Just a few decades ago, 20-something-year-olds were spending the best years of their lives obsessively seeking suitors. Today, millennials are putting marriage on the backburner and seeking solace in suitors of a friendlier, furrier nature. Pets.
That’s right, young Americans of today are half as likely to be married or living with a partner during their twenties as they were 50 years ago, and are progressively delaying parenthood, car and home ownership. Instead, they are prioritizing flexible working arrangements, career growth and, perhaps most interestingly, pet ownership in a trend that is seeing the pet care industry absolutely booming, with sales in North America alone set to reach $281 billion by 2023.
Not only are more Americans than ever opting to become pet owners, but they are spoiling their fur babies in ways only millennials know how. They are treating their pooches like the equivalent of a first-born child, supporting a lifestyle that can only be likened to the millennials own ‘avocado revolution’ – offering them premium organic diets and pampering them to the point of no return. The pet products and services market is as a result soaring, with spending on pets growing at a rate of mora than 10 per cent per year, creating a market worth US$77 billion in the United States alone. But it’s the simultaneous growth of the tech sector that is truly leading to industry-wide disruption of the pet care market.
Tech trends and pet trends are converging, a new survey commissioned by Michelson Found Animals Foundation has revealed. The survey of 1,000 dog and cat owners found that as humans become more tech-connected and embrace alternative health practices and diets themselves, these trends are extending to their pets as well.
But there was a blazingly evident gap in the digital market for pet owners, and this was what lead businessman and entrepreneur Roy Stein, together with former Microsoft ‘tech evangelist’ and software developer Bill Rebozo, to co-found the world’s first horizontal digital platform for the pet industry.
The pair realized there was untapped potential to develop a pet-focused, all-inclusive platform in early 2015 while planning an extended holiday. While figuring out how to keep tabs on their own dogs, Roy and Bill developed a user-friendly app which was such a success they decided to make it available for the rest of the pet-loving world. What eventually resulted was BabelBark – an entire Pet Suite of products including the BabelBark app for pet owners, BabelVet software for veterinary hospitals and clinics and BizBark software for businesses and shelters – all designed to work together to redefine the connection between pets and everyone who cares for them. With a goal to fundamentally reshape the pet industry through technology, data and predictive analytics, BabelBark is set to be to the pet industry what Uber and Airbnb are to the ride-sharing and hospitality industries.
“Just as Uber and Airbnb matched previously untapped supply with latent demand, we capture and consolidate data from pets, veterinary clinics, and pet businesses, then use this data to enable services, promotions, and payments,” explained Roy.
Using a classic software revenue model, BabelBark caters to three different communities.
“For new age pet parents, we offer peace of mind about their pet’s health with a convenient mobile solution for locating and transacting with their community of pet caregivers,” Roy said. “For pet businesses, we provide software tools that help them reach new customers and increase their lifetime value. Lastly, we position veterinary hospitals as trusted advisors with a digital practice, remote monitoring, telehealth and in the loop with all services and products the pet parent uses for their pet, creating revenue opportunities with richer, pet-specific data.”
Since its inception, BabelBark held a seed round fundraising, which was followed by a dual-series round fundraising in 2018 and 2019.
“We’ve grown at pace beyond expect our initial expectations, with the number of pet services and connected pets having grown at a rate of over 400 percent in 2018,” Roy said. “We currently have over 650 pet businesses connected to over 200,000 pets.”
Already, the American Animal Hospital Association has chosen BabelBark as its exclusive vet-pet platform, connecting it to over 4400 clinics and touting it “the” 21st century solution for veterinary clinics and modern pet parents.
“By connecting the entire ecosystem of pet parents with veterinary and other pet caregiver businesses through a single platform, our platform delivers mutually-reinforcing benefits with a robust database that enables predictive analytics on what product and service is needed and when,” Roy said.
Technology driven behaviors are changing all industries, but while the pet industry is a latecomer to the digital era, the stage is set for massive disruption potential. Watch this space.