Every minute of every day, technology exceeds human expectations. With creative minds at work, it wasn’t long before animals began to enjoy the advantages of technology. Recently, there has been a meteoric rise in the pet healthcare sector.
Pet care businesses are growing quickly thanks to the rapid acceptance of digital services. Pet owners are increasingly turning to technology to help them with pet care, in addition to essentials like pet costumes, personalized leashes, and collars.
A good number of startups have leapt on this trend, and are offering a wide range of services and animal-focused products. Considering how the “Pet-tech” industry is booming, the Ouut spotlights , Jaqqui Posthumus, the executive director and country head of Digitail South Africa, whose focus is on serving pet lovers in an innovative way.
Let’s get to it.
What’s the story behind your company?
At Digitail, we are a bunch of purpose-driven veterinarians, pet parents & serial entrepreneurs on a mission to redesign pet care. Digitail was founded in 2018 by Sebastian Gabor (CEO) and Ruxandra Pui (CPO) in Romania. Sebastian was inspired to create Digitail after he got a new pup and had a mis-scheduled appointment at the vet. He noticed how the “human” medical world was advancing and leaving animal care behind and decided to do something about it. Digitail took the world by storm and can now be found in veterinary clinics in over ten countries!
Digitail’s organic growth in South Africa is truly remarkable as it identified an unmet need in the market and strategically stepped into the gap to fill the need with its services. With a lot of veterinary clinics still operating on antiquated server-based systems and some even still on DOS based systems, local veterinarians are hungry for innovative solutions and have expressed a lot of excitement for revolutionary tech now being available with local support and at local prices.
In a few sentences, what do you offer to whom?
Digitail is an all-in-one cloud platform that allows veterinarians to run their practices with one single tool. We also have an app for pet parents that creates the “vet-in-your-pocket” experience. We help vets simplify their workflow, drive automation, and engage with pet parents, even when they are not at the practice.
Tell us about your first paying customer
Our growth in South Africa has been a truly natural process, we had paying customers before we even had boots on the ground! Our first South African clinic joined when Digitail was still wearing baby shoes. Clover & Thistle Vet – owned by Dr. Lyndi and Brent Sirrals – is a family orientated, small-animal clinic in Krugersdrop and their values align perfectly with ours.
Personal attention and excellent patient care are their main priorities. We now service more than 80 clinics locally that vary from mobile veterinary physiotherapists to large 10 doctor hospitals and multi-location practices.
What do you love the most about your team?
We’re a team of mission-driven, metrics-obsessed individuals who change the slow-moving veterinary care industry daily. There are no limits, no politics, and no hierarchy. But most importantly, we ensure everything we do is held to the highest quality standards because what we’re building impacts the lives of real people and pets. I firmly believe that in order to be a strong leader, you have to hire people who are smarter than you. We have handpicked the best of the best – a team of practice managers, sales and marketing professionals, veterinarians, data scientists and even an epidemiologist. Every person on our team is an expert in their field and we learn a lot from each other through daily collaboration.
The entire South African team works fully remotely – I am proud to say we don’t even own one square of office space on the continent! We strive to keep our environmental footprint as low as possible and at the heart of our philosophy is the belief that by eliminating the stress and hassle of commutes and traffic, we are better able to serve our customers with the focus and dedication they deserve. Our workspace is limited only by the reach of our imagination and the power of technology.
At the moment, how do you measure success? What are your metrics?
Success is measured by how many clinics are actively using Digitail! We also measure the Rand value of transactions that those clinics push through our system – that helps us identify trends in consumer behavior, as well as areas of improvement, in order to further optimize the customer experience.
What has been the biggest threat for you in the industry?
The threats for our business are aligned with the threats that our veterinarians and practice owners face. Dr. Gert Steyn, the MD of SAVA, was recently quoted in an article about vet shortages saying that nearly half of young vets are leaving or considering immigration. In the same article, Dr. Tlotlo Kgasi, the former-president of the SAVC, noted that the international norm is between 200 and 400 veterinarians per million of a country’s population, while South Africa only has between 60 and 70 veterinarians per million people.
This leads to a whole myriad of challenges to those left behind. When there are not enough vets to handle the patient load, those who are working become overworked and overstressed. This can lead to burnout and fatigue, which can in turn contribute to the high suicide rate in the veterinary industry. The long hours, heavy workloads, and emotional stress of caring for animals take a toll on a vet’s mental health. Additionally, vets may also struggle with feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and isolation, all of which can contribute to higher rates of depression and anxiety. The rising cost of living has also made it difficult for vets to keep their prices competitive, while the high interest rates for student loans can make it difficult for new vets to pay off their debt. Finally, the uncertainty of when power outages will occur due to loadshedding can make it difficult for vets to provide uninterrupted care to their clients.
At Digitail, we empathize with all of these situations because we have lived through it. It makes us work even harder to make our clinic’s lives just a little bit easier every day.
You recently secured a series A round. What are your plans for the year?
We’ve more than doubled the size of our South African team since closing our Series A! Our new hires will help us better support existing clinics and onboard new clinics in a faster, more efficient way and to ultimately function better at scale. Our international team of developers and product specialists are working on amazing new features and infrastructure such as embedded finance and databases for veterinarians. I am truly excited for what 2023 holds for tech in petcare and to see what role Digitail will play in it.
Where do you see the company in the next 5 years?
We plan to be the market share leader, helping vets and empowering them with technology that enables them to see more patients and do more of what they love. The future of tech in pet care looks very promising, and it will only continue to grow in the years to come.