Interview with William Loopesko
Founder & CEO @ PuppTech

PuppTech's first product, The PuppComm, is an IoT module that monitors environmental conditions around the dog and transmits data to a mobile app so their owner can check on their dog when they need to be left alone and receive alerts about any changes in temperature before they become problems. The PuppComm also includes an interface for passersby to be able to check the temperature inside the car so they don't feel compelled to smash the windows. The PuppComm is the first piece of an ecosystem of connected products, software and services that PuppTech is developing to ensure the total wellness of your dog wherever life's adventures may take you. The PuppComm is the first in a portfolio of connected pet products and software services that PuppTech is developing to help dog owners be more connected to their pets.
William, what were your main motivations behind founding PuppTech Inc.? What was it like finally deciding to start a company of your own?
So I live in Denver Colorado with my dog named Clovis and I love taking my dog hiking in the mountains near Denver, but to do that I have to take him in the car on the way home from those hikes. I would often need to stop for a sandwich, or an errand or even just to go to the bathroom, and in those situations, Clovis would have to wait for me in the car, so that can be a problem, cars can heat up quickly and it can be unsafe to leave dogs in cars, and so I asked my vet what I should do in these situations and she said well you can either leave Clovis at home for the entire weekend, or you just don't stop, to me though seemed like two bad options and so, I set out to come up with a third option, I was at a point in my life where I was pretty unhappy in my work as a civil engineer and I was looking for the next thing, and so for me it was very easy to be motivated to quit my job, and work on my startup, even though I had no idea what the future would hold, and how things would pan out, I knew nothing about business, I knew that I wanted to do something different and make a change in my life, and at the time this seemed like the great next thing to be doing and it was. I have never regretted the decision. I think it's been great, even though it has not always been easy and in fact most of the time it's been just a lot of hard work, disappointment, things don't always go as well as you think they're going to go, but in the end it's worth it to be able to work on your dream and see it, advance and grow and see people get excited about it, so.
What did the first year of the company look like? From idea to prototype, how long did it take to develop the PuppComm?
So we actually started working on a completely different product when we first started PuppTech, and it wasn't even called PuppTech at the time, we had an air conditioner that was powered by ice and it works it to keep dogs cool in the car, and then from there it would communicate to the app on the smartphone so that people could check on their dog, and the product worked really really well, it was able to keep a dog cool and a car for up to two hours. We were actually on the news on the hottest day of the summer here in Denver, but the problem was that it was a big expensive product hard to manufacturer, tough to get investment for, people don't want to be investing in air conditioning companies, and so and a lot of customers were telling us that they were more interested in the monitoring aspect of it than in the cooling, so we ended up after almost two years of working on that product and working on prototypes for that product and raising money for that, pit of pivoting over to just the monitoring and really focusing on monitoring and communication through an app becoming much more of a software and tech company Internet of Things, and we have been working on that product for almost two years at this point and it's come a long way, we're now in our first round of manufacturing, testing and we had a successful crowdfunding campaign this summer and so we're working on getting our units ready to shift our crowdfunding backers in the spring. So it took almost two years to come up with this product that we're working on now and then from there almost another two years to almost be ready to start shipping the product and getting it to a point where it really works and we can start shipping it to our customers.
How did you build the networks and partnerships necessary to make a company like PuppTech successful?
So we're very lucky to live and to be building our company in a great community like Denver, which is very supportive of startups and has a lot of opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs to go out and pitch their products, meet investors, meet mentors, advisors, partners, etcetera and so right away one of the first things I did was get very involved in that community, come up with a good pitch that I could present at every opportunity that was offered to us, you know, make sure I knew what all those opportunities were and we were fortunate enough very early on to be able to partner with a big electronics distribution company that is based in Denver Colorado, they have a great program where they partner with early-stage startups, and they provide engineering assistance, mentorship, a little bit of money etcetera to be able to get hardware products off the ground, and to be able to start building the prototypes and sharing them with our customers and so with their partnership we were introduced to other partners that have helped us make it successful and so it's really all about just getting involved in the community, learning as much about what opportunities are available to you and who are the key players that you should be talking to within your industry that you can partner with, there is always, almost always, if you live in a good vibrant startup community, opportunities for people to be able to help you and you just have to find out who they are.
What's next for your work with PuppComm and PuppTech? What new products, partnerships and markets will you be focusing on in 2019?
So we're very excited for the year 2019. We've got a lot of great things to look forward to, we're hoping to be able to close another round of funding in the new year we've got some investors that were already in conversations with about our next round, and we are also working of course on manufacturing our product getting it into the hands of our crowdfunding backers, hopefully in April is when we're shooting for on what we're currently on track for. We're gonna be starting off the year actually in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show, which will be a great opportunity to be able to present our product. We've been invited there by some of our partners that helped us out with our successful crowdfunding campaign earlier this summer. We are also turning our attention in 2019 more to the needs of working dog handlers, military and police dogs search and rescue dogs and going to start building a new software product to be able to help them do their jobs better and keep their dogs safe, which will pair with our hardware product, that they can use to monitor their dogs. So we've got a lot of opportunities ahead of us for 2019, and we think it's really going to be a great year, probably going to open up an office and hire some people to help make that all happen, and yeah, so really excited to see what comes in the next 12 months.
What has been the feedback from the community regarding PuppComm? Who have been some of your biggest clients and customer bases so far?
So like with any company going out and getting feedback has been a huge part of the early stages of building Pupp Tech. We went out to dog parks and trade shows and dog shows and we've heard from hundreds of dog owners and for the most part, the feedback has been very positive, we've gotten a lot of great letters of support from our crowdfunding backers a lot of enthusiasm, but as with any new product there is gonna be some resistance and some pushback, some people don't understand our problem or feel very strongly that no dog should ever be left in any car or even ever be left unattended for any reason, and so they see us as enabling bad behavior, so there is a small minority of people who think that we're doing that, but for the most part our customers have been very supportive of what we're doing and feel that it really addresses one of their needs, and a problem that they feel and experience on a daily basis. The strongest support that we've seen has been from the community of people who travel with their dogs, so a lot of RVers, a lot of people who are doing dog shows, or dog sports but that also working dog handlers police, military, search and rescue, and then hunters, people that have lots of hunting dogs. Those have been our strongest bastions of support early on, people and those groups really understand the problem that we're trying to solve and have to deal with it every day, and so we're building most of our business by focusing on those groups for now, and then, as we grow we'll be scaling up into the larger dog owning community where the acceptance has been a little more tepid.