People familiar with the pet adoption industry’s current archaic state may assume it will have to be dragged, like a dog to a bathtub, into the world of online transactions and mobile apps.
Adopets is taking a different approach.
By offering a free platform for rescue shelters to easily manage the adoption process, the company believes volunteers at shelters, no matter how technologically averse, will sign up on their own.
Adopets has also held off on marketing to adopters, who can use the company’s mobile app to go through each stage of the animal adoption process.
The company’s careful approach to market has followed an equally-methodical product development process that’s rare in today’s world of move-fast-and-break-things startups.
“We want people to use it a lot before we announce it to the country,” Adopets co-founder Artur Sousa says. “We built the API first, and the development of the app and website has happened together. The service has been in beta with over 85 different organizations in more than 35 states.”
Sousa, who also works full time as a mentorship manager at MassChallenge, came up with the idea for Adopets while attempting to adopt a dog last year.
After a frustrating three months of back and forth with shelters, Sousa got his puppy. However, he remembers thinking other people may have gotten discouraged and given up. That distressing thought has motivated him as he’s attempted to streamline the process of animal adoption.
“We admire the work of rescue shelters, and they have a lot more animals than people adopting animals,” Sousa says. “We were thinking, how can we create a tool that empowers them be even better at their job as well as create a more engaging, seamless process for people adopting.”
Prospective adopters start by creating a profile through the Adopets app or web-based platform. The platform has pulled information from larger sites like Petfinder to compile a database of more than 300,000 pets, which users can filter by animal type, location, age and breed. When users think they’ve found their new best friend, they apply to adopt and are able to track their application through the shelter’s review process.
Shelters receiving applications from Adopets have the option of processing it on their own or signing up to vet the applicant through the platform.
“We’re not forcing shelters to use Adopets because we’re very confident in our system,” Sousa says. “Once they get into the system to view the application, they have all the information they need. We’ve already got all of their pets there and we guide them through what they have to approve. There’s so little friction to sign up.”
After months of talking with shelters and testing different iterations of the product, the company had a soft launch on March 20. It was a milestone that Sousa and co-founder Lucas Alencar have refrained from celebrating as they continue working to add features.
The payment API is expected to be complete this summer, and the company is also working on an integration with RescueGroups.org. The integration will give Adopets the largest database of adoptable animals in the country.
“One of the cool things about Adopets is with the API we built we’re going to be able to integrate lots of different services,” Sousa says.
In the first year after the payment feature is live, Adopets hopes to process at least 40,000 adoptions. The company collects $20 per adoption from users, but Sousa says the fee
should be seen as a way to help shelters avoid processing costs.
“We found that users understand that they are absorbing a fee that would normally be put on shelters through PayPal,” Sousa says.
Removing the fee is only one perk of Adopets for shelters. By automating several application processing steps, the service makes shelters more efficient, a crucial element in a time-sensitive business.
As Adopets collects more data, it will also give shelters statistics to help them understand whether or not they’re rejecting too many people or have other deficiencies that are creating a bottleneck.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a startup if artificial intelligence wasn’t involved. Sousa wants to incorporate AI to improve pet-owner matches and maintain a relationship with adopters.
“The data we’ll be collecting will help adopters have the best pet experience possible,” Sousa says. “So if you have a poodle that needs grooming every three months, we can offer you relevant services.”
The company is currently made up of seven employees who hold full-time jobs outside of Adopets, but still manage to meet nearly every night.
“We are very passionate about this and that’s what we’re hoping our users will feel. And we hope they’ll share that passion with us,” Sousa says. “For every entrepreneur wondering if they should quit their job, there is a way to sacrifice a little bit of your social life and still create change.”
Change is something Sousa brings up a lot with Adopets. A few years ago, Sousa moved to the U.S. from Brazil, a country where over 30 million animals are abandoned each year.
“Our mission is to spread all over the world,” Sousa says. “Everywhere shelters have an overpopulation that requires a lot of manual work. We are committed to saving these animals.”
Images courtesy of Adopets.