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This Startup Uses the Power of Digital Community to Send “AMBER Alerts” For Missing Pets

by Muriel Vega

One in three pets go missing at some point in their lifetime, according to the American Humane Association. While preventative measures like collars and microchips can help reunite owners and pets faster, things can happen… and that can be devastating for pet owners.

In 2014, Clayton Gladieux realized there wasn’t a fast way to send out an “AMBER alert” to tell the neighborhood when a friend’s dog got hit by a car and ran away. They spent all night looking and luckily saw the dog returned safe and sound the next morning.

“The experience left an impression on me as an animal lover,” Gladieux tells Hypepotamus. “It’s scary how easy it is to lose a pet, but how hard it is to get the word out.”

After working on customer/user acquisition at a few startups, Gladieux came up with the concept of using Facebook Ads to find missing pets. He reached out to his friend Tim Kijewski to help develop a platform that played off the milk carton missing persons concept and use the community to aggregate knowledge.

PawBoost helps people use paid social media to get the word out on their missing pet quickly.

They saw high traffic immediately after launch, but found that people weren’t clicking through beyond the lost and found page. The team decided to create an app and grow their email list to reengage pet lovers and keep them in the PawBoost ecosystem for updates on missing pets.

Once they began to see how passionate people are about finding missing pets, they leveraged that enthusiasm into a volunteer group called the PawBoost Rescue Squad, over 3 million pet lovers that get alerts when a pet goes missing in their area.

The startup uses real-time notifications sent to the Rescue Squad via emails and the app to find the pet.

“There are good people that want to be in on the search even if they haven’t lost a pet. They want to help reunite lost pets with their families,” Gladieux says.

When a pet goes missing, the owner goes to the startup’s site to fill out a questionnaire with the pet’s facts. Once posted, local Rescue Squad members are notified, a post goes up on the local PawBoost Lost and Found Facebook page, and the pet is automatically added to PawBoost’s lost and found directory.

The startup has Lost and Found Facebook pages for more than 200 U.S. cities, comprising over 2.5 million followers in total. “It’s all about local awareness. That’s what really works and what’s important,” Gladieux says.

They also encourage pet owners to share the post in other Facebook and neighborhood groups like Next Door. PawBoost worked with the latter on a share button beta in the past and they hope to partner again in the future.

To get additional promotion, the startup offers a premium tier with a targeted Facebook paid ad campaign to reach more people in the area.

Gladieux shares that the secret for a successful Facebook ad campaign is the featured photo. “The better the photo, the more it gets shared. Everyone notices and wants to help a cute dog or cat.”

The Raleigh-based startup now serves the U.S., Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, and South Africa. They’ve remained bootstrapped and with their freemium revenue model, have already reached profitability.

Gladieux shares that while revenue is important, the team puts a large focus on metrics like total reunited pets — now at 54 percent of those on the platform — to attract more people into their community.

That’s a total of more than 380,000 pets.

“The number of reunions attributed to PawBoost grew more than 130 percent from 2017 to 2018,” says Gladieux.

Next up, they are working on partnering with municipal shelters to integrate stray pets into the platform.

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