Tech startup: WUF
Taking technology to man's best friend
WÜF / Where: Boulder / Web: www.getwuf.com / founded: 2013
WÜF co-founder and CEO Sean Kelly grew up with dogs and invisible fences. Now he’s looking to take the concept into the 21st century.
After getting an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Phoenix, Kelly was spurred to start the company and a family dog got loose and was killed by a car. “That prompted this back to the forefront,” he says. “After we lost our dog through very avoidable circumstances, I saw it as something that needed to happen – and I needed to do it.”
He entered the company into the Boomtown accelerator program in March 2014 and relocated to Colorado. “I’m setting up shop,” he says. “I brought my family here.”
There are two employees in Boulder and a “distributed” software development team, says Kelly. “For a while there, we were operating across six time zones, from Portland to Paris to Pakistan.”
In a Nutshell:
WÜF is making a wearable, Bluetooth-enabled device for dogs that tracks location, barking and behavior and pairs with a mobile app that connects best friends by smartphone.
“The on-collar device is the hardware in our hardware-software ecosystem,” he explains. The software “is a whole new concept for dog training.”
The latter utilizes crowdsourcing and reflects a variety of training styles. Kelly compares the WÜF model to that of Pittsburgh startup Duolingo for translation: People get language lessons that ultimately translate documents and websites. “We’re like the Duolingo for dog training,” he explains. “We offer a gamified environment that’s fun for the dog and the owner. Our goal is to crowdsource content and have a knowledge base.”
Requiring a time commitment of just 10 to 20 minutes a day, this continual “lather, rinse, repeat” approach makes for a better-trained pet and gives dog owner “actionable” training methods,” Kelly says. The problem with a $1,000, week-long lesson is “two to three months later, you didn’t absorb everything you could have. Now you have this dog, it’s not a bad dog, but it has its quirks.”
Kelly says the third-generation WÜF prototype will begin beta testing with about 20 users in spring 2015, with the first products shipping in Q3.
Americans spend about $7 billion on dog training services and devices annually. “We don’t want to put dog trainers out of business,” says Kelly, “but we do want to put dog trainers who don’t adapt out of business.”
WÜF raised about $90,000 from a Kickstarter campaign in late 2014, nearly doubling the target of $50,000. Kelly says he plans to pursue traditional venture capital this year.