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Pets, Tech and a New Breed of Entrepreneur

Skype petsI talk with lots of small business owners every week, and I can’t help but notice a theme I’m hearing more and more frequently in those conversations: pets.

You heard right. It seems that Fido and Fluffy are sparking a whole new breed of entrepreneurs, many of whom are incorporating technologies – Skype among them – into their pet-oriented businesses.

When you think about it, it’s not too surprising. The pet industry happens to be growing extraordinarily rapidly, so it’s an appealing place to set up shop. Reuters recently reported that U.S. spending on pets increased 30% since 2008, up to $53 billion annually. And that was during a pretty challenging economy.

Bill McCarthy, a tech entrepreneur who attended a lunch Skype for Business recently hosted in New York City, is currently working with a company developing an automated pet feeder.  He’s noticed tech start-ups increasingly developing products and services for pets.

“Two years ago there might be one person trying to come up with a pet-feeding product, now there might be a hundred,” he said.

So what are some of the pet businesses that have caught our eye? Here are a few:

  • Last year, we introduced our readers to Petropolis, a St. Louis canine boarding facility that lets owners schedule Skype video chats with their dogs. Many other kennels across the country are offering similar services, including Boston’s Fenway Bark, as reported by Boston.com.
  • A whole crop of companies are marketing new technologies that allow people to remotely monitor their pets’ movements throughout the day. The New York Times covered this trend, and called out Whistle and Tagg, both of which allow owners to keep tabs on their pet’s daily activities via a smart phone app.
  • The health craze is hitting the pet tech world too. TechCrunch recently wrote about FitBark, an app that not only tracks your dog’s activity but provides feedback on its fitness.
  • Dubbing itself the Uber of dog walking services, New York City start-up Swifto uses GPS so owners can watch their dog being walked in real time.  Fast Company and other media have taken note.

Finally, Skype provides a tried and true (and free!) option for keeping an eye on the pooch when you’re away. Check out our blog post on setting up Skype to work as a pet cam – perfect for long days at the office.

Are you an entrepreneur working in the pet industry? Tell us about it.

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