One of the worst things that can happen to a pet owner is losing their pet.
Stephen West, the CEO and Founder of Raleigh-based Pet Video Verify, understood this well when he formed his startup in 2012.
With 20-plus years of experience in information technology, West was watching TV one day, hearing about how a pet couldn’t be found even while wearing a microchip. Upon further research, he realized that even with these microchips, there’s an incredibly low percentage of pets returned.
Like a classic entrepreneur, he thought that there must be a better way. So he created one in Pet Video Verify, a video identification software that connects lost and found pets. Now the startup has expanded to include a pet supply-and-beyond e-commerce platform, where customers from all around the world helped increase revenue by 1,000 percent last year.
“Our core motto is that we want to solve all pet owner issues, starting with the lost-and-found pet because that’s the worst thing that can happen to a pet owner,” West said.
The main app is being rebuilt as a better version currently, West said. And the supply store’s customer base grows every day, up to 500 visitors daily from 100 just three or four months ago.
While bootstrapped at the moment, West said he hopes to raise around $250-$500K in seed money over the next couple of years.
West said throughout his startup journey, he’s learned the importance of keeping persistent and moving forward even when others have doubts. And that’s been for a good reason. Pet Video Verify has seen an explosion of growth due to more and more customers staying home and purchasing items online.
“The pandemic helped us because people were more hunkered-down,” West said. “They were more at home and they shopped online. That really brought customers to our supplies site, and it helped grow our brand.”
When it comes to the video identification software element of the Pet Video Verify business, pet owners are also increasingly turning away from microchips, West said. Microchips are often not effective and have even been linked to cancer in animals.
With Pet Video Verify, West wants to be able to return at least 60 percent of lost pets. But Pet Video Verify’s plans for serving the pet-owner consumer segment go far beyond that.
“Our longer-term vision is that the pet owners can use our software to better manage their pets and better manage their lives by buying supplies from us for whatever they need,” West said.
Situated well in the Triangle tech ecosystem, West and Pet Video Verify took a step toward growing the business by joining the American Underground community, where West said he’s gained perspective by listening to other founders.
“The best part of the ecosystem is it has helped me as a founder in being able to listen to other founders’ stories and what they had to go through and how they navigated the choppy waters of starting a company like this,” West said. “So I was able to draw some ideas as to how they got around the issues and apply them to my company.”
Pet Video Verify aims to continue growing, becoming a global company that serves the pet-owner market and ultimately connecting owners across the world to the pets they love and lost, West said.