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The rise of smart devices and other internet-connected technologies has changed the way we live our daily lives. Today, smartphones, fitness trackers, and a whole ecosystem of lifestyle apps assist us with everything from our healthcare needs to our general wellbeing. As developments in the IoT space continue apace, it's easy to foresee these trends continuing to increase in importance.
We humans, though, aren't the only ones starting to feel the effects of the technology revolution. It's also making a big difference in the lives of our pets. One of the earliest signs of this is the prevalence and effectiveness of implantable pet identification microchips, which have increased the odds that an owner will be reunited with their lost beloved pet. As it turns out, that was just the beginning of the myriad ways that new technology is transforming the lives of pets.
For owners, it means providing a safer and happier life for their animals, and for entrepreneurs, it's a lucrative industry with no shortage of growth prospects. In particular, there's been a surge in activity in the development of pet-centric big data solutions, which aim to create a centralized pet care platform that can handle everything from healthcare records to owner product purchase histories. Here's a deeper look at the booming pet technology industry, and an inside peek at one startup that's already putting all of the pieces of the pet tech data boom together in one place, with the help of some notable tech industry heavyweights.
Photo: Monkey Business / Adobe Stock
At first glance, it's easy to dismiss the pet technology sector as a niche industry with a low growth ceiling. In reality, though, nothing could be further from the truth. In the US alone, more than 85 million families own at least one pet, and that represents a growth of about 12% over the past thirty years. In addition, pet ownership among millennials is on the rise, and they're a demographic that's particularly attached to their pets.
One recent survey found that 84% of them suffer from separation anxiety when away from their pets for short periods of time and that 92% regularly purchase gifts for their pets. That goes a long way toward explaining why industry analysts expect that the smart pet products market should be worth a billion dollars per year by 2023 – and why a number of pet technology startups are beginning to ramp up operations, and are attracting the attention of venture capitalists the world over.
The scale of investment in the pet tech industry has been massive. In 2018, investors poured almost $520 million in startup capital into the space, funding everything from dog-walking app Wag! to fintech pet care lender Scratchpay. This year, the pet tech sector should be on track to surpass that total quite handily, making it one of the hottest portions of the red-hot global technology industry.
It's also worth noting that there have been big jumps in pet tech spending in the European and Asian markets, which may soon surpass the domestic market here in short order. That means it is very likely that all of the investment and startup activity that's powered the sector so far is just the tip of the iceberg. In the next few years, that means it's possible that the global market for pet-related technology could double or triple in size. Right now, though, there's one startup that's trying to position itself at the center of the pet tech boom, by providing an all-in-one solution to connect all of the new pet tech innovators to owners and leverage the massive amount of data the effort creates.
Photo: Violetta / Adobe Stock
The startup we've alluded to is BabelBark, which has developed a platform that links together pets, their owners, and the veterinarians that care for them. Launched in 2018, the company offers a free app that pet owners can use to handle all of their pet's needs, from tracking dietary history to their medical records and medication needs. They haven't stopped there, though.
To complement existing data sources, BabelBark has also developed an open API platform where any wearable pet health monitor that helps pet owners track their pet's daily activity can be added, as well as any service and offering – this really makes BabelBark the platform where anything regarding the pet is managed. The data can even be shared directly with the animal's veterinarian, thanks to the platform's BabelVet veterinarian focused portal, giving the veterinarian a level of data and capabilities not found before. Based on these unique capabilities BabelBark was chosen by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which has named it the exclusive system recommended to over 4400 clinics around the country. In addition, the data also feeds a predictive analytics backend that can make targeted, specific recommendations to owners about products and services that could be a good fit for their pets.
One of the most interesting parts of the BabelBark platform is who's behind it. The principal developers have a long history in the tech industry, working with and for some of the companies at the leading edge of the big data and IoT revolution. The management and technology team includes Bill Rebozo, who previously directed product development for smart building data analytics firm GridPoint, and was also a former Technical Evangelist at Microsoft.
The company is also led by Roy Stein, who previously served as GridPoint's Vice President of Operations, helping to manage the platform itself. He's been involved in the technology industry for over 20 years, helping to build and grow a laundry list of data-focused businesses. Together, they bring a wealth of experience that stretches back to the earliest days of the big data revolution – which bodes well for BabelBark's prospects as they seek to create a pet data powerhouse.
Photo: Kzenon / Adobe Stock
The bottom line is that the pet tech revolution appears to be well underway, but is by no means reaching its peak. That means we're likely to see a flurry of additional startup activity in the space shortly, and if BabelBark has its say, they'll be right in the middle of it. For tech entrepreneurs, it's a rare kind of ground-floor opportunity in a market that still has plenty of room for innovators, especially since there's a growing pet tech ecosystem that's ready and waiting for more entrants. For those that choose to pursue opportunities in the space, though, just remember to make your office or co-working space as pet-friendly as you make your next big idea if you want to hit the ground running on all four paws.