“Do you know anyone whose pet plays a major role in their life or where they’re a central part of the family?” is the first thing entrepreneur Lisa Lavin asked me when we met earlier this week. Guilty!?!?
In mid 2012, Lavin aims to introduce an integrated hardware/ software telecommunications platform for owners of household pets — dogs and cats — to remotely connect and interact with their companions using an internet enabled device from anywhere in the world.
“We’re solving for the anxiety that pet owners face when they’re removed from one another. PetChatz is all about peace of mind. Imagine Skyping with your pet…the sights and sounds…plus the ability to provide a multi-sensory experience including smell and taste,” she says describing the vision.
Lavin wasn’t able to reveal a picture prototype of the form factor or discuss an initial price point “…for competitive reasons, but right now, we have an image rendering of a device that can be plugged into the wall, may sit on the floor or be mounted. It features a wide angle webcam, speaker, microphone, and the ability to dispense treats.”
She co founded the startup earlier this year with personal friend and ‘prolific inventor’ Dr. Mark Kroll, a man who’s “tops in Minnesota [for patents] and second in the world for medical devices.” “We were talking over lunch and I asked him, ‘do you have any patents just burning a hole in your pocket?’ And well, yes, he replied — I’ve actually been working on a pet phone concept.”
Together with Mark and his son Brady, Lisa grabbed the reigns and went to work on making ideas become reality. Next up, she’ll be collaborating on related research this fall with the U of M and is having discussions with animal behaviorists about how to best guide customers through the learning curve.
The retail pet industry at large encompasses $48+ billion in annual domestic spending stemming from73 million US households, according to Lavin. “This is a figure that’s doubled in the past decade and our target segment of passionate owners spend 50-66% more per year on their pets than the average pet owner.” Her goal is to capture $55M in sales, or 5% of the ‘pet parent’ market by year five.
PetChatz is a “razor + razor blade business model” with revenue generating from the sale of the device and consumables; other income in affiliated add-on products and web media is also anticipated.
The company has raised in excess of 125k of a $1.15m first round and is also a finalist in this years Minnesota Cup, general division. The brand is officially organized under an umbrella company called Anser Innovation and represents the first go to market, followed by similarly unique products serving the elder care and dependent child audiences.
“This is my second startup experience and the first one that I’ve co founded. I’ve always had the entrepreneurial itch and feel confident in this opportunity — a first of it’s kind, no FDA, solid IP, strategic partnerships and a growing market make it very attractive,” Lisa Lavin, PetChatz co founder and CEO.