The Future is Furry

Entrepreneurs and innovators gather to share their ideas for high-tech products and services for pets and pet owners

16 Sep 2019 | 02:32

The August 21st Pet Tech Meetup at the outdoor beer garden at Andaz, at 75 Wall Street, was experiencing a happy hour of thunder with a promise of downpours. Many pets decided to avoid wet undercarriages and the shiver-under-the-bed lightning, but their owners showed up and made for brainy, forward-thinking conversation.

The sponsor of the Pet Tech Meetup gathered these high tech entrepreneurs together partly to celebrate the first ever Dog Restaurant Week, where pet friendly establishments had seating available, and sometimes a menu for our tailed companions.

On the Road with Rover

Sonali Nigam and Leah Wang, the team behind Petminded, a specialized travel service, hosted the Meetup. "Dogs are part of our family," she Nigam told me, explaining the commonality shared by the members. "We only get to enjoy our animals for a short period of time, and I want mine to be with me." While doing a great deal of bicoastal traveling, and taking first her cat, and later her dog, people would ask her, "How do you do it?"

Her newly adopted five-year-old dog suffered from separation anxiety, and she had to figure out a human way to bring her pet with her. "Thirty-seven percent of pet owners travel with their pets each year and want to share meaningful experiences with them," Nigam said. She started helping her friends and family plan trips with their pets, and it grew into a business. Nigam and Wang now help both the novice pet traveler, as well as those who don't have time to research and plan a pet-friendly vacation. "We are becoming the best-in-class travel service for pet parents who want a safe, hassle-free and memorable vacation with their pets," she said.

Tennille Teague, owner of Jaxx Hound, provides travel equipment and accessories for your pet pals. Jaxx Hound's attention to detail, taking into account things like air flow, easy laundering, and comfort for both your shoulder and your pet, shows in its products. As for philanthropy, Teague said, "I have a special focus on senior dogs at the shelter. My company donates a portion of our profits to Animal Haven.” Teague is exploring a new add-on to her business; pet-friendly lounge spaces throughout Manhattan.

Sustainable is Attainable

Sylvia Heisel arrived at the Meetup sporting a raincoat, made from sustainable material, that she designs and her futurist company manufactures. "I'm developing pet furniture created with 3D computing technology," she said. Along with being a fashion designer, Heisel runs a design lab for 3d printing and creates experimental fashions using sustainable materials like carbon fiber NinjaFlex. Among other accolades, she’s been recognized as one of the "25 Forward Thinkers Defining the Future of Fashion” and "Top 100 Women in Wearable and Consumer Tech", as well as one of "12 Amazing People You Need to Know In New York Fashion Tech.”

"Cement creates a lot of pollution, and so does carbon dioxide emissions from energy plants," Heisel told me. "Researchers have figured out a way to capture the carbon dioxide and convert it into a safe material that can replace cement," she said. She will be using this new material to create her pet furniture. She also teaches on occasion, so look her up and hunt her down if you're interested in her cutting edge ideas.

Mentors Galore

For the curious, the techies, and the innovators out there, two entities were mentioned throughout the evening. The first is the Columbia Startup Lab, the birthplace of over 250 successful start-ups. The catch is that to qualify to use the lab one of your team members needs to be a Columbia University graduate.

The second resource is SCORE NYC, a free mentoring service for your start-up. They have a mentorship program that's tied into the government's Small Business Administration. Their volunteers provide free and confidential mentoring, and they hold workshops as well.

Chris Gonzalez is the founder of the Pet Tech Meetup, which he started three years ago. He's a co-owner of Barkly Pets, and his company worked with SCORE as they built their own unique dog walking business, as well as an app that will be available soon for independent dog walking businesses. Currently their app and their business pair you up with local, reputable dog walkers.

It finally stopped pouring and we wandered out to the outdoor bar and seating area. There were dog treats available, and a donation cup as well. The money raised wen to the sponsored charity of the event, Foster Dogs Inc.

There's another Pet Tech meeting planned for November. The combination of caring for animals while building a business using state of the art resources and programming invigorates. What’s your idea?