90 on the Clock with FitBark
By John McGrath, KCPT, and Bobby Burch, Startland News
Ed’s Note: Flatland and Startland News have partnered to highlight Kansas City’s innovators and entrepreneurs, all in 90 seconds. This is the second episode in the five-part series.
As the mecca of animal health, the Kansas City metro accounts for a whopping 56 percent of total worldwide animal health, diagnostics and pet food sales.
But while it’s familiar with many giant animal health companies, Kansas City it’s also a launch pad for cutting-edge technology firms for pet owners like FitBark.
Led by CEO Davide Rossi, FitBark created a wearable device that tracks pooches’ activity with the goal to improve their health. The data collected by the device is then sent to users’ smartphone via an app that displays the information in a digestible format.
A native of Italy, Rossi said that Kansas City is a home away from home.
I don’t believe you necessarily need to be on the coasts to be successful with your company and we’re here to prove this.” – FitBark CEO Davide Rossi
“It’s been just a great place for us — it feels a lot like home in Italy,” Rossi said. “The community is just so incredibly cheerful and supportive. The tech scene is vibrant and it’s upcoming and growing. I want to say it’s one of the most ideal places to start up your company. I don’t believe you necessarily need to be on the coasts to be successful with your company and we’re here to prove this.”
A graduate of the Kansas City-based Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator, FitBark moved to Kansas City in 2014 and has since scored serious traction with retailers like Target. That deal means an entirely new consumer and a much broader market to serve, Rossi said.
“It means we’re switching from early adopters to mainstream [consumers],” he said. “We’re to switching from folks who’ve been tracking us for a couple of years and who’ve been cheering us along the way to literally people who’ve learned about us at the store. … That comes with phenomenal distribution opportunities but also with bigger responsibilities in terms of supporting them.”
Here are a few more comments from Rossi’s conversation with us.
On the value of being in the Animal Health Corridor …
As much as our product is a consumer product, on the backend we’re also collecting norms and baselines that have to do with health and lifestyle for each of these dogs — so we’re mapping out these breeds and in a way that benefits anyone in animal health who needs to validate a new drug or a new treatment or a new food. Being here and networking and getting to know 300 companies that collectively make up half the global revenue in animal health is unparalleled.
On advice for entrepreneurs …
Be open and talk about what you’re planning to work on with everybody. Be vulnerable because everyone is happy to talk with you about something but very few are actually going to do that. It’s incredibly important to get feedback very early on in terms of what you’re trying to build. Even if it’s not what you want to hear, it’s still going to be extremely valuable because it teaches you how to pitch your product differently.
On the importance of ‘failing fast’ …
More than something negative, it’s part of product development. You test out five alternatives — it’s a bit of ‘A, B, C, D, E’ testing. It’s about throwing out a bunch of things and doubling down on the one or two that work, and shutting down the ones that don’t. Rather than give it a connotation that’s negative, I prefer to give it a connotation that it’s testing — a little more positive.
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