Digital dog training has become the way of the future for many owners. It allows pet lovers to teach their furry friends to sit, lie down, roll over and give the paw all from the comfort of their own homes.
According to the latest research, the pet training services market size is estimated to reach 6.4 billion euros by 2031. Experts reckon growth in the Pet Tech sector is down to an increase in people adopting pets and spending more on them during the pandemic. Recent figures show that during the 2020 COVID-19 recession, sales of pet products and services soared at an even faster rate than the U.S. economy, with over 16 per cent growth.
One female entrepreneur setting tails wagging in this space is Natalia Shahmetova, CEO and CMO at dog training app Woofz. We spoke to her about the challenges faced in training pets digitally and the walls she has broken down in becoming a female entrepreneur.
Natalia, please tell us a bit about the concept of Woofz; where did it come from?
I originally started my career in marketing ten years ago. I was working as a creative copywriter in a global advertising agency. There, I developed my skills in different areas, from copywriting, branding, creative production, digital marketing, social media, etc. Following this, I decided to switch my focus to mobile marketing and make use of all my cumulative experience.
Before Woofz, I had some knowledge of Pet Tech. I was very surprised that so few developers were entering the field, especially considering the market was estimated to be worth 18 to 28 billion euros a year. In my opinion, this was due to the fact that there were practically no major players driving the Pet Tech market, and so we saw an opportunity, conducted thorough research, and decided to focus on dog training.
What are the main challenges in training dogs through technology?
I guess the main one is personalisation, or should I say ‘pawsonalisation’! We were aware of this challenge from the very beginning. Hence, we took the product in a direction that allowed us to incorporate one-to-one consultations from the beginning. We did not want to create a default library of courses with one size fits all but to create a pocketbook of handy training programs with pooch-specific consultations that uncover each dog’s needs.
What has the feedback on Woofz been like so far?
I think the reviews and comments we receive from users on social networks are the best indicators of our app’s success. We have received an incredibly warm response to the app, with a lot of people saying things like “It taught my dog four tricks in less than two months”, “this app helped a lot”, and that it’s “a must-have for dog lovers”. We are rated 4.8 stars in the App Store and 4.6 in Google Play. I think these ratings speak volumes, and with four million downloads and counting, it seems like we are on the right track!
What makes Woofz different from other dog-training apps?
We provide a personalized training card for each breed and age with different training steps prescribed. Our content is diverse, and our design is cool and self-explanatory. We have beautiful illustrations, among other things. We are quite young. Hence, we are always working on improvements, and we have an amazing tech team and a group of dog behaviour experts who enhance our app every month.
As an animal lover, how about rolling out something similar for other pets?
Ahhhh, of course! But I can’t share anything with you just yet. Stay tuned; I can only confirm that we have something exciting in the pipeline.
What are the challenges you have faced as a female founder?
I am quite fortunate, and in my career, I never had to experience the challenges that can go with my gender. I am acutely aware of bias in the industry, though, and I try to lead by example. I also have to admit that, as a female founder, I see and feel that it’s more difficult to raise investment for women-led start-ups than for men-led.
What is your ambition for Woofz?
We want to become the number one dog app in the world. One that provides advice, support and tips for developing and maintaining great relationships with our furry friends. In order to achieve that, we will continue to grow our main metrics and the product itself, from users to MRR, and we will also add ‘pawesome’ features.
What is your opinion of the pet tech sector? Are you expecting it to grow?
Absolutely. The pandemic forced more people to stay indoors or work from home. This led to a higher demand for pets as companions, driving up adoption rates. This increase in pet adoptions assisted with the financial growth of different pet industry branches, from food to veterinary care, toys, and grooming needs. Woofz was developed with the aim of nurturing healthy relationships between humans and dogs, ensuring that the adoption or introduction of a puppy results in a lifelong and cherished family member.
Every founder learns lessons along the way. What have you learned?
If I had any advice for other founders, it would be not to rush into hiring and budget spending if you are not confident in your product metrics. It’s much wiser to wait for the final metrics than to trust the revenue forecast and spend based on the latter. My experience tells me now that forecasts are equally as likely to come true as they are not.
And finally, if you have advice for any other female founder, what would it be?
I want to support all women in tech and say just don’t forget that you are as beautiful as you are smart, and gender should not determine what you are capable of. You can navigate the starship in the far away galaxy (which is basically start-up management). Please continue to do what you are doing and what makes you happy whilst supporting other female entrepreneurs.