Talkatoo Wins 2021 Pet Pitch Competition

Talkatoo, a dictation tool designed for veterinarians and other pet health professionals, won the Startup Circle’s Pet Pitch Competition at VMX 2021.

The Halifax, Nova Scotia, company’s CEO, Shawn Wilkie, calls Talkatoo a game-changer for veterinarians, cutting their documentation time. The subscription-based, HIPAA-compliant dictation software utilizes artificial intelligence.

In the Beginning
As a technology guy, Wilkie started a couple of other companies, including a voice-recognition business with which he grew frustrated.

“We spent all this time building a great product, but we weren’t able to get it to where it was affordable enough that we could sell into a lot of large accounts,” he said. “And so, because of that, I ended up selling it.”

Wilkie liked veterinary medicine, so his next venture was co-host of the “Veterinary Innovation Podcast” with Dr. Ivan Zakharenkov. All the while, he looked for opportunities in the pet health space.

“Google had come out with a few APIs [application programming interfaces] that you could build on top of, and I thought to myself, ‘I bet we would be able to raise a bit of money and maybe build a better mousetrap,’” he said. “I hired a team, started to build software, and started another company with some buddies of mine, raising about $1.2 million Canadian.”

That was the genesis of Talkatoo, which has been growing ever since.

How It’s Different
Talkatoo is a desktop dictation solution that augments a user’s workflow using speech-to-text capability and specialized vocabularies. While other voice-recognition services are available, what makes Talkatoo different is a user’s ability to dictate into any text field, Wilkie said.

“Anywhere that you can type — whether it’s Gmail, Google Docs, a practice management system — if you can type in that field, you can use our application to dictate with your voice,” he said. “On top of that, we have a language, a veterinarian lexicon, so all the unique words used in veterinarian medicine, whether a cow’s stifle or drugs only used in the industry, are identified more prevalently than other words that might sound similar.

“We also have the ability to add-your-own-word list,” Wilkie said. “So, if you said my name, the result would be ‘Sean’ in most [other dictation products]. With us, you can ensure that it’s Shawn.”

Appealing to Everyone
Some old-school veterinarians aren’t as interested in technology and would rather do things the same as always. For those naysayers, Wilkie has a sales pitch.

“We were deliberate about our user interfaces, and we wanted to make them super simple,” he said. “When we set off to build Talkatoo, we were very mindful of the user experience, and we spent a ton of time on it. And the reason is we don’t want to have to teach anybody how to use our application. We want it to be intuitive, like Facebook or LinkedIn or those other applications we use on a daily basis.”

The company believes in the three E’s. Talkatoo has to be easy, efficient and work everywhere.

“We tell our users, ‘Talkatoo is simple.’ It’s got one button. You don’t need to learn any new pieces of software. You click ‘Start dictation’ and it’s going to put text in any field,” Wilkie said. “You don’t have to copy-paste. You don’t have to do any of that stuff.”

Saving Time and Money
Wilkie estimates that a two-doctor practice employing four technicians and a support person could save more than $22,000 annually using Talkatoo. And because it clocks in at more than 200 words a minute, which is five times the average human typing speed, veterinary teams can dedicate time to other tasks.

“Usually, our customers are spending three or four hours a day doing medical records, and if that’s the case, if somebody really leans into our software, we typically say we can cut that time in half,” Wilkie said. “It’s not some kind of crazy silver bullet. We say that it’s a great tool, it’s not going to be perfect, but it is going to save you a lot of time if you cultivate the new habit. And that’s the big thing.”

Looking Ahead
As the CEO of a 2-year-old company, Wilkie was elated to win the Pet Pitch Competition.

“This was validation to me and my team and all the work we have been doing, and it’s really exciting that we’re going to be getting more exposure to our target audience,” he said. “We want to improve the product and listen to our users and make it better every step along the way,” Wilkie said.

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