Bark & Co., the doggie-themed technology company that currently offers a subscription service for dog treats and toys called BarkBox, is expanding its BarkCare service in New York. Last month, the company quietly launched on-demand vet appointments where customers can order a vet to come to their home as easily as they order an Uber or some lunch.
Previously, BarkCare existed as a subscription-based service allowing dog owners to chat with vets on the phone or via video chat. That service grew to a few hundred customers, but, explains Bark & Co. co-founder and COO Carly Strife, the company was limited in terms of the legalities surrounding diagnosing over the phone.
Plus, she adds, “we saw pretty quickly that people wanted the vet in their home, to really be able to do the full service – not just diagnosis, but get tests, prescribe medicine – all the things you would do with the new veterinary practice.”
The new service, which is currently available in Manhattan and Brooklyn and is scheduled to hit San Francisco in March, is meant to replace the earlier BarkCare product. Though the phone-based version of BarkCare is not entirely shut down, Strife says no new subscriptions are being sold.
One of the big use cases for a vets-on-demand service is for the more routine “well visits,” like when it’s time to re-up on a dog’s rabies vaccine, for example, or to get all the vaccines a new puppy requires. Vets can also diagnose minor, non-emergency ailments, like small cuts, rashes, and other concerns a dog owner may have that warrant an in-person look.
The company found that the majority of vet visits (around 85 percent) are those that can be handled in the home. Anything that’s an emergency, or requires sedation, would be an exception, of course, but the BarkCare vets carry with them the typical vaccines and other commonly prescribed medicines, like topical creams.
For those medicines they don’t have on hand, Bark & Co. has partnered with Best Pet Rx, a medicine delivery service used by local vets, that brings the prescription to the customer for no extra fee (beyond the cost of the medicine itself).
In New York, BarkCare had been contracting with just two vets who could handle anywhere between 5 to 8 appointments per day, each lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Currently, the vets move around the city via mopeds or public transportation, but the company is planing to have a “BarkCare” branded bus. It has also expanded the number of vets on the service to five, and is looking for more.
BarkCare’s pricing is not as painful as you might think. The fee is a flat $99 for a typical “well” visit. This includes the general exam, and other “doggie maintenance” tasks like ear cleanings or nail clippings, for example. For anything requiring lab work or vaccines, it’s $199. There’s also a “puppy” tier for $149, which includes the puppy exam and vaccines.
Bark & Co.’s plan is to eventually take a percentage of those fees, but those prices are not yet set in stone.
When the business expands to the San Francisco Bay Area in a few weeks, the company is planning to cover the entire city and some surrounding areas, including Oakland and elsewhere in the East Bay. A BarkCare app will also be made available, which pet owners can use in addition to setting up appointments via the web or phone.
The convenience of the service is obviously a big selling point, but Strife adds that it’s nice for the “patients,” too. “We felt like no one really asked the dogs when they decided how veterinary care was going to work,” she says. “We tried to optimize the service around what it is the dog would want – which is not going to the vet.”
MORE TO COME
Bark & Co.’s other businesses have been doing well, so far, with its BarkBox service growing 10 times in 2013 to 160,000 customers. Its content portal called The BarkPost, meanwhile, sees some 2 million+ unique visits monthly. And so far, BarkCare vets have made over 500 house calls since the mid-January launch. The company also claims a $25 million revenue run rate.
NYC-based Bark & Co. now has 45 employees, and Strife says that BarkCare is only one of the many expansions the company has planned.
“One of the things that’s core to our business is ‘social good,’…things we can build and develop to help more dogs to be adopted and rescued out of shelters,” she hints. More news around what’s next will arrive sometime in the next month or so, we’re told.