Brief - The Hustle

A new vet subscription shows pets really are just like us — they’re suckers for good branding

Written by Conor Grant | Jun 30, 2020 10:55:37 AM

A startup called Small Door, which describes itself as a “veterinary experience” that uses a “membership model,” opened its flagship location in New York this week.

It’s a bold bet that a lifestyle-branded subscription startup can replace traditional veterinary services. 

But it also wouldn’t be the first time a “pet tech” startup copied a human-focused startup.

It’s pet care, disrupted 

Unlike other vets, which typically operate on a pay-per-visit model, Small Door structures its services as a membership model.

Small Door’s model offers pet owners shorter wait times and higher quality care… and it offers coddled corgis the canine equivalent of an airport lounge while they wait for their flea treatment.

Basic memberships for dog owners are $12/month and premium memberships are $75/month (cat owners shell out $8/month and up to $74/month).

The business of pet pampering has been growing for awhile

In the past 3 decades, the business of pet pampering has exploded: The number of households with pets has increased by 11 percentage points since 1988. But SPENDING on pets has increased by nearly 450% since 1994. 

As you might imagine, that kind of growth got some tails wagging at venture capital firms — and, sure enough, investors pumped $519m in “pet tech” startups in just the first 7 months of 2018.

Some pet tech companies took aim at existing pet care rivals. Some examples:

  • Wag took on traditional dog walkers
  • Chewy challenged pet retail giants
  • The Farmer’s Dog and others took on kibble kingpins

But in other cases, pet startups invented new products that pet owners didn’t even know they needed — and many simply mimicked trendy products made for humans. A few cases in point:

  • Embark makes (doggie) DNA testing kits 
  • Fitbark makes fitness wearables (for dogs)
  • Bond Pets is developing lab-grown (pet) food
  • And HonestPaws — and others — created CBD oil (yep… for dogs)