Issue 30

Startup Files - MyDog

Radu Popovici
Associate @ Gemini Solutions Foundry

In the apartment where I grew up, we had no pets, though my sister and I would ask our parents from time to time to keep a dog or a cat. This thing made me long even more for the summers spent at my grandma’s. And it was well known: when the summer holiday started, both my sister and I would get off our parents’ back and we would move to our grandparents’. Over there, our cousins would join us during day time and the fun was guaranteed.

Coca (a nickname given to our grandma by my sister) lived in a house with a courtyard where two or three dogs used to run, always playfully. It is useless to say they didn’t always have a well-established path and they often treaded on the flowers she took care of, daily. Thus, all day long, the courtyard was full of a bunch of kids running to-and-fro, accompanied all the way by their quadruped friends.

Coming back to our days, we have recently decided to adopt a dog. And if, looking back, our greatest concern back then was a rainy day, because we had to move our camp between the four walls, I now look with another eye upon this aspect and I understand the fact that a dog’s adoption comes with a series of responsibilities we cannot neglect. I am talking here about the medical aspect (vaccinations and recurrent examinations), periodical care (nail trimming, grooming, washing), training, food and many other aspects regarding the welfare of the pet. So, I began to research and read from other people’s experiences about the different features of canine breeds. I would like to mention below some of the things I found relevant before the adoption:

The internet is full of such details when you know what you are looking for, but the information is scattered between sites / domains / forums. Moreover, I began discussing with different people who had completed their families with a dog and I found out some very general details; however, my circle of friends and acquaintances could only help me to a certain step. I would have liked to be able to talk to someone who has the kind of dog I have always liked (Labrador Retriever). And approaching people on the street doesn’t seem such a good idea in this respect. A solution of the MyDog type would have helped me greatly at that particular moment, since I believe that this research step is very important, too. Otherwise, we end up in situations (which, unfortunately, we still see quite often) when the owner realizes he took on more than he is able to bear and prefers to find another owner or, even worse, to abandon the dog. And, as I’ve mentioned before, this is when responsibilities begin. They vary from health and periodical care to education and well-being. How many of you know the vets in your neighborhood? Or what services they offer? How many forums do you have to access till you find an up to date thread on comparisons between the different types of dog food (in case you haven’t already discussed it with your vet to get a recommendation)?

One last aspect on which I would like to draw your attention is that of socialization. Just like us, a man’s best friend also needs to socialize with other dogs, and this, from a very young age, in order for them not to become aggressive or fearful when they meet other dogs. In this case, socialization only happens in the real environment, either by getting to know new friends in the park or meeting dogs which accompany the owner’s friends, whom he/ she chooses to walk with in the morning or evening. We cannot (yet) discuss of an IT solution exclusively dedicated to dogs. However, a solution which addresses the owners is an entirely different discussion.

Dan Damian, the founder of MyDog, joins us today with such a concept. This is not Dan’s first entrepreneurial project. He started CodeSphere six years ago, together with two other associates. CodeSphere is a provider of software services, which has grown nicely during all this time. But now, Dan wishes to change the course a little bit and focus on the area of intellectual property generation.

[Radu] What does MyDog represent, in fact?

[Dan] MyDog is a socialization network dedicated to dog owners and lovers. You can register with your dog on MyDog in a few seconds; you get a profile page where you can brag about the pictures of your friend, you can post the most interesting moments; there is a wall where you can see what your friends have posted and, last but not least, you can search for other dogs according to their breed, sex, age, location. MyDog was launched in Romania on the 15th of November and up till now it has gathered over 1500 members, proving that there was a real need for this.

How did this idea started?

[Dan] I’ve got an Amstaff for almost 4 years now and many times I have thought about finding a girlfriend for him. Moreover, I wished I could “check-in” to a kennel or see who is already there so that I could avoid them when they were too crowded. I also wanted to have access to a list of the nearby veterinary clinics, or to be able to find a dog trainer. And… if I recall well, before having Sawyer, I was oscillating between two breeds: Shar-Pei and American Staffordshire Terrier (Amstaff), and it would have been good for me to find someone to ask, to be able to talk to somebody who had both breeds for some time and find out directly which the advantages and disadvantages of each were. I searched for a site or a mobile application which could help me in this respect, but I couldn’t find anything satisfactory. After three months of validations and market research, we decided to proceed with the development.

You have used a rather unusual extension for the domain. Why .xyz?

[Dan] I started my research with the name of the application well established – mydog, and what was left for me to do was to vary the extension only. Obviously, .com was already bought and so were many other usual extensions. Eventually, I discovered the new .xyz extension. Its novelty, strangeness and non-conformism hit me. I realized it will be easy to remember and it will represent a major branding advantage, so, here is mydog.xyz.

Before the launching, you presented the project in the third edition of Foundry Conferences. How did it go?

[Dan] It was a very useful experience. The dialogue with you forced us to brush up strategic aspects concerning the target public, the launching strategy or the manner in which we will capitalize all this effort. Also, the fact that you introduced us to George Buhnici’s show on Pro TV – I like IT has helped us a great deal. Of course, everything culminated in the pitch delivered in front of an investor, opportunity where we could notice what was truly important from their point of view, too.

How was the platform received by the community?

[Dan] We can proudly state that the feedback is a very positive one. We have over 1500 registrations so far and we hope to reach 2000 users in the first month after launching. If this happens, we will align with our projections previous to the launching.

Many people mention but the number of users when it comes to indicators. What other metrics are important to you in deciding the future trajectory of the product?

[Dan] That is right. The number of users is only one of the indicators, but the percentage of new users versus old users who come back is also very important. Moreover, the average duration of a session or the bounce rate is very important, too. These indicators show how much the user is attracted to the platform after he has created an account, how often he comes back and how much time he spends there. After all, this is what matters most. Ok, you get your idea through to somebody, he creates an account, but, afterwards, if you do not truly add value, he will cease to come back.

What is next?

[Dan] New pivots (according to the Lean Startup concepts, advocated by the already famous Eric Ries). We have already swiveled once, when we decided not to launch all the three planned features (Socialization, Kennels and Clinics), but one, namely the Socialization module. And it is good we did that, as we wouldn’t have had enough time and we would have postponed the launching and at the same time we wouldn’t have been able to focus on the feedback from our users.

A month after the launching of the beta phase, we can say we have fixed a lot of minor bugs, we have added strictly the functionalities that were really needed and we know in which direction to go further.

In January 2015, we will launch the “Dog Services” section (not only Clinics), where all the providers of services dedicated to dogs will be able to register: veterinary clinics, canine beauty shops, canine hotels, kennels, trainers and even people who are willing to walk your dog or keep it over the weekend.

At the beginning of spring, we will launch the Kennels module, together with – we are hoping – the mobile version of the application.


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