A Boulder company that sells Fitbit-like wearables for furry friends has sold its first 1,000 products.
Waggit is a collar attachment that records canine vitals, GPS location, sleep, movement and feeding activity through an iOS or Android app. It was created by dog owners — they prefer “pet parents” — to detect health concerns early and ensure the safety of their animals.
The company is now in its fourth financial quarter and officially put the collars on the market in January 2019. After purchasing one of the collar attachments, customers can create a profile on the Waggit app and track their dogs’ health records. Prior to putting the products on the market, presales from Kickstarter were mailed out in May 2018. Waggit currently has 1,000 active customers, or what the company calls “pack members.”
Susan Sierota, co-founder and CEO of Waggit, created the company after her dog, Mulligan, died in 2015 from cancer. His symptoms went undetected until it was too late for treatment.
Before his death in that same year, Sierota was recovering from a series of back surgeries. She said that Mulligan always knew when she needed help. Sierota recalled taking him out to use the bathroom in front of her Boulder home. She slipped and fell. Her faithful companion immediately ran to her side and tried to help her up.
“Then he got sick and because animals hide pain, I didn’t know in time to make a difference,” Sierota said. “It was just heart-crushing to know that he could figure out how to help me, and I let him down.”
With Waggit, she believes pet owners will have the tools to notice abnormal behavior and take preventative measures.
The app will alert users when patterns, such as heart rate or sleep, stray from the normal rates. Packed into the small, 3-ounce collar are inertial measurement unit and accelerometer sensors. There are rubbery grips, called “massage fingers,” that sit on a dog’s neck, recording respiratory and heart rates. The device is waterproof, with a standard USB charger. It also uses GPS, long-term evolution, a standard for wireless broadband technology, and Bluetooth technology. Motion sensors indicate when a dog is tilting its head, which the app assumes is eating or drinking.
Sierota said that when using the app, customers shouldn’t be as concerned with an absolute number when looking at vitals. Instead, it should be used to look at their pet’s baseline. She added that age, attitude and breed can be a factor in a dog’s behavior, so pet owners should compare trends only to their own dog. Records won’t be as exact, as medical devices used at veterinary offices.
Sierota said an example of this is if her dog, Dylan, usually drank from his water bowl 10 times a day, and it suddenly increased dramatically, she would be concerned.
Waggit is funded through investors.
“Waggit is fundamentally changing pet health. This is clearly evident in the stories and testimonials customers are sharing,” said Gary McCullough, investor and Waggit board director.
Waggit headquarters are currently in Sierota’s home. The staff consists of four full-time employees, including Sierota and cofounder and chief marketing officer Carrie Dolan. Four other employees help with assembling packages and shipping.
Sierota told BizWest in December 2018 that the company had raised $3 million, with plans to close on another $1 million in the next few years.
The company worked with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University; Texas A&M University; the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; and Boulder Engineering Studio to develop the collar devices.
One feature in the app, called “vet report,” illustrates all of the recorded data on one sheet that can be emailed as a PDF to the pet’s veterinarian.
“We believe very strongly that the right information at the right time has the power to change everything. And most of the vets that we talked to believe the same thing,” Sierota said.
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