Vets, Pets, and the Crowd
What do a facial-recognition cat feeder, a Fitbit for dogs, and a mobile-controlled treat dispenser have in common? Crowdfunding.
Each of these products was successfully supported by a crowdfunding campaign and, in some cases, received in excess of $100,000 from their supporters.
But what does that mean? What’s a campaign? What’s a supporter? And most importantly, why should I care? We’re going to explore these questions in more detail and shed a bit of light on a process that is flipping market validation and product development on its head.
What is Crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding refers to the ability to leverage financial contributions from a large group of people to help fund a particular product, service, cause, or initiative.
These projects can be about anything, from 3D printers, to the creation of a film, to the costs of a medical treatment…to a potato salad…really.
There are a number of online platforms that support crowdfunding and allow you to host various campaigns in exchange for a small fee per transaction. Currently, Indiegogo and Kickstarter are the largest and most well known.
How Does it Work?
An individual or group will create a “campaign,” which runs for a predetermined length of time, usually 30 days. The campaign often features a variety of rewards available to supporters.
In exchange for committing a certain amount of funding, a supporter will receive the designated reward level. In some circumstances, the reward is just the product itself, but people can get creative with rewards, which might range from thank-you videos to an exclusive invite to the launch.
These campaigns are incredibly creative and often allow for a different type of connection between the creator and the supporter.
In the past, companies would design new products behind closed doors based on what they thought their customers/clients needed. At some point in the process, the company would involve test groups or focus groups, but in many cases, there was a substantial amount of effort put into something before the demand was truly validated.
Fast-forward to today, and hundreds of thousands of groups are using crowdfunding as a way of achieving pre-sales and, more importantly, market validation.
A prototype, a video camera, and a vision can now generate millions of dollars in support and it’s becoming a game changer.
Lots of people. In 2013, on Kickstarter alone, 3 million people supported campaigns to the tune of 480 million dollars. What is even more exciting is that those pledges came from 214 countries, highlighting the global nature of the process.
This growth has occurred incredibly fast, fueled by the interconnectivity of the Internet. According to the research firm Massolution, 308 crowdfunding platforms raised 2.7 billion dollars in 2012, and that number was projected to increase to 5.1 billion dollars within a year. The World Bank commissioned a report on this subject and, based on the models created, found that crowdfunding had the potential to grow to a 96 billion dollar industry by 2025.
Simply put, this approach is not going away, and if you haven’t participated in it yet, that’s likely to change (and soon).
Why Should Veterinary Medicine Care?
As a veterinarian interested in new technologies, here are a few reasons why I think it is something worth paying attention to:
Lens into innovation
There are very cool projects on these platforms. Small groups of people applying themselves to solve unmet needs often results in creative, inspiring, and useful solutions.
Through crowdfunding, we are invited to be part of the process and it can be rewarding to support the next generation of these ideas.
Furthermore, it can help us understand what types of innovations are coming to the world. Moving beyond headlines, crowdfunding allows us to see how people all over the world are applying emerging technologies to create things of value.
SEE ALSO: The Innovative CE Company that Crowdfunded: VetGirl »
In the animal health world, this means supporting veterinary crowdfunding ideas that have the potential to change how we administer, support, and improve animal health.
Strengthening your professional credibility
One of the things I find incredibly important to understand as a veterinarian is the types of things that pet owners actually care about. With so much fluff out there, it can be difficult to know which products should be taken seriously.
Crowdfunding presents a unique and objective perspective on how society views animals and which topics resonate the most. It’s an opportunity to structure a conversation with pet owners around the future of pet health — by not only speaking to these products, but by testing them as early adopters.
Veterinarians have a powerful voice and we should be able to speak to these technologies in an informed manner. Our expertise can then help shape the direction of these products and the problems they are solving.
Follow. Fund. Create. Crowdfunding is meant to be approachable and we can participate in a number of ways. Whether you choose to find a unique cause to support or start your own campaign for an animal that needs a costly surgery, there are many ways to look at how you can get involved.
Need some examples? Here are some of the most popular animal-related campaigns from 2013.
About the Author
Dr. Adam Little is a veterinarian and entrepreneur whose passion is to work on creative solutions addressing human and animal health issues. He is a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph and the Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University. Dr. Little has founded multiple ventures at the nexus of technology and the human-animal bond. He now serves as Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships within LifeLearn where he looks at the fastest moving technologies and how they can be applied to animal health. Follow Dr. Little on Twitter or reach out over email.