Technology has gone to the dogs. In March, startup CEOs gathered at Digital Garage in San Francisco for Found, the first ever dog tech conference. The event was hosted by Pack, a local startup that provides a social network for dogs and their owners. Pack co-founder and CEO, Megan Casey, said the purpose of the conference was to discuss the growing industry of technology for dog owners. “We wanted to get a group of fellow dog startups that see the same type of opportunity and solutions together into one room to say this isn’t an underdog issue, this is something that’s actually a really big market,” she said.
Guest speakers at Found included Aaron Easterly, CEO of Rover, a service that connects dog owners with dog sitters in over 10,000 US cities. Easterly discussed the trends he feels are driving pet tech, including an increased demand for pet products and the lower cost of tech startups. “When you have an increase in demand and an increase in supply, you get an explosion in pet tech,” he explained. Easterly said he sees a huge undeserved market in dog technology, and urged fellow startups to think big. “Don’t get overly stuck on asking, ‘How big is the market?’” he said. “That’s less interesting than asking, ‘How big could it be?’”
Facebook content strategist, Jonathan Colman, hosted a dog design panel which featured designers like Facebook’s Jon Lax, Gambit’s Kelly Strodl, Pack’s John Henry Müller and Mule Design’s Erica Hall. Lax discussed how technology can help dog owners better care for their pets. “When I think about design for this space, I think about it as trying to be better caregivers to these animals we brought into our lives,” he said. “All we want to do is be better humans for ourselves and for these animals.”
Lax went on to explain that he doesn’t want technology to be too much of a distraction for dog owners. “I don’t want people diving into their phones for entertainment for two hours and forgetting to take the dog for a walk,” he said. “The technology we bring in is more in utility to increase the time we can spend with the dog. If it gets inverted and we spend more time on the tech than the dog, the design is broken. If you can do something where with a quick interaction you become a better caregiver to your dog, that would be the goal.”