Originally published on Reuters
June 20, 2019
In 2015, Roy Stein had a problem. He and his longtime friend, Bill Rebozo, were planning to go on an extended vacation, which itself certainly isn’t a problem, but they had two dogs – Doog, Bill’s Lab / Mastiff mix, and Mishmish, Roy’s Goldendoodle – to whom they were very attached and were anxious to leave at home alone, even with dog-sitters. Rather than cross their fingers and leave their beloved pets in the hands of fate, they decided to do something about it. The idea they hit upon was to create an app from scratch that would allow them to better monitor the status and health of their pets and communicate seamlessly with the people taking care of them. Development of the app itself was like second nature to Bill, who has developed software at large companies like Microsoft and has filled roles as diverse as developer, product manager, and executive. Once they had they app on their hands, they realized that they were on to something significant, and decided to take what they had and grow and market it, culminating in the founding of BabelBark.
There has never been a better time to invest in a merging of technology with the pet industry. Americans now spend over 300% more on their pets than they did just twenty years ago. The pet industry has become absolutely massive, commanding $77 billion in the United States alone, and growing at over 10% per year. There is speculation that this is related to millennials getting married at increasingly older ages and preferring instead to adopt pets in their young adult years, which is especially beneficial for the outlook of tech adoption into the pet care sector. Any investment in pet care looks to be particularly secure, with some calling it ‘recession-proof.’ As pet ownership grows, demand for basic needs is quintessentially inelastic, as pet owners will always be buying food to feed their animals and taking them to get basic veterinary care. Millennials especially look to be spending quite a bit on their pets above and beyond the basic necessities, facilitating more growth in the industry.
What BabelBark has to offer, then, is a novel way of capitalizing on the explosive (and reliably stable) growth in the pet care industry. Technology is not new to pets – there are a myriad of apps and services from dog-based dating apps and social media platforms to customizable subscription boxes and even a kind of Uber for pets. What sets BabelBark apart is that it is the world’s first globally enabled horizontal digital platform for the pet industry, connecting pet owners to veterinary clinics and pet businesses in one central service. It’s a model that appears to be catching fire in terms of adoption, with over 650 pet businesses taking part to include more than 200,000 pets, growing at a rate of several thousand per month. While the service connects pet owners to businesses that provide products and services, the connection to veterinary services is equally important, and Stein and Rebozo haven’t forgotten this crucial portion of the industry. BabelBark was chosen by the American Animal Hospital Association as their exclusive platform for the next two years, covering over 4000 clinics across the country. It’s those kinds of numbers that will see the company become a household name in the near future. The service itself has launched fairly recently (making their immediate and explosive growth all the more impressive), with a soft launch in 2018 exclusive to North America to be followed by a full launch in the following year. As for investment, they had a seed round in the last half of 2017 and series A in 2018; to date they’ve raised $8.6 million with a target of $10 for series B in the near future, with talks to secure an additional $6.5 million soon as well.
If those numbers sound impressive, it’s because they have a solid team behind them. Rebozo and Stein are avid pet owners and have a proven history of success in businesses. While Rebozo boasts the technical know-how, Stein brings a respectable business acumen to the table with a bevy of experience to boot. He has a proven track record in building businesses and brings to the table strong skills as a communicator and team builder. He’s held executive leadership roles at EnergyPoints, Gridpoint Inc., Comverse Technologies Inc., and Comverse Billing Systems Ltd. He has over 20 years of experience leading, building, and operating business units and companies, and he and Bill Rebozo have been a team for over a decade. Their newest venture represents a deeply personal commitment not just to honoring their own legacy of business success, but building and spreading a service that will help pet owners all over the world do the best that they can for their furry loved ones.