Founder Interview with Lisa Tamayo.
Scollar is an open platform ecosystem designed to manage all aspects of animal care for all types of animals, from cats to cattle.
What was your career path prior to founding Scollar, and what motivated you to start this company?
Most of my early professional career was in accounting departments of performing arts organizations doing cash management and budgeting. In 1998, I founded our first company, Green Building Studio, with my business partner and CTO, John Kennedy. Green Building Studio was the first of its kind open platform SaaS tool created for architects and engineers to enable building energy analysis for buildings at the conceptual stage. Green Building Studio was acquired by Autodesk in 2008. I left my career in 2010 to get my MBA in Sustainable Enterprise and began working full-time on a technology startup that incorporated my experience as an investor in publicly traded equities and bonds with a quantified approach to including sustainability in that process. The market was not ready for this approach, so we put that concept on the back burner. The genesis of Scollar was trying to solve issues we had ourselves at pet owners – our dog had multiple clunky, expensive collars for managing his care. We believed there was a better way to manage the wide variety of care requirements for animals using an open platform system.
Tell us more about the smart collars and personalized marketplace that Scollar is providing pets owners with.
Scollar is designed to be an all-in-one solution for animal owners that addresses ALL care requirements for the full life of their pet. The platform needs to be flexible and customizable so it can meet needs that change over time. The instrumented smart collar is equipped with robust sensor packages to ensure we can add features beyond exceptional location tracking and activity monitoring. For example, we are working with two different groups doing diagnostics for animal health issues like pain and illness. The sensors in our collars enable algorithm creation to alert animal owners when an animal is in pain or showing early signs of disease. This information can be shared with the preferred veterinarian through our cloud service who can prescribe earlier treatments and interventions to keep the pet healthier longer. The personalized marketplace currently offers over 4,500 pet products, which we are in the process of personalizing for pet owners based on information we gather about the pet, our algorithms, and data from the product companies. One of our goals is to demystify the food selection process for pet owners, who are faced with thousands of options and no way to know if they are making a good decision for their pet. These pieces all work together to provide a holistic view of animal health.
You have moved your company’s headquarters from Silicon Valley to Kansas City. How has this transition affected your company? What is the startup ecosystem like in Missouri?
The move from the San Francisco Bay Area to Kansas City, Missouri has been a tremendous benefit for Scollar. We are now in the seat of the Animal Health Corridor where nearly 60% of the animal health companies in the world are headquartered. We have solidified partnerships to grow our ecosystem, grown our team, and gained new investors in this area. There is a robust and diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs here in Kansas City, which has been a joy to get to know. Some folks in the region have commented that there are not a lot of funding opportunities here, like in the Silicon Valley. Our experience is that Silicon Valley has MORE funding, but it is much more narrowly focused, whereas funding here in the heart of America is much more broadly based and inclusive of different types of entrepreneurial ventures, including hardware.
According to The American Pet Products Association, almost 85 million households have a pet. What are some of the biggest trends that you see in the pet industry?
This is a two-pronged answer, actually, because we saw some trends in the pet industry pre-COVID and we see new ones post-COVID. Pre-COVID was saw that the pet industry is recession proof and booming – growing 65% in 5 years from $60B to $99B in the US. Chinese pet ownership leapt from 8th in the world in 2015 to 2nd in the world in 2019. And people want to give their pets the same quality of life they enjoy themselves. In other words, pets have become real members of the family. We just lost our golden retriever in September. He was 12 years old and my best friend. I am still devastated by his passing. The pet industry post-COVID has become more intensified. Shelters find themselves without adoptable pets because people who are isolated at home are looking for companionship. Pets have taken on a higher level of importance, helping to stabilize the mental health of people who are anxious and depressed by the events of 2020. Another trend is the sudden advancement of telemedicine, both for humans and animals. We assumed, due to the regulatory environment for veterinary medicine, that telemedicine for animals was still 5 years in the future. COVID changed that forecast by forcing pet owners and veterinarians to adapt overnight.
Where will Scollar be in 5-10 years from now?
Our goal is that Scollar is ubiquitous with animal health and welfare. We plan to be the ecosystem upon which everyone managing animals builds their innovations. In the same way that the smart phone and the millions of integrations and apps that are available to us have altered how we interact with technology, we seek to be that evolution for animal care. We will be in global markets and we will grow to include a wider range of animals, including protein animals, racehorses and working dogs.
How can our readers get involved / be a part of your pets owners community?
Our goal is to make the pet owner’s life easier and more convenient and lower the cost of having a pet. We love to hear from pet lovers who have specific needs for their furry family so we know what to focus on enabling in the ecosystem. We want to hear about people’s experiences with pets while using our technology. We love hearing the real life stories of pet parenting and sharing those with other pet parents because we want to serve as a resource for learning as well. In short, we want to be very close to our customer because we are all focused on the same goal – giving our furry family the best life ever.