Veteran Ottawa entrepreneurs unleash pet-tracking device

Ottawa-based startup that uses QR-code technology to help owners of lost dogs and cats locate their furry friends aims for $100M in revenues
George Borovec
George Borovec is CEO of Ottawa-based startup TokenPet, which uses high-tech hardware to help owners find lost pets. (Photo by Mark Holleron).

A group of serial entrepreneurs with a shared love of pets have come together to form a technology company that helps people’s lost furry friends get safely back to their homes.

There are an estimated 16.4 million pet dogs and cats in Canada and 163.6 million more in the United States. Some are bound to get lost from time to time; in a 2012 study by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 15 per cent of pet owners reported a lost dog or cat in the last five years.

Ottawa-based startup TokenPet uses a combination of tech hardware and social engagement to help get those lost pets back into their owners’ arms. Anyone who finds a pet wearing one of the company’s QR-coded tags can scan it using their smartphone and pull up the pet’s complete profile, including contact information and any dietary and medical information needed to feed and care for the animal while waiting for the owner to come pick it up.

Initially formed by a group of experienced entrepreneurs in Brazil and later incorporated in Canada, the company launched just over a month ago and says it’s already on a fast-track to becoming the largest network for lost pets in the world.

“To people who own pets, this is their family,” says CEO George Borovec, an established Ottawa tech entrepreneur. “The devastation when someone loses their pet is incredible.”

Calling it a “next-generation” service, he explains that the firm chose to develop QR-coded tags because they see them as being more user-friendly and accessible than micro-chips and less costly than a subscription-based GPS collar. “It’s super quick and easy, and it’s highly effective.”

What differentiates TokenPet from its competitors also selling similar QR-coded pet tags, though, is that the Ottawa startup is focusing lots of attention on building a thriving online community of pet owners that the company’s founders anticipate will encourage customer loyalty and boost its brand visibility, Mr. Borovec says. The company’s website includes or will include a breed guide, adoption pages, diet and ownership advice, product reviews and other resources for pet owners.

“The tags are our entry point into the platform itself,” Mr. Borovec says. “Our absolute mission is that we’re going to be able to help pet parents at every stage of their pet-parenting journey.”

In its first month, TokenPet added more than 400 users; the goal is to reach the 50,000-user mark by the end of the firm’s first year. With a multi-pronged approach to strategic partnerships, Mr. Borovec says he has no doubts that the company can achieve that goal.

The first priority is to land deals with retail distributors, gaining wider distribution locally and then expanding across the country and eventually into the United States.

“We have had lots of discussions with stores, so now it’s just a matter of getting them out.”

“We’re moving as fast as we can, and to be honest it feels like we can’t move fast enough to keep up,” Mr. Borovec says. “We have had lots of discussions with stores, so now it’s just a matter of getting them out.”

Meanwhile, TokenPet has been working on an employee perks program whereby a company can buy tags and give them to its pet-owning employees for free.

“That program has really taken off,” he says. “It’s a really great way to bring on a whole bunch of users.”

TokenPet also wants to establish partnerships with pet-food and pet-insurance brands.

The company projects revenues of $1.5 million in the first 18 to 24 months. And through strong strategic partnerships, Mr. Borovec says he and his co-founders believe they can get to between $100 million and $150 million by the firm’s fourth or fifth year.

Mr. Borovec says for pet owners’ peace of mind, this kind of simple technology is worth it.

“For $9.99, the safety of your pet is huge.”