Although the cell phones that we carry have become increasingly sophisticated over the last 15 years, some family members have been slow to benefit from similar GPS-assisted, technological advances.
Step forward DogTelligent; a company launched by entrepreneur Patrick Perrine. Its key product? The world’s first all-in-one ‘Connected Collar’ for dogs. The device boast many of the features of a Fitbit-style device.
The collar includes a microphone and speaker so you can issue orders to your pooch from afar, and will track the whereabouts of your dog at all times.
The collar can emit an ultrasonic whistle and vibrate if your four-legged friend strays anywhere that you don’t want them to wander (‘Virtual Fence and Leash’), and includes sensors so you can monitor your pet’s physical state. Information is beamed via 3G, Bluetooth and wi-fi to an app on your cellular device.
The DogTelligent app will itself include pre-programmed commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘down’, and ‘come’ that its creators say will make training easier.
Perrine grew up in Hutchinson, Minnesota, but says he was very happy to escape at the age of 21 and relocate to California. Since 2000 he has split his time between San Francisco and San Diego, with a recent year-long stint in Austin, Texas, where he worked on building DogTelligent. He recently moved back to San Francisco with his pooch, Riley.
‘I actually have a different background to most tech entrepreneurs. My goal was always to be a child psychologist and to work with children dealing with gender identity and sexual orientation struggles,’ he tells Gay Star Business.
‘I went all the way through graduate school and did my masters degree at San Francisco State University in Human Sexuality Studies, but in my first year out of grad school, doing actual therapy with people, I quickly realized that rather than listen to people’s problems, I was much better at creating solutions for them before they end up with those issues.’
This realization led to him launching his first business – an online match-making business designed so that people could identify what they needed to find themselves a happy and healthy relationship.
A further digital marketing business, Think Tank Enterprises, followed. Its success has allowed Perrine some breathing space to explore other ideas.
‘I’m a pretty avid dog person and I have been ever since I was born. My parents were gifted a two-month old puppy for my first Christmas as a baby, so I grew up with dogs.
‘When it came to my next venture, I really wanted to do something at the intersection of dogs and technology. My goal was to create beautifully designed, completely humane dog products that use innovative technology, that really make a difference and help solve everyday pet care frustrations.’
Having coming up with the idea for Connected Collar, Perrine realized that his savings alone would not be enough to get it to market. This is the first time he’s produced a hardware product, and the collar’s development has proved a learning curve.
Perrine turned to crowdfunding for help – and was amazed by the result. After launching a campaign on Indiegogo early last year, he quickly raised more than four times his initial target.
The fund now stands at $130,000 (€119,500), but Perrine says that the benefits of crowdfunding go beyond the financial. Feedback from supporters has helped to shape the product.
‘I went into it with the intention of x number of features we wanted the collar to have based on focus groups. But the customer engagement has been tremendous. They’ve helped shaped the product and we’ve changed some of the features based on what our customers have said. It’s been a really good experience for us.’
The only barrier remaining is to get the finished product finalized. Perrine says that he has recently switched production from Austin to a Chinese firm, ‘to help us get across the finish line.’
‘We’ve got the mobile app pretty much nailed down and that will go live in the next couple of months. We’re still in pre-production with the actual Connected Collar. The biggest challenge with a product like this is the technology shrink.
‘For dogs to respond to the collar in the way that’s intended, we have to do a lot more customizing that we thought we would, so that’s taken up a little bit longer than expected, but we’re hoping to start shipping at the end of Q1 2016.’
The device is likely to sell at around $180 (€165). Donators to the crowdfunding campaign can reserve a collar at a discounted price of $120 (€110).
Besides promoting his product via crowdfunding, Perrine, who lives with his dog, Riley, believes in promoting his business through as many channels as possible. He recently registered DogTelligent as an LGBT-owned business with the US’s National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
‘When I launched my gay matchmaking business, we did well but when it got to the stage of growing the business in Silicon Valley, approaching venture capitalists, we found a lot of doors shut to us,’ he says, by way of explanation.
‘To an extent, that’s changed now – venture capitalists are more open and receptive to the benefits of not only gay-owned businesses but gay-customer facing businesses. But the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is another way of me connecting with the community, and to demonstrate the value that we have.’
When Perrine is able to successfully start shipping out his Connected Collars, he’s got a large market to corner. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that between 70-80 million dogs are owned in the US alone, which equates to between 37-47% of all households.
If DogTelligent is able to connect with just a fraction of that number, Perrine’s life-long love of dogs may prove a business winner.