By @SimonCocking

WoofAdvisor are currently participating on Bank of Ireland’s inaugural StartLab incubator for high potential tech startups.  Bank of Ireland met with 200 startups; we are one of 10 selected for the program, which is based in Eyre Square Galway, and runs to mid-June.

The six month intensive programme was developed to help the startups scale their companies and includes access to Seed Fund Venture Capital investors, mentors, support from the Bank of Ireland Innovation Team (including David Tighe, Head of Innovation, Gene Murphy, Entrepreneur in Residence, and Tracy Keogh, Galway Startup Community Manager) and access to Bank of Ireland product teams, tech sector specialists and technology.

Describe the company – the elevator pitch

At its core, WoofAdvisor.com is an online platform for the growing global community of Pet Lovers who travel with their Pets.

WoofAdvisor.com  helps pet lovers Find – Enjoy – Share, pet-friendly Accommodation, Destinations, Amenities and Services.

How are you different?

Pet lovers are increasingly unhappy leaving their pets (mainly Dogs) behind. The problem when they try and plan for including their pet in their travel plans is that most of the information available is not pet-specific and is unreliable / inaccurate i.e. many places listed as pet friendly are not (30-35% per our research).

Pet lovers need the means to be able to properly interrogate the ‘pet friendly’ classification – WoofAdvisor was established to address that in a meaningful way.

Solution:

  • 100% of premises listed as pet-friendly on WoofAdvisor have been verified directly with the business owner.
  • WoofAdvisor includes relevant, independent pet-specific reviews by like-minded members of the WoofAdvisor community.

It’s 100% free for Users, and Businesses can also list their business for free.

WoofAdvisor is also about Social / Community

WoofAdvisor is also different in that it was specifically designed to be Community-based i.e. to help like-minded pet lovers come together as a Community and engage with each other and share their pet (travel and otherwise) experiences.

Pet lovers are really social when it comes to their pets, especially online – Pet Photos / Videos have one of the highest (and fastest) engagement levels of all online content.

  • 83 Million Pet Pages on Facebook
  • 1 in 10 Pets in UK have their own Social Profile
  • >50% of Pet Owners in UK share their Pet details on Social Networks

To encourage Community engagement, WoofAdvisor allows members to form a Dog Walking Group, Share the Dog Walking, Message / Friend other members etc……..

Ultimately we believe that WoofAdvisor has the potential to become a social network for Pet Lovers.

“We have 48 million people that we can email on a regular basis…but those are tactics. It is the community aspect that drives everything.”  Adam Medros, TripAdvisor, VP of Global Product (June 2013)

Why will the company / product do well?

WoofAdvisor is solving real issues about something really important – WoofAdvisor is not just about people planning trips with their pets: it’s really about Pet Lovers and their Pets, one the strongest bonds / relationships possible.

Online Reviews / Referrals are an increasingly important determinant in how “Choices are Influenced”, especially in the context of the views, opinions, experiences of “People Like Me” i.e. people seek advice from others whose views they have good reason to value – in this case, like-minded pet owners. This is the #1 method for many business gaining new business / customers today, particularly among Millennials.

There is a huge global market, crossing every demographic in almost every country in every region.

Pet Travel is a growing trend and a missed business opportunity for many accommodation providers:

A Euromonitor International Report (Nov 2013) states:

“The pet-travel market in the UK is set to increase by 6% year-on-year for next five years……..

Pet Travel presents opportunities for additional revenue growth of up to 30% per year for hotel and travel agents which choose to incorporate pet services…..

There remains no tour operator specifically targeted towards this consumer group. Pet owners are prepared to pay a premium to guarantee the health and well-being of their four-legged friends, up to over 30% on standard prices” 

Where are you based? 

Dun Laoghaire at present, currently under review and will change shortly.

When was the company launched?

September 2015 (in Ireland as test market).

UK launch end Q1 2016 followed by…………

What have been your biggest wins to date?

Really terrific media response and coverage to date (the latest mention was the Economist Gulliver Travel Blog), which augurs very well for the UK launch, bearing in mind how passionate they are about their dogs.

Also, given how recently we launched, the numbers are very encouraging:  we already have 550+ users signed up on the website, over 1K Likes on Facebook. Other positive GA statistics include > 9K Unique Visitors to the site, 52K Page Views, average 4.7 pages and 4 minutes per session.

Finally, the name recognition is already very evident, which is a really positive marker in terms of branding / marketing.

Who’s behind it?

At present me, Gerry Molloy with help from my wife.  The plan is to grow that quickly.

WoofAdvisor.com was conceived by me at end 2013 and has been in research / development since, launching last September.  My previous careers were in Contract flooring (Owner / Manager) and Private security industry (Executive Director) so this venture into the digital arena is obviously a completely new departure for me.  Developing and launching WoofAdvisor.com involved significant reskilling, covering areas as diverse as Business Innovation, Social Media, Digital Marketing and Web Design.

What are you long term plans for your product / company?

While Ireland is a great place for start-ups and testing your product or service, realistically our (immediate) future plans have to focus on larger markets: the UK has 6.4M households (24%) with Dogs, with a majority of those now travelling with their Dogs (often multiple trips annually).

Corresponding figures for the USA = 43.5M (38%) with Dogs, again a clear majority travelling with their Dogs.

A Euromonitor report (November 2013 ) identified the ongoing trend in Pet Humanisation as a key driver behind the recorded growth in Pet Travel, which it forecast to continue to grow in the UK domestic market by 6% p.a. for the next 5 years.

This is not only a huge market, it is a growing market and I believe the timing for a platform like WoofAdvisor to capitalise on this is excellent.

What are your favourite tech gadgets?

Chromecast.

Dropbox Camera Upload.

What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?

One of the recent startups you profiled – Profilyser, which also launched in September.  A terrific concept that could help me identify and reach relevant Key Influencers and deliver a more focused / targeted digital marketing strategy.

Inspire 1 Flying Camera/Drone with 4K resolution and live HD streaming. The prefect answer for getting all the awkward photos I need for WoofAdvisor.

How is it funded?

I made the decision to self-fund and bring WoofAdvisor.com to market myself, with the aim of validating the business case and business model.  Once established, my plan is to engage with potential Sponsors and Partners including Pet Insurers, Pet Food manufacturers, national/regional Tourism bodies, and potential Media partners (including but not restricted to Travel, Leisure/Lifestyle, Pet/Dog magazines and publications).

I am open to outside investors, but must stress that it’s not just about funding: getting the right backer is key to scaling the business.

How much does the service cost?

Business / Revenue Model:

  • Users are free
  • Free Basic Listings for Businesses
  • Premium Listings (see below)

On an ongoing basis, WoofAdvisor’s income model will derive from three primary income streams:

  • Sponsors

(Pet Insurers, Pet Food manufacturers, national/regional Tourism bodies, and potential Media partners (including but not restricted to Travel, Leisure/Lifestyle, Pet/Dog magazines and publications).

  • CPC (Cost per Click) referral charge for Premium listings where businesses pay for referral links from WoofAdvisor.com directly to their own website
  • Advertising

Future plans?

Present phase is about building the business (Content, User base, Business listings) currently underway in preparation for formal launch in UK, to be followed at a later date by launch in the USA.

How do people get in touch with you?

WoofAdvisor – Get in Touch  or  [email protected]


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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