Instead of concentrating on one single business, he’s now connected with hundreds of pet companies across the industry.

Sharing Information About Pet Services

Connecting dog owners who use the same parks where their pets play together can lead to all sorts of opportunities, social and business-related. Kwinton Scarbrough is a Kansas City based founder of PawConX, a social networking app for pet friendly communities. His business is among those featured on Dave’s startup company map.

The app allows people to gather and share all the pet information they need through the exchange of user recommendations for everything from grooming to pet foods. The idea is to draw in pet services who’ll wish to raise their profiles by being endorsed.

There’s More to Love Than Boy Meets Girl

Cat lovers looking for a partner might do well to turn to an app called Tabby. That’s according to Tabby’s Sterling Davis whose main focus is on the cat rescue element of the app.

He was inspired when he read that ‘women are more likely to swipe left on a dating app if they see a profile picture of a guy holding a cat.’ He wanted to fight the gender stereotype when it comes to cats as pets and get more men involved with rescues too.

The app provides a platform for cat lovers to share their pictures and cat stories without necessarily having to date. And, it can be used for issues related to adoption, cat rescue and fostering.

Diversity in Pet Tech

The Pet Tech discussion was moderated by Dan Reus, an STL based pet tech ecosystem developer and Managing Editor @ Large with EQ. Dan is also a Founder and Chief Instigator of Openly Disruptive, as well as Founding Director of the Pet Care Innovation Prize.

It’s worth noting that well over half the companies in the PCIN have at least one woman founder. There’s also been a rise in the number of pet owners from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Sterling noted that the pandemic has meant that people are looking to pets for company during periods of isolation. He thinks that this has simultaneously led to a broader diversity of pet owners.

There is one area where diversity is still lacking and that’s within the investment community, according to members of the panel. Investors who may be highly educated and predominantly white need to understand that what might strike a chord with them may leave those from diverse cultures cold.

A final thought from Dave Comiskey, ‘The background of those working in the industry is diverse which speaks to the size of the industry and the scope of it.’

Top Tips For New Founders From the Experts

We asked the panel for their recommendations to give those hoping to start up a new pet services business. Here’s what they said:

  • Forget the ‘cutesy’ elements of pets and concentrate on what’s important to pet-owners, namely trust and safety.
  • Decide how and why trust and safety are important to your product and run with it.
  • Fully understand what you are trying to communicate to your audience.
  • Have a clear message and make sure users believe that you are delivering on it.
  • Understand what your customers value.
  • Use the love you have for your own pets to learn what’s important to pet owners.

Mentioned in this Article

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Peter Markham is an award-winning journalist and writer. He began his career working for ABC News in London and Paris before moving to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where he spent many years covering big foreign stories like the revolution in Romania, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the first Gulf War. After a stint with the international news agency AP, he then joined the BBC in London where he had a long and successful career as an Executive Producer on some of the station's flagship news shows. He now works as a freelance writer for an eclectic mix of websites, online magazines and journals.

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