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Grow Your Business Technology

Big Data for Fido: E-Commerce Startup Customizes Pet Diets

Big Data for Fido: E-Commerce Startup Customizes Pet Diets
Credit: Ermolaev Alexander/Shutterstock

Entrepreneur: Keith Johnson
Business name: Petbrosia
Years in business: 2
Website address: www.petbrosia.com

Any pet owner knows how quickly a furry, four-legged creature can become a true member of the family. As with any family member, you want to make sure your pet is as healthy and happy as possible. But "man's best friend" seems to be following his human counterpart down the path to obesity: 54 percent of U.S. dogs and cats are considered overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Faced with this alarming statistic, engineer and pet owner Keith Johnson decided to start Petbrosia.com, an e-commerce startup that's helping put America's pets on healthier diets. The company applies veterinarian- and nutritionist-designed algorithms to customer-supplied data about a pet's lifestyle, and creates a custom-designed diet and food blend for the pet's unique nutritional needs.

Johnson, who serves as Petbrosia's CEO, talked e-commerce with Business News Daily, and shared how technology is helping him revolutionize the way people care for their pets. [3 Big Challenges for Small E-Commerce Retailers and How to Overcome Them]


Petbrosia founder Keith Johnson Credit: Petbrosia.com

Business News Daily: What problem were you hoping to solve when you started your business?

Keith Johnson: Pet obesity is rising at an alarming rate in the U.S., following human trends, [and] our busy lifestyles are helping to contribute to the rise. This is leading to an increase in medical issues, costing thousands of dollars per pet. We love our pets, and they are becoming more members of our family than they ever have been in the past. Studies have shown that if pets are fed according to their ideal body conditions, they can live a longer, higher quality of life. Based on my background as an engineer, pet food category expert and entrepreneur, I knew I could make a difference.

BND: Could your business have existed 20 years ago?

K.J.: No, what we are doing relies on e-commerce habits and pet nutrition science that have both evolved over the last 10 years. Petbrosia has been designed for e-commerce, which allows us to put more into the food and technology than what would be typically allocated for a retail-channel product.

BND: What technologies have been the greatest help to your business?

K.J.: We have two amazing technologies that work together in a breakthrough way for Petbrosia. First, our proprietary algorithms figure out the ideal diet for your pet, taking into account their breed, age and weight, as well as other factors. Second, our auto-replenishment system is unique in that it figures out when a specific dog or cat will be ready for their next order based on their blend and size of package. When they work together, the technology will automatically update the diet over time as the pet ages.

BND: What technology can't you live without?

K.J.: Our relationship-building technologies — including email, social [media] and CRM platforms — allow us to really know and interact with our pet parents.

BND: If you could hire one extra employee right now, what would you have that person do?

K.J.: We have a pipeline of really great technology that we want to bring to pet parents as soon as possible. If we [could hire] one extra employee, it would be to help accelerate how we do that.

BND: What technology do you wish existed that doesn't?

K.J.: The ability to gather all the pet data we need automatically from a single picture. That would be great!

BND: What technology do you think is most overrated?

K.J.: I think basic online delivery that doesn't allow consumers to customize their order is overrated, as it doesn't address the fact that there is no "one-size-fits-all" for a customer. You need to be able to customize the experience or product in a way that goes above and beyond, and [this] is only feasible because of technology.  

BND: What's the most valuable nontech skill an entrepreneur needs?

K.J.: I find that my experience in being able to work across functions and manage a team has been invaluable. It matters when you are getting past the ideation stage.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the managing editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.