Episode 12: Susan Sierota – Waggit

Susan Sierota

Susan Sierota

Waggit is a Smart Health Collar and App that is more than just a location tracker. It’s proven to be a life-changer by collecting enormous amounts of data about your pet’s health and is the only dog wearable that provides early indicators of pain or illness to help families discover potentially life-threatening health issues in their dogs BEFORE it’s too late. Specifically, they track each dog’s baselines and changes in heart rate, respiration rate, body temp, heart rate variability, sleep patterns, body positions, calories burned, time, distance, speed, activity intensity, ambient temp, and location.

The Collar and app are just the entry point as the players in the pet health ecosystem recognize the high value of the health data that no other tracker provides. For example, Pharma conducting scientific studies with Waggit accelerates both the machine learning in their algorithms and getting to predictability. Actuarial data will drive insurance partnerships and better care. Nutritional information combined with health metrics is game-changing for both manufacturers and service providers.


Learn more about Waggit

Waggit website: waggit.dog

Hi, I’m Susan Sierota, and you’re tuned in to the Animal Innovations Show.

You’ve tuned into The Animal innovations Show, where we feature people, products, services, and ideas that are helping animals and the people who care for them live better lives. If it’s innovative, and if it helps animals, you can find it here first. So get ready. Here comes this week’s newest innovation for animals.

Yeah, very nice introduction. So tell us who you are, Susan and how you’re innovating to help animals?

Absolutely. So I am the co-founder and CEO of Waggit and Waggit is a smart collar and app that is so much more than just the location tracker. What we do is have really proven to be a life-changer as we learn each dog’s baselines and alert to things that can be indicators of true pain and or illness.

Really? Yeah, it’s pretty awesome, and it’s a pretty big deal, so we learn specifically the baselines and alert to changes in heart rate, respiration rate, heart rate variability, body temperature changes in their positions if they’re in the eating drinking position a lot more than normal changes in their sleeping patterns. Both you see when dogs are in pain, that you’ll see a lot more in their light sleep or if they’re really in pain. Sometimes it’ll just jump into a deep sleep and not move. But you can see those as changes and then all their fun stuff on activity. And we also do location to truly help discover potentially life-saving things in their pups before it’s too late. And, yeah, we laugh when we say we do location as well because no dog wants to wear five collars.

Right, right. So this is a collar. It’s got, like sensors on it and giro’s and tell me more about what this does.

Yeah, absolutely so specifically, it actually is an attachment to your collar, which is great. So it comes with the wagon itself and then two Attackers as well as your charger in your court, so everything you need and it attaches to any standard 1.5 or one inch collar, and it fits dogs right now, around £20 in larger In around a years time, we’ll have a product for the smaller pups and kitty cats as well. It would be too big for the little ones to wear right now. Yeah, right now, the thing that drives that really is the GPS, the modem and the battery needed to have decent battery life with those functions. And so the second product for the smaller ones without defined my dog location function and all of the same health benefits. It’ll be really, really small and able to even wear the tiny, tiny little teacup dogs because they deserve to be kept healthy too.

Exactly right now. How did you come up with all of the components for this? Right? Because, like you said, it’s more than just just tracking location like, How did you come up with all these ideas for all the things that it does?

So I’ve got to say, I wish I was like, smart enough to know exactly what we needed to go develop, but I am not. Instead, we actually worked with vets from Colorado State University, U. C. Davis and Texas A and M and just laid out what our goal was is this category of dog wearables has been around for six years. I like to say we’re on the third generation of devices, and that’s Waggit. That same exact place ftibit. It was when they broke through for humans. Third generation number, a little inch market and what it is is we’re finally at a point where technology has caught up to be able to do some of these things in a small enough form factor to wear on an everyday dog. And so what we did is we said, you know, we want to be able to help pet parents know when something is wrong, since dogs are so good at hiding pain.

And I had a personal story that really brought that to life for me, and so really then started exploring what would be helpful. And that’s where the vets came in and really helped us understand. So, for example, we initially in our first design idea, we were also going to have a training feature and have vibration and sound. We were working with one of the 100 behavior lists in the US who told us how hard it was to get that right and that we really actually do a disservice to a lot of dogs by using vibration and sound, because we confuse them, which is really not good for them, because our timing’s off and if you can’t do certain things. And so when I really started digging into it, there’s no way our collar would deliver that well enough with all the other parameters we had of waterproofing and things to where the human could hear it well enough to be trained to do it right. So we said, Nope, right, So it was really sitting there with the vets and saying What information would help us keep dogs happy, healthy and safe and really else was the key component of that, and they helped us.

The thing that’s really cool, Chris is we’ve built several things into the Waggit collar that we’re not even sharing yet. So just like cars that get that over the air updates and we’re doing the same thing with Waggit is we have our machine learning going in the background. So, for example, we’re collecting ambient temperature, and that’s really great. You know, the number one cause of death in Texas for dogs, heatstroke. There’s other scenarios where you want to know, but just like your car, if your dog’s wearing his wagon and he’s baking in the sun, it’s going to read hot right. And so what we did is we put that in the Waggit, and then we have our algorithms and machine running in the background, looking at the weather, API, the humidity, API, the dogs, respiration and the dog’s body temp on over 1000 dogs that we have out there wearing Waggit’s now and we’re spinning that through. So as soon as we’re super super confident that we can sort of understand that sun factor, then we can tell them that the temperature is changing and it’s dangerous to them. So there’s several things like that we’ve built-in, so we can continue to Murad additional insights to pet parents without having them needing a new collar.

I love that. That’s so innovative. You’re thinking ahead as to look. We can keep updating this. Like you said, we’ve got the physical hardware. You’ve got the device, but now you’re just providing that software update to get even more out of it, you got it, and then the other piece of that puzzle is the entire pet health ecosystem gets that the pet parent.

Being at the center of health care is where it’s at now and leveraging of that leveraging the players. But that pet parent is feeding different food, getting different exercise, right, really understanding in the same way that we’re looking at human health differently. Our pets are part of our family, and we’re using that lens to look at how to and because we know more, we can do better. And so as we look at that, having pharma do scientific studies with the wagon will help us get to predictability sooner, right when we integrate in with photo recognition api of food, we can easily take a picture of the label because most people are pretty consistent with the dog food they feed, but then easily take a picture. If you’re doing sweet potatoes and green beans or pizza and how many bytes and then start looking at the impact there is, they’re different types of food that fits better with different ages and breeds and activity levels. And geography is really being able to get to that point where we can see all of that through the pups information and then be able to give even better and better insights to pet parts.

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I’m just waiting for you to say big data. Could you just say big data? That’s what you’re saying over and over is all this data and what you’re going to be able to do with this, to actually help parents like you said, I don’t know what my dogs and painlessly yell Tory limps or something like that. But the stuff that you’re talking about is preventative. It’s proactive. It’s not just waiting for him to really cry out. You can find out for an advance.

Yeah, like that’s the whole idea. Behind it is if we can get our pups longer lives a couple of years or even healthier lives when they’re here, or, you know you can bring them home if they get into something. Because you can monitor all this for yourself so they don’t have the trauma and you don’t have the cost of being overnight in certain scenarios. There will always be a need for the medical doctors to lead the medical side, but just giving that pet parent more and more information that they can provide.

We have a vet report in the Waggit app that pulls all of this information that people can give when they do have questions as well. I mean, we Google, and you’re in the industry that you Google like the importance of knowing your dog’s baselines. It’s like a million hits because they go to the vet. They’re excited or scared, right? And so to be able to provide that just allows us to do so much to help them now and then proactively help them in the future. And that’s truly our mission. That we’re out is to give them as good of lives as they can for as long as possible. Like we a wagon we’ve We’ve done our whole What do we believe in? What do we want to build and and who are we and our three core beliefs that center us on everything? Chris, the first is that life is just better with dogs, and we’ll broaden that with cats because we love cats, too. Cats, come on, we really do. The only thing is, I question how we’re going to do product development with me personally, because my dog won’t let me get a cat I would love. He says No, but anyway, so we have life is truly better with our animals. The second is that no one knows your dog like you do, and then the third thing is the right information at the right time has the power to change everything, and that’s what we’re really about. Is is that that bonds that creates a better life and allowing you as a pet parent to have information and tools to manage your pup. What you know is best for your pub. And then we’re just about providing that right information at the right time because it really will change everything.

Yeah. Now, clearly, you’re an animal lover, but what’s your background? I mean, are you an engineer? Are you a software person? You speak a good sales game. I’ll give you that too.

Well, I appreciate that. I grew up on the business side, so I grew up actually launching new products and different types of products, mostly consumer packaged goods. I didn’t. This is my first attempt at a hardware product to put it out in the world, and I’ve learned when they say hardware is hard, hardware is hard and we have the software component, too. So it’s not like we have one or the other. So up, really on the business side, learning the importance of understanding truly what the right insights are for your customers, and the customers are king of everything. And for us, I will tell you it’s the most complicated customer segmentation I have ever done because you have your human customer and you have your dog customer right and where they fall on. That segmentation really does depend not just on both of those personalities, but also changes with age. So, on a fun note, I want to know what type of pet parent you are crisp. We have three we have. They all have commonality of pet parents comfortable with technology, one happier, healthier, safer dog. And we have numbers behind all of those things, right? But the three sub segments are passionate parents, the passionate parents, their dogs, their baby and their motto is All you need is love. Then you have your playful parents and their dogs, their best friend and their motto is a tired dogs, a happy dog. And then you have your practical pet parents. Their dog is their pack, and their motto is My dog’s behavior is a reflection of me, and they all love equally. They look very differently and and so so. Chris. Are you a passionate, playful or practical parents, Definitely passionate with the current dog that we have? He is. We always say, he’s like a cat in a dog’s body. No, he’s definitely our boy, and he’s the closest thing to a son. I love that. That’s how I feel about my Dylan and and I Actually he started out. I was playful and because I’m like he has to get three hours of exercise and it I think it was my excuse to hike a lot. However, as he started getting older, I became passionate, right. But my point is, that’s how I grew up is really understanding for each of those humans what’s really important to them and what’s important to their dog. And then let’s make sure that whatever we give them and how we design me up and how we designed the collar and what features are there, works for each of those groups who want to interact differently with their park.

So take us back to the point where this idea came into your head and it was viral, right? It was an era warm. You couldn’t get it out and where did you go? So my last dog, Mulligan, was everything. He was one of the very special ones, and yes, I know they all are. So I had him. He saw me through some really tough times a lot totally okay now, but I had six back surgeries and he was the one who got me through it. So we were super tight and I had heard that, you know, dogs are good at hiding pain, but I and my own heart knew him so well. I was like, I’ll know. I mean, we were together all of the time and I would know. And when I lost him to cancer, the fact that I lost him was hard enough. The fact that I found out he had been suffering like for months and I didn’t know and I didn’t know that even the closer you are, it’s not just their pack instinct that makes some high paying because it’s safer. But they’re just going to please you even more. Service dogs are great examples of ones that they will not show you anything. And I felt like I let him down. He was my everything and saved me and I let him suffer. And I was like, This is not okay. Something’s got to exist where we don’t have to do this when they give us everything, we need to be able to give them something back. And I started doing all of this research, and there was nothing out there that could deliver on that information that I felt would have changed everything for us and so said, Okay, I quit my job and said, Let’s go make this happen The thing this needs to exist in the world and that’s one leg it was born. Wow, that’s a tremendous story. So now you had experience and actually building hardware products before and mobile apps and things like that I did not. However, I have had experience building teams, and so my first step in that was to go find the people to join me on this journey and convince them which wasn’t that hard with the people I picked who are as obsessed with their animals as I am to go make this happen. And so I reached out first to carry, who is my co founder, who I have worked with on every business I’ve touched for over 20 years. I’m dating myself, but I somehow had bribed her, convinced her to come with me everywhere, and we have a fun history, like when she gave birth to her daughter. I, of course, sent her dogs the care package because I knew she was She wasn’t there. Her mom, she was writing a letter to her mom, who has the same name as me. And it was hi Grandma from the dogs and it accidentally came to me and it was okay because I just read the dogs back right? It’s been a central part of our relationship the whole time. And then I called from there. So an executive, I’ve worked with a different, unfortunately, 100 business and said, Hey, I’ve got this idea. Come do this with me and then the same conversation for someone from my early days 20 years ago and said, Let’s go make this happen. And so in that I brought someone who is an expert on the hardware and software side to help build this and teach me. And so I’ve learned a lot along the way, but definitely needed a team to make this happen. What would you do if your cat stop breathing? Would you be able to check their pulse or perform rescue breathing and CPR in time to save their life? Getting certified in cat first aid and CPR is essential to being prepared in case of an emergency. That’s why the Animal Rescue Professionals Association teamed up with Denise Fleck, the pet safety crusader, to bring you the courses and certifications you need to be prepared. Their cat First Aid and CPR course will teach you what you need to know about how to find your cats, pulse and respiration rates and how to conduct rescue breathing and see PCR if required. You also learn how to deal with other emergencies like snakebites, bee stings and tick removal so you can render the age or pet requires. Learn more at www dot animal rescue professionals dot org and get certified today. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot. Like you said, you’ve had some trials and tribulations. I mean, you said this is like version three, isn’t it? Yeah, So we actually shipped out a couple years ago at the end of 2018 and got the product out there, and literally 20% of it worked perfectly and 80% did not work at all. And it made no sense, Chris, because we didn’t do any changes. A lot of times they’ll be changes in between. We were focused on really on our making it scalable on the manufacturing side. So it it made no sense and so fast forward, and we had somehow the impossible happened. And we had mixed reels of the GPS module that was so it wasn’t just the wrong part, which we would have been able to find easier. Some of them had the right parts. Some of them have their owner, and because it’s GPS impacts your data, your battery, your everything and even the way we have a really complex product. So it’s an eight layer, rigid flex board. So when we X rayed them, you didn’t see that angle, so you couldn’t see it. And so that was our first big Whoa! And then as soon as we realized that it took us another six months to get components to get back manufacturing, and thankfully we had pre sold around 800 colours at the time with a community that is amazing, and so they stuck it out with us and really were like, Please, just make sure you get it right before you ship it, and those are dogs and they we really have built this community over this authentic love for dogs like we know all over each other’s dogs names. And you know why they have a wagon. And people know when I’m having a hard day, they just send me pictures of their dogs, and it makes everything better. And so it was great to have this community just to hang in there with us while we had to start that manufacturing process over. Wow. Quite the lesson to learn, huh? Yeah, it was quite the lesson. So, um yeah, but we’re on the other side of that, which is great. And we are on around 1200 dogs and we are catching up. We also had I I’d like to say we got the 12 punch we had that happened. Then we finally were on the other side of that shift out at the very end of 19. I had planned on using the first quarter to optimize everything and for all the different geography is was cellular. And our product was in Washington state just waiting for the lids to be put on. I wanted to make sure the waterproofing was right, and so we did not have product itself and first half of the year because of covid in the quarantine. So, yes, that was our 12 punch. When they say it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy. But the good news is we got product Now. We’re on that. We’re almost sold out. So if anyone out there wants to get a wagon, I would do it sooner rather than later, because which is a great place to be to finally be on the other side, have product, have customers who love it. And, seriously, Chris are getting stories of literally things that wagon has helped the parents find. Like we helped one of our pet parents discover a potentially deadly reaction to flee and take medicine. They’re not start and other stories like that that are, like, really, really making a difference. Yeah, that’s got to be motivation to do even more. Yeah, it’s why we do this right. It’s why we continue to get through the problems that I mentioned because not getting through them means we lose the opportunity to help dogs. And that’s just not an okay answer. They deserve it, right? They deserve it. They give us everything. They deserve it.

Susan, this is really cool. I love what you guys are doing. I love the fact that you’ve pivoted and everything you’ve run into. If people want to learn more about you, learn more about Waggit, obviously, by one before they’re gone, right? Where can they go? Absolutely. If anyone is interested to learn more or get a wagon, go to www.waggit.dog – D-o-g. I love that we have dot dog and we’ve got tons of information there and also feel free to email us or contact information on the website. And we’re happy to answer any questions and put you into our community with a whole bunch of pet lovers who have black. It’s so you can check it out. That’s really cool. Is there anything else you wanted to mention before we wrap things up today? The probably only thing that’s super important that I did not share is that my chief dog, Officer Dillon, is a very good boy, and he played a very important role on the team. Not only was he the chief dog officer, he’s our chief waterproof tester, and he’s done his job well and he works for treats. Wow, Chris treats. I’m sure, though, right premium treats none of the treats, of course. Yes. And you can see Dylan’s picture on our website as well.

Very cool. No, I love that. I love the fact that this came out of an idea and a desire to help animals. And like I said, I’m really excited to see where this is going to go and all the new crazy and innovative things you guys are going to add. Thank you so much, Chris. I appreciate you spreading the Waggit, love. And yeah, it’s going to be fun to see where we take it now. Yeah, and we’ll remind our listeners and viewers if you’ve got an idea for somebody I should interview on the show. Innovative product idea service, you name it. Just go to INNOVATIONS.SHOW and let us know about it.

So, thank you again. Susan, I’m really glad you came on today. Thank you, Chris. I’m really grateful you have us on. And I hope you have a great holiday season and give all the animals in your world some extra squeezes for me. I will do by Chris.

Thanks for joining us for the animal innovations show. If you want to volunteer to help animals, check out DOOBERT.COM, where you can join tens of thousands of Dooberteers supporting rescues and shelters around the world to help animals. And if you know, if something or someone innovative that’s helping animals, let us know by going to WWW.INNOVATIONS.SHOW.


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