According to data from IbisWord, Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with over 60 percent of households owning a pet. These households spent $12.2 billion on their pets in the 12 months to April 2016, research from Animal Medicines Australia found.
Despite spend on pets rising, local startup Knose believes not enough is going to actual care delivered by pets. A survey found 21 percent of dogs and 35 percent of cats hadn’t been taken to the vet in 2016, with just 53 percent of dog owners and 47 percent of cat owners reporting they had taken their pet for vaccinations.
Founded by Tiaan Dreyer, Nathan Harris, and Chris Durbridge, Knose looks to strengthen the relationship between vets and pet owners through a monthly care subscription.
For vets, Dreyer said the subscription enables them to improve the predictability of revenue and cash flow, and reclaim revenue lost to non-expert retailers by including just-in-time home delivery of preventatives such as flea, tick, and worm control, while pet owners benefit in knowing their pet is getting the right care, in a package more easy to afford than transactional visits.
“The just-in-time home delivery of preventables removes the hassle factor from administering the right treatments and gives pet owners confidence to visit the vet because they know it won’t break the bank to get expert advice,” Dreyer said.
The idea came to Dreyer through his five years spent as CFO and head of strategy at pet insurance provider, PetSure. Despite the pet care service industry growing to $12 billion, with pet insurance going mainstream, Dreyer saw that many pets still aren’t getting the basic treatment they need to stay healthy.
“Independent vets are frequented less to provide expert advice on basic wellness care, as people are getting advice from Dr Google or the sales agent at the big box retailer,” he said.
Dreyer said he saw two main issues facing pet owners: the cost of visiting the vet, particularly when a pet isn’t sick, results in owners delaying or neglecting to go for regular everyday care; and complying with preventative protocols is challenging, because owners simply lose track of, or forget, when the various treatments need to be administered.
The subscription model isn’t a new idea, Dreyer admitted, with large corporates having been working through such models for almost two decades already in the US, while Greencross launched its Healthy Pets Plus membership a few years ago.
“However, these plans are designed to get pet owners back into big box retail stores. The main aim is to get owners to spend more money rather than improving animal welfare,” he explained.
“I realised that to have a significant impact on animal welfare, a product needs to include just-in-time product delivery as well as be flexible in design so that independent vets, accounting for more than 60 percent of vets in Australia, can take up the service. The initiative had to be driven from outside the industry to be independent. So Knose was born.”
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Targeting independent vets, however, meant creating a platform that could operate within the technology systems they already use, many of them older practice management softwares.
“The solution was to offer an end-to-end service and not merely a software system. We take care of it all, including setup of old legacy systems to synchronise systems. We arrange collection of funds, follow up on missed payments, arrange product delivery, and even help vets market the subscriptions to their customer base,” Dreyer explained.
This end-to-end service sees Knose first sit down with a vet to understand their goals, pain points, and preferred routine care protocols.
From there, Knose works with a vet to co-develop a plan around these treatment protocols, the products they recommend, and the number and types of services they deem appropriate for their practice and the customers they service. In turn, the startup also helps them determine the price points that will suit both their clients and their business.
According to Dreyer, the service simply helps pet owners better plan for the everyday care of their pets.
“This is not an additional cost….the plans offer pet owners peace of mind. They know they are doing the right thing by their pet, they get the products they need delivered to their door, just when they need it,” he said.
“They have the confidence to take their pet to the vet knowing that routine care elements are paid for; and they know that they get expert advice included in the package at no extra charge.”
A standard bundle includes an annual health check, vaccination, just-in-time home delivery of flea, tick and worm control products, and unlimited vet-nurse assessments, costing between $39 and $49 a month, depending on various inclusions and the location of the practice. Vets can, of course, also specify their own plans.
Vets themselves, meanwhile, can choose from one of three tiers of subscription for use of the platform, with the starter costing $59 per month.
According to Dreyer, Knose has two key competitors, Best for Pet and Vet Pay. Vet Pay is a credit provider, giving pet owners the ability to set up flexible payment plans for care, while Best for Pet is owned by ASX-listed vet group NVC, a fact which Dreyer believes means independent vets want to stay away.
With the Knose platform developed with $500,000 in funding from three angel investors, Dreyer said the startup is now focused on proving its business model by getting 50 practices on board for a beta, and achieving at least 15 percent penetration among these vets’ customer bases.
Image: Chris Durbridge, Tiaan Dreyer, Nathan Harris, Dr Julie Summerfield. Source: Supplied.