DAVID MARTIN, 30, of Blue Bell, is founder and CEO of PetCoach, a startup with a mobile app - currently in stealth mode - that gives pet owners direct advice on their smartphones from veterinarians and certified pet experts. The startup expects to publicly launch next month.
Q: How'd you come up with the idea for PetCoach?
A: When we got accepted into DreamIt Ventures accelerator [in Austin, Texas] last winter, they suggested we make PetCoach a place to get expert pet advice in real time. There are 25 million U.S. households per month looking for pet information online, and most, according to research, find it confusing and unreliable.
Q: Startup money?
A: We got $25,000 from DreamIt. Before that, I had $150,000 from friends and family. We also got $300,000 from Pet360, a company in Plymouth Meeting. It's an e-commerce site for pet food and supplies but also owns petMD, one of the largest online pet-health publishers.
Q: What's PetCoach do?
A: It's a mobile app and platform where pet parents can ask an expert a question. They can post it for free, and an expert will answer within six hours. If they need more-in-depth advice, they can have a private chat with the expert for $5 or schedule an appointment with a vet through our app.
Q: Value proposition?
A: For users, it's a great way for pet owners to get advice from reliable sources, including vets, and avoid unnecessary and expensive vet visits. For experts, it's an opportunity to build online followers and generate leads for their practices.
Q: The biz model?
A: We think most of the revenue can be generated from advertising related to questions on nutrition and health.
Q: Why did you move the biz from Austin to Philly?
A: We moved here to join forces with Pet360 and petMD and raise our profile.
Q: Your customers?
A: There are 85 million households with pets in the U.S., and 25 million are regularly looking for pet information online.
Q: Biggest challenge?
A: For our site to work best, we need a network of vets and other certified experts.
Q: How many experts have you lined up?
A: Right now, we have 20, from vets to trainers, but the goal is to line up 1,000 vets over the next four or five months.
Q: How big a biz is this?
A: We don't have revenue yet and are focused on attracting customers. Three other employees are also my partners.
Q: What's next?
A: We get 2,000 questions a month. Our goal is to raise that to 100,000 by the end of the year and build a model that can sustain itself on advertising.