Pet Telemedicine Company Vester and PetMeds Partner to Unleash Growth
Vetster, a two-year-old pet telehealth startup, and PetMed Express
Inc., (PetMeds), a 26-year-old online pet medication company, has formed a partnership that will give Vetster access to the 2 million customers and 70,000 veterinarians who use PetMeds, and will give PetMeds the possibility of offering telehealth visits to its clients.
The deal, announced today with news that Vetster has completed a $30 million Series B funding round, could give the two companies a leg up on giant pet retailers Petco, PetSmart and Chewy, all of whom want to take a bite out of the lucrative pet welfare market.
Petco is expanding veterinary services in its physical stores and offering a membership program for wellness and grooming services. PetSmart launched its own online pharmacy last year. Chewy is seeking to capture a larger share of the pet prescription market by connecting its online customers with veterinarians and taking other initiatives to entice veterinarians to fill prescriptions through Chewy, including a partnership with a company pet insurance.
Vetster and PetMeds will also face competition from more than half a dozen startups offering some version of telehealth or veterinary messaging services.
The partnership between Vetster and PetMeds comes at a time when demand for veterinarians is at an all-time high due to the surge in pet adoptions during the pandemic, making telehealth visits with a veterinarian a more attractive option for pets. pet owners and overworked veterinarians.
“We believe this partnership brings telemedicine for pets within the reach of more people,” said Matt Hulett, CEO and President of PetMed Express.
Hulett, digital business veteran and former president of Rosetta Stone
who led this company to a successful exit acquisition, joined PetMeds last year in an effort to unlock growth and position it as the pet health expert.
“Telemedicine is a very important part of this strategy,” he said.
PetMeds, as part of the deal, is a minority investor in Vetster, contributing $5 million to the $30 Series B round. If PetMeds meets certain performance goals by attracting more business to Vetster, it will acquire more shares of the company over time.
Hulett said he compared Vetster to other pet telemedicine options and decided that Vetster, while perhaps the least well-known, had the best platform and user experience.
“They were doing what AirBnB
done in the travel space,” Hulett said. “They have a unique business model and technology that will transform telemedicine and the way veterinarians practice.”
Vetster, Hulett said, was the only pet telehealth company he had seen that had created a true marketplace for veterinary services, where users can see ratings and choose from a selection of veterinarians.
The Toronto-based startup was founded to create an alternative to stressful visits to the vet, complete with barking dogs and pets scrambling to escape from the exam table.
The Vetster experience “is totally different,” said Mark Bordo, CEO and co-founder of Vetster. “You take a highly educated doctor, you put him in a calm, one-on-one scenario where the animal isn’t running around and no one is rushing, and it’s a completely different experience, where you have a chance to talk to an educated veterinarian about your pet,” he said.
Bordo also had a personal motivation for founding the company. At the time, he was a busy tech CEO and couldn’t bring his aging dog along. Riley at the vet. “I thought it was wrong. Why can’t I see my vet via telemedicine the same way I can see my doctor via telemedicine,” he said.
“Certainly the pandemic accelerated the notion of telemedicine, but it was conceived before that,” Bordo said.
For vets, he said, Vetter gives them the ability to book appointments whenever they want and earn extra income. The typical session lasts an average of 15 minutes and the vets decide what they charge for their visit. Sessions usually start at $50.
The app may also store pet medications and health information that may be shared with other pet providers.
Vetster currently has 4,000 veterinarians using its platform, and tens of thousands of pet parents have used it for telehealth visits over the past two years, Bordo said.
“We almost exclusively have five-star ratings,” Bordo said. “When people have the alternative experience of struggling to find pet care, can’t get in, they’re vulnerable, and their pet is in distress, then they find out about Vetster,” they offer reviews like, “you saved my pet, I couldn’t get into a vet, he said.
As part of the partnership, PetMeds will integrate its e-commerce engine with Vester and Vetster will add its telemedicine capabilities to the PedMeds website and apps.
Hulett expects the partnership to be a win for both parties.
“We have 70,000 veterinarians at PetMeds that we have interacted with for 26 years. A majority of them will soon be Vetster customers. And then we’re going to connect those vets to consumers. We have over 2 million customers on PetMeds. So right off the bat, it’s going to take a lot of scale. he said.