Running a successful startup is like driving a nail through a thick piece of wood. You can hammer as hard as you want, but without a sharp nail–extreme focus and a specific target–you’re not going anywhere.
Coming into Replit Ventures (RV0), our situation mirrored the analogy above. We were wildly passionate and worked 24/7, but we found ourselves intrinsically limited by a lack of focus in our product. RV0 made us realize this, and radically transformed our startup into a hyper-focused business solving a clear pain point for a sizable market.
What is our startup, PetCode?
We’re a pet-tech company providing users with a smart pet tag for smarter pet care. With our QR tag and mobile app, we help owners keep their pets safer and streamline their pet management experience.
PetCode was started in May 2020, when COVID-19 closed schools and forced us to transition to online learning. We didn’t do much learning at school, and instead spent our time looking for a business idea.
As pet owners, we noticed that the metal tags our pets wear are surprisingly archaic. These tags rust, fade, and store just 50 characters of information–that’s less than one-fifth of a tweet. Even worse, the only way to change the information on a pet tag is to buy a new one–they’re not updateable.
Clearly, pet tags haven’t aged well, and they’re an inelegant solution to the problems millions of pet owners face. Armed with a deep desire to solve this issue, a surplus of time, and inexhaustible boredom, we started PetCode.
Who’s on your team?
Our team is composed of high school students, all of whom are pet lovers. The recruitment process for our team in this beautiful, virtual world went just how you’d imagine it.
These are the exact messages I (Arnuv) exchanged with Rishi (our current CTO). We had never interacted with each other prior to this.
And that was it. That was how we recruited our CTO. Recruiting the rest of our amazing team went similarly, and now we're a team spanning three time zones in two countries with one goal: keeping your pet safer. The Internet is great.
Challenges coming into RV0
Coming into RV0, we thought we had a focused product that solved a specific problem with pet ownership. We were wrong.
We marketed and developed PetCode as an all-in-one pet management system. Our PetCode QR tag provided owners with peace of mind regarding their pet’s safety, and a large feature set in our app helped owners manage their pet’s health and social wellbeing.
This is our old landing page from the "all-in-one" phase. Right off the bat, it's unclear what problem we solve for users–not great for conversion rates
We wanted to solve the pain point of the “stress” associated with pet management, but in reality this pain point was too convoluted. We didn’t solve a specific, urgent problem for a large group of people.
Another issue we faced was an inherent conflict between our product and premium subscription plan.
We like to think of our value proposition as similar to Tile’s. Tile provides users with peace of mind, allowing them to track their personal belongings. Users attach a Tile to some items, and they’re done. They’ve derived all the value from the product, and they'll only ever think of Tile in the event that they lose something.
PetCode is very similar. Pet owners get peace of mind regarding their pet’s safety, which is their main motivation to buy PetCode. So, once they set up their tag, their interaction with our app is minimal.
This model, however, was fundamentally at odds with the premium subscription model we envisioned, which would give users more extensive access to features in the app (ability to store more vaccinations, reminders, etc). We wanted to monetize high engagement with these features, but you can’t monetize what doesn’t exist.
We found ourselves in a dangerous paradox, where the nature of our product conflicted with our plans for recurring revenue.
Pivot + Focus
Seeing these issues slowly surface as we attended workshops and worked with mentors was eye-opening, and sparked a massive pivot in our product and premium plan.
For our product, we started with our customers and worked backward. After dozens of user interviews and analysis of usage data, we found that our users valued the safety that PetCode provides the most. In nearly every interview, we heard the same core message:
"PetCode gives me peace of mind for my pet's safety".
We pivoted accordingly. The “all-in-one pet management system" concept was trimmed into “the smart pet tag for smarter pet care”. On our landing page, we dedicated entire sections to specific safety features of the PetCode Tag: the ability to update tag information, view when and where the tag has been scanned, and store up to 16x more information than regular tags. Almost instantly, we saw 15-20% higher conversion rates.
Before RV0 After RV0
This is an excellent example of how focus and specificity improved our marketing efforts. The "Before" ad is vague, and the pain point solved is unclear; we saw low engagement and high bounce rates. The "After" ad addresses the fear of losing one's pet–a large reason why many purchase PetCode–and details a core function of the product. This ad copy was a winner for our Facebook Ads.
For our Premium model, we scrapped our previous ideas for features. Instead, we focused the Premium value proposition on features that would enhance our product’s “passive safety”. For example, we introduced shelter notifications–a feature that notifies nearby shelters in our network of 6,000 shelters with your most up-to-date contact info if your pet is marked as missing.
✅ Solves a specific, urgent pain point
✅ Meshes with our existing product
Our landing page for Premium, launched today 😉
Exiting RV0, our team feels energized. We’ve noticed a lot more clarity internally and an increase in ROI from our marketing methods, both of which can be credited to one word: focus. RV0 was a true inflection point for our company, and accelerated our growth by teaching us to solve one problem really well for our users.
Moving forward, we plan to scale our marketing efforts, increase tag sales, and continually iterate upon our Premium plan. Tying back to the analogy in the beginning, we’ve sharpened our nail, narrowed our focus, and identified a specific problem. Now, we're ready to drive our product into the world.
If you'd like to give the gift of safety to pet owners in your life, make sure to check us out at petcodeusa.com