A new company looking to make it more convenient for pet owners to see their local veterinarian, VetPronto, is now live in San Francisco. A member of the Y Combinator Winter 2015 class, VetPronto is offering on-demand house call veterinary services for dogs and cats, allowing customers to skip a visit to the clinic or just see a vet at a more convenient time – like on evenings and weekends, for example.
The company was founded last spring by Brian Hur, Joe Waltman, and Soren Berg, the latter two who previously sold their email marketing company to Twitter. Meanwhile, Hur is a former Microsoft systems engineer-turned-vet.
“Once I got into the veterinary industry, I noticed there were a lot of gaps in technology all the way through,”Hur explains. “And since getting out and practicing medicine, I’ve really focused on bridging those gaps and making sure that veterinary medicine can be upgraded for the dot-com era.”
A practicing vet since 2011, Hur did the first 100 or so VetPronto appointments himself, before the company contracted with other area veterinarians. Today, it has five vets working part-time and is soon adding a sixth to serve its customers in San Francisco, which is the startup’s main geographic focus for now. (It previously pilot-tested the program in Seattle, however, and that’s still live with its existing customers.)
For consumers, the benefit to using something like VetPronto is the convenience factor. Most of the company’s early customers are busy professionals whose time is more valuable than their money, generally speaking. That being said, VetPronto is working to make its services more affordable to the mainstream – something that could be possible thanks to not having the overhead associated with running a clinic – like having to pay rent or employee salaries.
VetPronto’s pricing is designed to be straightforward and transparent, too, so consumers aren’t left with “sticker shock” when they get their bills. House calls are $129, and there are additional charges for other services like blood work or diagnostics ($99) or vaccines ($25/each with a max. price of $60), for example.
Vets earn a flat $100 per house call, so there’s no incentive for them to upsell consumers on more services, the company notes. Today, VetPronto’s vets are working with the startup part-time, while continuing to work in their respective clinics.
For consumers, the process of using the service is easy. Customers can book their appointments online, by phone, or via a mobile app for Android or iOS. While that lends itself to being more of an “on-demand” offering, most VetPronto customers are booking appointments a day out or more.
In other words, it’s not really like an “Uber for vets” – you don’t push a button and have a vet immediately show up.
Since launching in September, the company has done north of 300 appointments, and recently participated in the Y Combinator startup accelerator which offered them a bit of seed funding. But beyond that and a small friends and family round, VetPronto has been bootstrapped.
“We were bootstrapped for the first eight months, and that forces you to be more concerned about cost,” says co-founder Joe Waltman, when asked how VetPronto will fare better than New York-based Bark & Co.’s similarly focused effort BarkCare, which has since been deprioritized at the e-commerce startup. “We also price our services differently, compensate our vets a little bit differently…and we market a lot differently – we pay a lot less to get a customer,” he says.
Following its participation in YC, the founders want to expand the VetPronto service in their earlier test market of Seattle and bring the service to L.A.
Longer-term, the company could leverage the trusted relationship people have with their vets to sell other products and services, adds Waltman, but that’s not VetPronto’s immediate focus.