Pets can be our best friends. Largely because of their unconditional love, owners always make sure their pets are taken care of. Andrea Chavez, the founder Pawscout started the company as the first major innovation in the dog tag industry in over 200 years. Pawscout is a smarter pet tag that alerts the owner via mobile app if the pet gets out of the house or yard, helps locate lost pets, and keeps a digital profile on the pet including medical records and the owner’s contact information. The mobile app also alerts others with the app when a lost pet comes in close proximity. Plus, pet owners can discover local services or pet-friendly locations in their neighborhood.
We had to a chance to interview Andrea and ask her about her story, how she got started, her business, and the future of Pawscout.
We are fanatical pet lovers and were frustrated by the lack of evolution of traditional pet tags. When we started the company, the only viable options were metal pet tags that have not changed in 200 years, or expensive, large GPS trackers with monthly fees. Much as we adore our dogs, maintaining, paying for, and charging yet another device was not a viable option. In addition, we moved frequently and found it almost impossible (and expensive, at $40/year) to update the microchip information on our dogs.
Tell us about your products and services. How does it work?
Pawscout is a Smarter Pet Tag. A Pawscout tag tracks movements and identifies lost pets with the help of the Pawscout App, allowing owners to share alerts and receive virtual updates from their online community of friends, family, and other pet owners. The tag tracks walk distances, and a live map means people can easily spot their pet in real-time as long as the pet is within a 300-foot range of anyone with the Pawscout App. For extra security, a virtual leash can be set to warn owners if Fido decides to scamper out of view. Pawscout keeps a digital profile on the pet including medical records and the owner’s contact information. The mobile app also alerts others with the app when a lost pet comes in close proximity. Plus, pet owners can discover local services or pet-friendly locations in their neighborhood.
Do you have any success stories you can share?
Lots! When we first launched our pilot a few years ago, a woman in Estonia found a dog with a Pawscout Tag. She downloaded the app, immediately connected with the owner, and restored the pup back to the owner within a few hours. Even though we do not sell internationally (except in Canada), users go to great lengths to ship Pawscout Tags to a friend or family member in the US who then forwards it on to destinations all over the world.
A few weeks ago, one of our users was having a little too much fun at a barbecue in Bolinas Bay in Marin and lost track of his elderly Labrador. He is not tech savvy, so he called his wife in a panic. She checked her Pawscout app and saw the last-known location of the Lab. He went back there and found Fergus frolicking in the bay.
Even I have lost track of my beloved elderly PWD in Marin. Each time, I have located him via the Pawscout app. Older dogs often suffer from senility and deafness and tend to wander. Pawscout is ideal for those situations.
How would you define community and why is it so important to build a community?
Pet ownership forces us to get over ourselves and interact with our community. We greet fellow pet owners on the street, exchange tips, plan playdates, organize search parties. . . Pet ownership transforms even the most reclusive among us into social butterflies. This is particularly true when it comes to lost pets. Distraught owners post notices on telephone poles, alert neighbors through Nextdoor or other apps, and generally engage their community. Other pet tag solutions (metal tags, GPS trackers) create islands of owners and their pets at a time when they desperately need the help of a community. Community is paramount to caring for and keeping track of pets.
Where do you see Pawscout in the next 5 years?
We envision various form factors of Pawscout that accommodate the infinite variety of pets: harnesses, collars, and multiple sizes of tags. We also envision many other pet products that are activated when the Pawscout Tag comes within range.
We have big plans to make the Pawscout app more useful to all pet owners – not just those who own a Pawscout tag.
Where do you see the pet industry going?
The pet industry is already 65 Billion and growing in the US. We are delighted to see movement away from puppy mills and towards supporting local shelters, as well as the advancement of the no-kill movement. As many millennially delay parenthood in favor of pets, we expect to see the pet industry grow exponentially. Ultimately, we hope that the problem of lost pets diminishes to the point that shelters are able to fulfill their true destinies as hubs of pet education, wellness and awareness.
Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs that are looking to build an app or break into the pet industry?
We believe it is very difficult to break into any industry without experience, so if you are interested in pet, make sure you earn your stripes by interning, volunteering, and/or working in that industry! Do not pursue any idea full-throttle without speaking exhaustively to stakeholders. Finally, make sure you are solving a real problem at a viable price point, versus creating cool technology just because it’s cool. In the case of Pawscout, we started with a pilot run of 10,000 a few years ago. We acquired invaluable data and know-how that have enabled us to scale.
Anything additional that you would like to let our readers know?
Even if you do not have a pet, you can help keep pets safe by downloading the Pawscout app and registering as a pet hero. The app runs quietly in the background and will only alert you if you pass within range of pet that has been marked as lost. If you have a pet but are not ready to commit to the Pawscout Tag, download the app and create a digital profile of your pet with any behavioral or medical issues, and use the map to locate pet-friendly points of interest.