Vetsie is Making Veterinary Care Accessible For All
In February 2022, six early-stage pet care startups joined the Leap Venture Studio accelerator program for a 12-week immersive experience. Throughout the program, the founding teams worked in tandem with a curated team of strategists and designers from R/GA Ventures, and received mentorship from Mars Petcare and Michelson Found Animals on building impactful and scalable businesses. As we gear up for our next cohort this year, here’s a look back at yet another successful program. We are excited to feature the amazing startups from Cohort 5 in a special blog series!
Vetsie (Calgary, Canada): Vetsie is an all-in-one ecosystem and virtual care platform that uniquely serves veterinary clinics, as well as pet parents through a marketplace.
Alyssa Borden, Co-founder & Director, Veterinary Strategy at Vetsie
Steve Boyer, Co-Founder at Vetsie
What motivated you to build an impactful startup in the pet care space?
Steve: I am a companion animal veterinarian and have been practising for about 9 years. There are a lot of great things about the veterinary industry but accessibility and financial limitations can sometimes be challenging.
Many pet owners struggle to access and afford veterinary services. But they still want to care for their pets and be a responsible pet owner. I am passionate about ensuring that all pets have accessible care. From the veterinary side of things, we want to help but we have limited capacity. There is a shortage of veterinarians and veterinary technologists. There needs to be some change in the industry to become more efficient and bridge that gap.
What are the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a startup founder and how have you overcome them?
Steve: Finding a way to help our industry through telehealth and telemedicine while operating within the current veterinary regulations has been a challenge. Many associations are actively reviewing their telemedicine policies to help improve the industry and maintain appropriate guidelines. We want to be compliant with the rules and regulations that exist and many of these differ province-to-province and state-to-state. Another challenge is the shortage of veterinarians and a spike in pet ownership. This has resulted in us looking for solutions that are ‘outside the box’. Innovation, customer demand, and the willingness of veterinarians to adapt the way they offer their services is one way to overcome these challenges.
Alyssa: Our goal is to do things the right way and we want to ensure that our team is safe and compliant when they are using our Vetsie platform. In terms of how we navigated that, we are often reviewing current policies throughout Canada and collaborate with other telehealth providers in this space. Steve is part of the Canadian Veterinary Virtual Care Association (CVVCA), which aims to help educate the public on the benefits of virtual care for their pets, while also keeping tabs on the regulatory advancements that occur in the veterinary industry.
What is your biggest take away from the Leap Venture Studio?
Leap came to us at a time when we were navigating a rather large pivot. We were adding on additional services to help give pet owners more virtual options to care for their pets. In our first session with R/GA we really understood how to focus on what our long-term goals were and how to improve our brand. It was really effective, especially with regard to the company’s value proposition and the way that we want to expand. The market research that was done was absolutely amazing. We were able to make meaningful connections thanks toMars Petcare and Michelson Found Animals’ network in Canada and the U.S. through the Veterinary Care Association in the US. The program has been amazing and will help us in the future as we grow.
How has your startup made a difference for pets?
Alyssa: I would refer to my other co-founder Alex, he comes from a technology background, rather than veterinarian background. Alex’s pet was his leading motivator for the inception of Vetsie. His pet was in an immense amount of pain but he wasn’t able to see or even talk to a veterinarian for weeks. Accessible resources like Vetsie would have made a huge difference for him to connect with veterinary professionals. For Steve and I, it has been great to refer friends and family to a trusted and accessible source to receive veterinary care.
What advice would you give to fellow pet care founders who are just starting their journey?
Steve: “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. There are so many things you have to deal with on a daily basis and hurdles that you have to hop over that if you sweat the small stuff, you will struggle. In the pet care industry it is important to know your customer. It’s important to understand the roller coaster of emotions of being a pet owner. My advice for anyone entering the pet care space is to make sure they really understand what it is to be a responsible pet owner.
Alyssa: It’s okay to ask for help and not have all the answers. I didn’t come in with all the answers or knowing all the ins and outs of a startup. Having co-founders who have different strengths than you and support you as you find your niche in a startup is very important.
Tell us about your pet(s)!
Steve: I rescued a dog five years ago and he is probably around 7 years old now. He’s from a local reserve and was in rough shape when we rescued him. Being a veterinarian, I was determined to get him back to health. He made a miraculous recovery and now enjoys playing fetch and sleeping in the sun!
Alyssa: I have two dogs and one cat. One is a 5-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog named Ronnie and I could talk endlessly about her! I also have a 10-year-old large breed rescue dog named Carter anda rescue cat named Foster. I found Foster when I was working in emergency medicine — he needed a home so I gave him one and he’s been my buddy ever since!
What is the unique selling proposition (USP) of your company?
Steve: We are in a unique space where we are carving new territory to make a better world for pets. Advancements in technologies and industry standards also come with challenges, and our team is well positioned to navigate that. We have a trusted team of remote veterinary professionals accessible to pet owners through our Vetsie technology. Our internal veterinary team verifies every professional on the Vetsie platform. We are expanding this service to pet-sitting, training and dog walking to create an entire ecosystem of trusted services. We are bringing in people that are vetted, credible, and who abide by the same methodologies that we do in terms of being fear-free and using positive reinforcement methods. Maintaining this standard is really important to us,so every Vetsie professional pet owners interact with will provide a gold standard service.
To learn more about Vetsie, visit their website.