You walk out to your backyard and call after your pup — and nothing. Your four-legged best friend normally comes trotting back to the door, but not this time. You walk around and find a hole in the fence, and panic sets in.
Sadly, this is a common occurrence. According to the American Humane Association, one in three dogs will get lost at some point during their lifetime.
Atlanta startup Sniffer GPS wants to prevent that from ever happening again with a GPS-enabled collar that tells you where your dog is at all times.
The GPS tool snaps right into your pup’s existing collar. After you install the app, you set up a safe zone around your house so if your dog ever leaves, you will be immediately alerted and can track them via the app.
The founding team of three Georgia Tech graduates started the project in 2016, while still in school. They went through Georgia Tech’s Create-X student entrepreneur program, using funding from the program to build their product.
They’re currently hosting an Indiegogo campaign for a full-scale launch following a small friends and family round. “Right now we are looking for investors that have experience in hardware and IoT startups,” says CEO Reid Kersey.
Kersey and CTO Aaron Naidu share lessons learned from developing their prototype, how they’re standing out amidst competitors, and how they’re gearing up for full fundraising mode.
Was there a particular dog that inspired your startup?
When Reid was younger he had a dog named Blue that he absolutely loved and was very attached too. However, Blue loved to find ways out of the fenced yard and roam around the neighborhood, sometimes overnight.
Every time Blue would get out, Reid was very worried about her, and was afraid that she would get hurt or wouldn’t be able to find her way home. Luckily she always did, but Reid always remembered the anxiety that he felt whenever she got out. So, when he had a chance to start a company, he wanted to make sure that no one else would have to worry when their pet ran away.
What’s Sniffer’s pitch?
Sniffer GPS builds solar-powered GPS dog trackers that allow you to find your dog anywhere they go, giving you peace of mind. Our innovative approach allows us to offer benefits no other dog tracker can. Our solar panels boost battery life up to 30 days or more, many times that of any competitor, and our unique snap-on charger means hassle-free charging.
We also keep your dog safer by updating their location every 15 seconds, leagues better than the three to 15 minutes of other competitors on the market. This helps us notify you immediately if your dog goes on a solo adventure.
Our app also tracks activity, so you know your dog’s health needs and even detect certain health issues before they become serious. Finally, we are one of the first GPS collars to feature an integrated light for nighttime visibility, keeping your dog safe at night — and also looking stylish.
Tell me about the product itself — its battery life and other features.
The collar has a 30-day battery life and comes with an innovative charging mechanism that doesn’t require the removal of the collar, a small charging brick that attaches to the product. It can even find your dog using solar energy if the battery runs out.
In addition, we can track the activity and sleep patterns of your dog, allowing you to get an overview of their overall health. In addition, we can also use the activity and health data to identify a variety of health risks before they become problems.
How do you charge for the device?
We have two revenue streams that support our business. The first is through the sales of our physical product. This includes the tracking device, the integrated light collar and our proprietary charging mechanism. The other revenue stream is through our monthly subscription plan which enables the devices to connect to cellular networks.
With over 85 million dogs in the US alone, the pet market is booming and pet owners spent over $69 billion on pet products in 2017. Also, the GPS market is almost completely untapped in its potential, with only 0.3 percent of dogs worldwide protected.
What are some lessons you’ve learned as you grow your business that may be helpful for others?
The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone starting a company is to get one-on-one time with successful people. Look for anyone doing what are trying to do and ask them to coffee or take them to lunch. The amount of connections you gain and insider knowledge is invaluable for someone growing a business.
Another notable lesson I’ve learned is to admit when you can’t do something. Admit when you are not the best at something and hire people who excel at that thing instead of wasting time and effort doing a mediocre job.
Who are your competitors and how do you stand out?
We differentiate on a few key measures that we found through our extensive customer discovery. We have a philosophy that your dog should be protected 24/7 no matter what.
To do this, we differentiate ourselves with battery life, update frequency, and the ability to function even when the battery is fully drained. We have a battery life of 6 times greater than our nearest competitor, an update frequency of 12 times faster than our nearest competitor, and we use flexible solar panels to allow the device to function in case of emergencies even when the battery is fully drained.
What kind of resources are you looking for to help your startup?
We are mainly looking for investors. Our product is for sale right now on our Indiegogo platform, and the more investment, the more we can market the product to a larger audience.
Another resource we are looking for is advice setting up international supply chains. Anyone we could meet with who could offer their wisdom and connections would greatly help us streamline our manufacturing process.
What are your goals for the next six months?
Our long-term vision is to be a company that gives people the ability to find everything that they care about, no matter how small. We are starting our company in the dog market due to the ease of entry and relatively broad device size constraints. However, we plan on breaking into several markets after launching our initial device.
In the next six months, we plan on producing our units and working with retail partners to bring our product to stores. We also plan on developing an ultra-small form factor unit to cater to the cat and small-dog market.