Q&A: The on-demand service benefitting pets and vets

This week we talk to Guy Sharabi, founder of Pawssum, a national app-based vet booking service. Guy recognised that the industry is seeing a casualisation of the workforce, with many of our vets – particularly women – opting to work as locums because of the opportunity that presents in choosing their working hours and earning better rates of pay.

ISB: How did the idea for Pawssum come about?

GS: In 2016, a friend of mine told me about her stressful day when her 16-year-old son called her at work worrying about their dog vomiting. She rang a few vets but none could make a house visit. I couldn’t believe that in 2016, where you can get almost anything to your home on-demand, that a home vet visit wasn’t widely available and affordable. After speaking to many pet owners and vets, I noticed a gap in the industry and decided to take action.

ISB: And how did you fund it in the start-up phase and early stages of operation?

GS: As this was a new concept, we had to first prove to ourselves that we actually had a business and prove whether it could be scalable so we initially bootstrapped it for the first year or so. We then got some investments from family and friends that believed in us. Recently we got a substantial outside investment to assist us our growth.

ISB: What was the biggest challenge you encountered in getting the service up and running, and how did you overcome it?

GS: Initially, the hardest part was to convince vets and clinics to join our system because the industry is very conservative and competitive. I chased for a long time until we signed our first clinic but after we signed up one it was like a light bulb moment for other vets to join us. Over 120 vets are now on our platform across Australia.

ISB: In what way is Pawssum helping vets run their own businesses?

GS: Pawssum helps vets by offering better work opportunities; they can choose the hours they wish to work and earn a better hourly rate than at traditional clinics. We also handle invoicing, insurance and other small business tasks so they can concentrate on what they love to do – care for animals.

ISB: How do you see Pawssum developing in the next couple of years?

GS: What people want for their pets is becoming increasingly sophisticated as “fur babies” become ingrained in the family. It makes sense that pet owners want a more personalised vet experience and you can’t get more personalised than a home visit where the vet can assess the pet’s living environment and care for them in the comfort of their own space. We believe vet home visits will become the norm very soon. Technology and innovation play a massive role in the pet industry and Pawssum is leading the way, not just by performing home visits at the press of a button but also by embracing home monitoring and treatments systems similar to Fitbits where pets can be fully monitored at home, reducing strain on clinics.

ISB: What is the #1 piece of advice you would give to those with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?

GS: I would say just go for it; the infrastructure and support are there these days – you and your time are the most valuable assets. You’ll first need to prove to yourself that you have something worth pursuing before going out and taking investor’s money. Consume yourself with making it happen, it doesn’t have to be flashy, just focus on the exact points you want to prove. Once you prove it to yourself and your initial team, you’ll be in a much better place to seek other people’s money. And, obviously you will hear it everywhere, but never give up.

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