Dog owners are one step closer to getting their hands on the world’s first interactive dog crate as Kansas City-based Interplay plans the Aug. 12 launch of its hotly anticipated debut product, PlayTach.
The milestone has been a long time coming, said Jonaie Johnson, founder and CEO of Interplay, who has been working on it since January 2019 as a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Elevator pitch: Interplay creates remote crating for dog parents with its product, the PlayTach. With the remote dog crate attachment, pet parents can interact and care for their dog from the click of a button via the Interplay app.
- Founder: Jonaie Johnson
- Founding year: 2019
- Noteworthy investors: Digital Sandbox KC, bootstrapped
- Programs completed: Pipeline Pathfinder, AfroTech Young Founders pitch competition, Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization pitch competition, Center for Black Innovation accelerator
“Just being able to really see my idea — what started off as just an idea — come into fruition now, words can’t even explain the feeling,” she explained. “I’m really looking forward to revealing that to the public.”
Playtach by Interplay — one of Startland News’ 10 Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2022 — is a dog crate attachment that allows owners to interact with their dog, dispense food and water, and open and close the crate through a smartphone app. As the website says: it’s “there when you can’t be.”
Johnson was inspired after watching her aunt — who she calls the life of the party — have to leave family events early to care for her dog.
“My main goal for starting the company was just to hopefully ease the lives of busy pet parents, giving them a convenient way to continue to interact and care for their dog while they’re away,” she said. “And then also, hopefully, from that we can increase pet ownership. So more people can feel comfortable having a pet knowing that they will be cared for and they have a way to care for them while they’re away from home.”
The launch party — set for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Keystone Innovation District — also will serve as the kickoff for Interplay’s Kickstarter campaign, which will allow the public to start purchasing the Playtach via pre-sale. Johnson hopes to raise $50,000 and said customers would likely receive their crate attachment in early 2023.
“We have it tiered,” she explained of the crowdfunding effort. “Of course, the earlier you contribute to the campaign, the better deal you receive on the Playtach. So that’s one of the main benefits of attending the launch party.”
On top of the Kickstarter push, Johnson said, the party will be a celebration of this monumental moment for the startup.
The event is expected to be emcee’d by FiredUp KC host Zik Nwanganga and feature live music by Jass R. Couch and sounds by DJ Q. Chef Derty. Western Son Distillery and ShotsbyMiko will also be serving food and drinks.
Click here for tickets to the Interplay launch event.
“I just want to make sure that the launch party is memorable,” Johnson added. “As I often say, this is going to be one of the most — if not the most — exciting launch parties of the year. Hopefully this can kind of set the tone for future launch parties.”
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Johnson had originally hoped for a spring launch, but a few development setbacks pushed the timeline back. In the next few weeks leading up to the launch, she said her team will be finishing the design for the final version of Playtach and completing the functioning prototype. After that, Interplay will begin beta testing.
“The launch is a good thing,” she said. “But the work has just begun once we do officially launch because that’s when the real work happens in terms of making sure everything is aligned with development.”
According to Johnson, that includes making sure the manufacturers know how to assemble the electrical and mechanical parts of the product, making sure the app is production-ready, and, of course, running through a lot of testing, so the customer receives a quality product in their hands.
At this point in the process, she said, she’s facing mixed emotions.
“A lot of it is excitement,” she continued. “But then it’s also, I don’t want to say nervous, but I just want to make sure that everything goes right as planned and that we’re really fulfilling the promise that we’re advertising for customers.”
In the future, Johnson hinted that Playtach could expand its reach to include cats and other pets.
Click here to read about how Jonaie Johnson was honored as the Henry W. Bloch School’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year in 2020.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.
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