Cats are wonderfully adorable and popular pets to keep – the sheer volume of viewers tuning in the YouTube to watch these cute domesticated kitties go about their mundane lives is a testament to that (I should know, I watch cat videos religiously).
But cats are also highly independent creatures. Sometimes, they wander out of the house and go missing. Frantic pet owners either turn to Facebook pet groups or print out missing posters in hopes that some good samaritan will spot and return their pets to them.
For Ivan Loh, these current solutions pose are inadequate and pose too many limitations.
“Many pet owner Facebook groups and forums are too exclusive, fragmented, and cannot be neatly organised for pet owners to use as a quick reference. Facebook and forums were not designed specifically to cater to the needs of pet owners,” says Loh in an interview with e27.
The ordeal of losing his two pet labradors for two weeks spurred him to devise a new system that would seamlessly connect all pet owners and build an ecosystem that would furnish them with all the resources to provide the best care for their pets.
Building a pet community
Using his experience running e-commerce platform Bugis Street Online, he developed Pet Widget, a “human-powered, pet-driven social network”. Each pet’s profile would include its name, breed, photos as well as owner details. Owners can use the pet profile to set reminders for vet appointments, and store medication or other health details.
Pet Widget also serves as a one-stop portal for information on pet services. For Singapore it covers over 450 pet-related listings. These include businesses such as veterinarians, pet-friendly cafes, and swimming pools for dogs.
Using a wearable to bolster the community experience
But what is most interesting about Pet Widget is how it works in tandem with Loh’s other companion pet ID tag Badge to strengthen its community features.
On a fundamental level, Pet Widget’s community discussions platform Pet Talk allows pet owners to share articles, ask questions, find dog walking buddies, and share adoption listings that are location-based (so it would have great visibility to users in the vicinity). There is also an in-chat function for Pet Widget users to talk to each other.
But with Badge pet owners can also help each other find their pets should they go missing. They can sync their pet’s profile to the S$29 (US$20) wearable device. If the pet goes missing, other Pet Widget users can simply scan the badge using a QR reader once they have located the pet and retrieve the owner’s information and contact details.
“Badge is designed to play an integral role, alongside the Pet Widget app, in giving the pet community a resource and platform to support one another, whether it’s through sharing knowledge, making new friends or returning a lost pet,” says Loh.
Loh is bootstrapping his Pet Widget business for now. He says he has actually declined several investor offers in the past six months.
Going forward, the Pet Widget team, which currently consists of six people, will work on localising the app for non-English speaking markets. It has an ambitious plan to hit 2.2 million users in Singapore, USA, Canada, UK and Australia by the end of 2020.
Its immediate goal is to grow brand awareness in Singapore by partnering with local animal welfare societies.
“We’ve partnered some local animal groups, such as SPCA, Joyous Bark, Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter (OSCAS), and Causes For Animals, to donate 50 per cent of the sale of Badge at their premises, to their cause,” says Loh.
For pet owners looking to have a peace of mind, or make friends with like-minded animal lovers, Pet Widget and Badge may just be what the vet ordered.
Image Credit: Pet Widget