The ‘Internet of Pets’: A look inside the pet tech revolution 

In addition to companionship, cuteness and the fact that owning a dog makes you more attractive, it was announced this week that a furry, four-legged friend also makes you live  longer – a study of Swedish residents aged 40-85 found that those who suffered a heart attack and lived alone were 33% less likely to die after being released from hospital if they owned a dog.” 

In the US, more than 85mn families own pets, a figure that has grown by 12% since the beginning of the 90s and continues to accelerate. This trend is being driven by millennials and Generation Z, who are increasingly marrying later, having fewer children later in life (or not at all) and adopting lots more pets as a result. Only 32% of these pets in the US belong to baby boomers, with 62% being owned by younger generations. Outside the US, particularly in Asian countries experiencing the explosion of a new middle class, pets ownership is skyrocketing as well. Frost & Sullivan found that, in China, the number of pet-owning households increased by a whopping 22% between 2013 and 2018, and the average amount those households spent on their pets exceeded $550 per year – which isn’t crazy excessive for dogs and horses, but implies the existence of some royally pampered hamsters. 

The combination of a growing global pet population and an increasingly young, tech-literate demographic of pet owners is seeing the explosion of a new industry: pet tech. 

In the same way that the rise of AI-powered data analytics and IoT enabled consumer devices has given us smart homes, smart cars and smart cities, the technology behind Industry 4.0 is also giving us smart pets. A recent survey by Michelson Found Animals Foundation, for example, found that 56% of pet parents have special tech just for their pets.

Venture capital is flooding into this industry, with funding for pet startups surging by 334% to $291.8mn in 2017, compared to $67.2mn in 2012, and more than $500mn being poured into the industry in 2018. 

One of the first major VC investments in the pet tech economy, on-demand dog walking app Wag! made headlines in early 2018 for becoming one of the many recipients of a multi-million dollar cash injection from Softbank. Still a relatively small investment for Softbank – a company I personally suspect determines its next investment opportunity using a combination of the front page of TechCrunch and a Ouija board – the Californian startup received $300mn to continue its growth. 

Wag! connects dog owners with an expanding network of carefully vetted walkers, and throws in home insurance up to $1mn to alleviate concerns. In July this year, the company added drop-in and daycare services to its offerings. 

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